The New York Giants provided the Buffalo Bills the low point of their 1990 season in the final game of the year – the Super Bowl.
The Giants controlled the ball for almost 41 minutes in upsetting the Bills, 20-19 – surviving when Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood sailed a field-goal attempt wide right from 47 yards in the closing seconds.
But the Giants provided the Bills their greatest height that season as well, according to Buffalo special-teams ace Steve Tasker. He visits the Talk of Network “5 Games” podcast this week to recall five significant games of his career. The franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance was the first of those games. In addition to the Super Bowl itself, Tasker recalled the roots of his football career in this podcast, the roots of his special-teams excellence and the December game that convinced the Bills they had championship mettle. That game was against the Giants.
“We didn’t know how good we could be,” Tasker said. “We had been through it in 1989 when we backed into the playoffs and lost in the first round. We had lost to Cincinnati in the 1988 title game. But it wasn’t until late in the 1990 season when we went in to play Phil Simms and the New York Giants at the Meadowlands against Bill Parcells with Bill Belichick as his defensive coordinator and Tom Coughlin on that staff.
“Jim Kelly got hurt and didn’t finish the game. Phil Simms got hurt and didn’t finish the game. Frank Reich and Jeff Hosteler finished the game for their respective teams…and we ended up winning. I’ll never forget being in that lockerroom as the visiting team, how happy that lockerroom was because not only did we win the game, but we knew the Giants were a really good football team—and we went on the road and beat them. At that moment, we proved to ourselves that we were something special. Not only were the players feeling it, but the whole coaching staff really reveled in that one. It was a hallmark victory for our club.”
The Bills used that game as a springboard for four consecutive AFC championships.
Tasker attended Dodge City Community College out of high school and spent two years there, then transferred to Northwestern where he played for Dennis Green his final two seasons of college eligibility. He was drafted by the Houston Oilers and spent a season and a half there before being waived. He was claimed by Buffalo where coach Marv Levy, one of the NFL’s original special teams coaches, had a plan for Tasker.
“He’s the guy that taught me in my first seven days there how to block a punt,” Tasker said. “Then in the first game after he taught me, I did it against the New England. When I was running off the field, we made eye contact and he kind of pointed at me. From that point on I was his guy. From early on he pegged me for what he wanted me to do and I embraced it.”
What Levy wanted Tasker to do was become his special teams ace — and he became the Swiss army knife of the Bills, covering kicks, blocking kicks, returning kicks and even catching a few passes on his way to seven Pro Bowls. Tasker called that first Super Bowl appearance, “a gift to the city of Buffalo. It’s a special relationship between that team and that town. It’s a very intimate atmosphere. Everywhere you go in the city the players are known to everybody – even the 53rd and 54th and the practice-squad players. They had been down for so long. To give that gift to the city meant as much to us as anything.”
Tasker also recalls the football – and the shootouts – at Dodge City in this podcast and the mood in the Super Bowl lockerrom after Norwood’s miss. And how the team reacted to Norwood after the miss.
“That was the one game in my entire career when you could almost feel the loss,” Tasker said.
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