In another suburb far, far away from the parking lots of their home, the Giants ended Denver dreams Sunday with a thunderclap rally that restored reality in a hurry.
Now the New York Giants, who play in New Jersey and who have been offered a victory parade by half the mayors in the Northeast Corridor, are more than a team for all municipalities. Now they belong to the ages.
They're National Football League champions, anyway. The Broncos, who needed to be perfect, were only great for one half, and then form set in fast. Phil Simms, the Giants' country-boy quarterback, led four straight scoring drives to start the second half and turned Super Bowl XXI into a 39-20 rout before a crowd of 101,063 at the Rose Bowl.
Simms completed 22 of his 25 passes and became the most valuable player. But for that first half . . .
It was John Elway at his best. He completed 13 of his first 17 passes, scrambled away from Giant linebacker Lawrence Taylor and marched the Broncos inside the Giant 20-yard line three times. The Broncos led, 10-9, at halftime, and it could have been 20-7 if they'd gotten in after being first-and-goal at the one-yard line and Rich Karlis hadn't missed a 34-yard field-goal attempt.
So, were the Giants worried as they huddled in their locker room?
"There was really no big concern at all," linebacker Harry Carson said. "We knew we had it in the bag."
Said Elway: "That's easy to say now."
Actually, some important Giants were just a teeny bit concerned.
"I don't want to say the pressure was overwhelming," Simms said, "but at times in the first half, it was all over you. I was saying, 'Gosh, if we lose this, it might be the worst day of my life.'
"I've heard quarterbacks . . . I heard Joe Theismann say he'd been in games where he ran five plays and didn't remember nothing."
At the half, Bronco Coach Dan Reeves was telling his team to forget what had happened. That, of course, was easy for him to say. The teams ran out to hear one of the bands retained by the NFL serenading the crowd with "New York, New York," driving the Giant partisans concentrated in the west stands berserk.
Omensville. The Giants took the kickoff and went three plays and off, almost.
With what looked like the punt team on a fourth-and-one, suddenly who stands up behind the line of scrimmage but backup quarterback Jeff Rutledge? That fun guy, Giant Coach Bill Parcells, who did the same thing out of a field goal formation against the San Francisco 49ers three weeks before, was at it again. The Broncos weren't fooled, but they weren't jammed up on the line of scrimmage, either, and Rutledge had no trouble sneaking two yards over right guard.
"We had our defense in the game," Bronco safety Dennis Smith said. "It was something we'd worked on in practice. It's not like they took us by surprise. I didn't thing the quarterback was going to keep it, though."
In other words, it was enough of a surprise.
Back onto the field came Simms. He threw a 12-yard pass to Joe Morris. He threw a 23-yard pass to backup halfback Lee Rousson.
All day, Parcells had had Simms firing on first down. To that point, the Giants had passed on 11 of 14 first-down plays. The Giants are a running team, as everyone football fan between Peking and Wales knew. The Broncos Had to Stop the Giant Running Game.
The Broncos' minds were really messed up, right?
"They went against their tendencies," said Denver's Karl Mecklenburg. "They did a good job of taking advantage of the fact that our defense plays tendencies quite a bit."
Said Bronco linebacker Tom Jackson: "It was something they don't normally do but it didn't take Albert Einstein to pick it up after the first few times. After that, we started catching on."
It wouldn't take Einstein to figure out that of the first 11 passes Simms threw on first down, he completed 11, for 106 yards.
Maybe the Broncos could have reacted better yet? What the heck, the Giants were big, the Broncos were small and you've got to set your defense for something and take your chances. If you get something else, well that's the nice thing about football, there's always next season.
Anyway, the drive that Rutledge/Parcells prolonged reached the Bronco 13. There on third and six, Simms hit his all-world tight end, Mark Bavaro, in the end zone, Bavaro having freed himself by turning Dennis Smith around. Raul Allegre kicked the point after and the Giants were ahead 16-10.
The Broncos ran three plays and left. Mike Horan hit a 42-yard punt that looked high enough to cover but it wasn't. The Giants' Bill Lasker sealed off the right side with a good block and Phil McConkey popped it 25 yards back to the Denver 36.
Crunch, crunch, crunch, the Giants marched to the 4 but were stopped, so Allegre kicked a 21-yard field goal. Giants, 19-10.