Pasadena, Calif. — Bill Parcells may never have touched the ball or made a tackle, but if you don't think he had as much as anyone else to do with this year's Super Bowl outcome, you must not have been watching very closely. The head coach of the New York Giants is bascially the kind of guy who prefers the simple things in life - and on the football field. But even though you keep hearing all the time how conservative Parcells is, he showed Sunday that he's not averse to shaking things up once in a while if the situation is ripe for it. In fact he made three unusual moves that paid rich dividends in the Giants' 39-20 blowout of the Denver Broncos.
In the third quarter, when Denver was still close enough to pull out a win, the Giants faced a fourth-and-one situation around midfield. Parcells sent in his punting unit, with backup quarterback Jeff Rutledge lining up as a blocking back. But after Denver had set its defenses, Rutledge suddenly switched to quarterback, where he ran the ball to pick up the first down.
Late in that same period the Giants pulled a ``flea-flicker'' play out of the hat, with quarterback Phil Simms handing off to running back Joe Morris, who pitched back to Simms for a long pass to wide receiver Phil McConkey. McConkey caught the ball on the 5 and somersaulted to the 1-yard line. Seconds later Morris swept around right end for the score.
Parcells also had Simms throw 11 times on first down, getting completions on all 11 passes for 106 yards.
Mostly, though, the things that kept the Giants on top were the things that got them there - which means solid play and nearly flawless execution in all phases of the game. And this, of course, goes back to Parcells' basic approach.
The New York coach is very big on preparation; insists on practices where nobody rests; and teaches the kind of aggressive defense that always keeps a lot of people around the ball.
He also doesn't panic - as he showed by sticking with his game plan even though the underdog Broncos carried a 10-9 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Actually Denver's lead at that point could have been a lot more except for two missed field goals by Rich Karlis, plus a tremendous goal-line stand by the Giants' defense. What crushed the Broncos was having a first down on New York's 1-yard line and failing to score. If they had hit pay dirt then, their lead would have been 17-7, and who knows what might have happened?
Even though no football game probably ever turns on just one play or series of downs, stopping Denver cold at that juncture was a major plus for the Giants. Being able to contain a quarterback with the flexibility of John Elway three times in the shadow of your own goalposts was the ultimate in rising to the occasion. If the Giants had been starting to have any doubts about themselves, this feat had to have rebuilt their confidence in a hurry.
In retrospect, practically everybody is going to say that New York is such a powerful team that it would have won anyway, that it was just a matter of the Giants finding their offensive groove.
But sometimes when you trail a team that everybody says you should beat easily, you unconsciously force things and get into trouble. The Giants, though, made the big plays on defense when they had to, and in the process gave a 180-degree kick to the game's momentum.
Offensively, Simms has become an extension of the way Parcell thinks and plans. That is, Phil never forces anything; is usually satisfied to take what the defense gives him; and almost never strays outside the pocket that has been built to protect him.
Simms, who completed 22 of 25 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns, had the Denver defense leaning and stretching and off balance all day. Included in those figures was a Super Bowl record 10 consecutive pass completions in the third period, with an overall completion rate of 88 percent, the best in NFL playoff history.
By the end of the third period, Phil had the game's Most Valuable Player award locked up in a puncture-proof bag. While Simms may never completely be able to tear off the label of mechanical man, his skills are now on a level where he is the first thing an opposing coach must think about in preparing to play the Giants.
Meanwhile, if there is such a thing as a group MVP award, the New York linebackers would have won it. For this season anyway, and in this game especially, no opposing team has had a unit the equal of Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Gary Reasons, and Carl Banks. When I tell you that most of the afternoon the Broncos had two guys working against Taylor, that's all you need to know. And when you put two players against one, even Dagwood Bumstead knows that someone else out there is running free.
The Broncos came into the game knowing they would need to put some points on the board early if they were to have a chance.
Although Denver coach Dan Reeves tried to camouflage his defensive sets, which stopped New York from throwing long for a while, the Broncos just weren't able to cope all the way with the Giants' running game.
The Giants are awfully good at getting blockers in front of Joe Morris, who could probably even find a hole in one of the new tax laws. And once the pint-sized former Syracuse University star escapes into the secondary, his quickness becomes his greatest asset.
Once a team like the Giants wins a Super Bowl, it picks up the adjective ``great'' and the label ``dynasty'' the way a blue serge suit attracts lint. And right now New York is getting the same kind of grand treatment that the media last year passed out so lavishly to the Chicago Bears.
But as the 1986 Bears and so many other National Football League champions have learned, staying on top can be even tougher than getting there. If the Giants are going to break that pattern, the time to start is almost right away - by staying in shape during the off-seaon, and by learning not to take those pumped-up newspaper clippings too seriously.