Super Giants had league's most dependable K

The Giants were three games and three wins into their 1990 season when kicker Raul Allegre went down with a groin injury. During the ensuing week, Bill Parcells invited Matt Bahr and several other unemployed kickers to a tryout, to be facilitated by long-snapper Steve DeOssie and holder Jeff Hostetler.

"I hit a dozen balls from different spots on the field," remembers Bahr.

How many did he make?

"Enough, apparently," he says, chuckling.

Parcells strode over to the 34-year-old Bahr, recently released by the Browns after nine seasons, but with a Super Bowl ring and 182 made field goals on his résumé.

"Need to hit a few more?" Parcells asked.

"Do you need me to?" Bahr replied.

"Not really," Parcells said.

"OK," said the new Giants kicker.

It might have been Parcells' most important decision of what would become a championship season. All Bahr did was hit 17 of 23 field-goal attempts in the remaining 13 games, then another 8 of 9 in the postseason, including five in the NFC Championship Game and two more in Super Bowl XXV.

It's always been Bahr's nature to deflect attention from himself, so it's not at all surprising that 15 years later, he still adamantly refuses to take the credit for the win in San Francisco, though he scored all 15 of the Giants' points – with the remnants of a concussion he had suffered the week before against the Bears.

"That was an incredible game to be a part of," Bahr said of the 15-13 victory over the two-time defending champs. "We needed every single player to contribute on every single play. And we needed every single play to go our way to win that game."

Enough plays did go the Giants way – like Gary Reasons' 30-yard run on a fake punt in the fourth quarter to set up Bahr's fourth field goal that made it 13-12; and Erik Howard's monster hit on Roger Craig, who fumbled the ball to Lawrence Taylor – to set Bahr up for a potential winning kick with 0:04 on the Candlestick Park clock.

That's when the Niners made a fatal mistake. George Seifert called timeout, ostensibly to ice Bahr. Instead he gave Bahr and Hostetler a chance to smooth out the launch point at the 32-yard line, which had been a mangled mess of kicked-up sod. But Seifert also threw something at Bahr that the veteran kicker had not been expecting.

"That was one of the most clever (field-goal) rushes I'd ever seen, and I haven't seen it since," Bahr marveled.

What the Niners did was to line up three rushers outside the end on the right side of the line. The end and the wingback are supposed to block the two of those on the inside, with the kick hopefully getting off before the far outside rusher comes all the way around the corner.

"But their outside rusher (Spencer Tillman) sprinted behind the two other guys and leapt at the snap, right over the block point," Bahr said. "Had I kicked it down the middle, it would have been blocked. But I pulled it a little up the left side and I'm not sure it was more than a couple of feet inside the left upright."

That kick sent the Giants directly to Tampa, where Bahr would make a tackle on Don Smith on the opening kickoff. He later would make another, with special-teamer Bobby Abrams, on an Al Edwards return. Though just 5-10, 175, Bahr never hesitated to risk life and limb to make a football play. It's a trait he says was instilled in him his first two years in the NFL in Pittsburgh by the likes of Chuck Noll, Jack Lambert and Jack Ham.

Bahr would open the scoring with a 28-yard field goal and close it with a 21-yarder. Then, all he could do was watch as the Bills marched to set up Scott Norwood's fateful 47-yard attempt.

"I was standing on the sidelines with my arms crossed, saying to myself, ‘I hope that anything else happens except for him to miss a kick,' " Bahr said. "A fumble, turnover on downs, bad snap, bad hold. In my mind, it does a disservice to all the great players in that game to say he cost them the game."

Bahr remained with the Giants for two more seasons before Dan Reeves came to town with David Treadwell and Brad Daluiso in tow. He went on to the Eagles and Parcells' Patriots, setting career highs with 27 FGs and 117 points in 1994. He retired after the 1995 season with 300 FGs and 1,422 points.

Today, the 49-year-old Bahr lives in Pittsburgh with his wife Maresa and three children, works for a team uniform manufacturer called Coaches Locker, and spends much time dealing with the issue of children's physical fitness.

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