Mark Bavaro had no idea the suffering New York Giants’ fans had endured for 30 years when he arrived at Super Bowl XXI at the Rose Bowl. To him, this was just a chance for the greatest team he’d ever played on to win a championship. But for those fans, it was the hope for and end to a three decade-long NFL drought.
The Giants had not won an NFL title since 1956 and had never been to the Super Bowl until January 25, 1987. That was the end of Bavaro’s second season in the NFL, one in which he’d become both an All-Pro and the standard bearer for old-school tight ends in a modern era.
Bavaro caught 66 passes that season for 1,001 yards, numbers that may pale in comparison to today’s pass-happy NFL. But ones that were so superior then that they represented more than double the receptions of any other player on his team.
Yet the Giants were not considered either a passing team or even an offensive juggernaut. In fact, they arrived to face the Denver Broncos with a 14-2 record, a defense that had not allowed a single touchdown in its first two playoff games, and a commitment to running the football ball. All that was fine with Bavaro, who did not see himself as a Rob Gronkowski in waiting.
“I still thought blocking was my main job,’’ Bavaro recalls on today’s installment of Talk of Fame Network’s “5 Games’’ podcast in which a player or coach recalls five significant games from his career. “That’s how we scored points. Passing was just a complement.’’
Not on this day. Although the Giants would rush for 136 yards and two scores and Bavaro would play a key role with his blocking because of an innovation added by Giant’s offensive coordinator Ron Erhardt, quarterback Phil Simms completed a remarkable 88 per cent of his throws (22 of 25) as the Giants trounced the Broncos, 39-20. It was Bavaro who would catch the go-ahead touchdown pass from Simms and later assist his friend, Phil McConkey, on a touchdown catch of his own when the ball mysteriously bounced off Bavaro and right to his pal.
“I don’t know what happened,’’ Bavaro says of that volleyball play. “It didn’t bounce off my hands. It bounced off my head. It was a weird angle. Thank God McConkey was there. I didn’t want to walk back to the sidelines and face (head coach Bill) Parcells. Normally he was a little encouraging but at that point he might have been a little more colorful!’’
Learn the inside story of why the Giants constantly had Bavaro in motion that day and why it baffled the Broncos and also hear why Bavaro hated it yet did it so effectively by listening to today’s podcast at VoKalNow.com or by subscribing to hear all our “5 Games’’ podcasts at iTunes: