Oates willed Norwood's kick wide right

As the Buffalo Bills were making their final march in Super Bowl XXV, from their own 10-yard line with 2:16 to go, all the way to Giants' 29 with 0:08 emblazoned on the clock, there was one man on the Giants' sideline who was sweating out the situation most of all.

Veteran center Bart Oates, the last remaining member of the "Suburbanites" offensive line from Super Bowl XXI, was holding himself responsible for the Giants' fate that would be determined by Scott Norwood's 47-yard field-goal attempt.

Thurman Thomas' 31-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter had given Buffalo a 19-17 lead. But the Giants, who earlier had reeled off a 14-play, 75-yard, 9:29 touchdown drive, were at it again. In 10 plays, Jeff Hostetler had taken them from their own 23 to Buffalo's 3.

On first-and-goal, MVP Ottis Anderson swept to the left. William Roberts sealed off the corner and "Ottis should have been able to walk in," Oates remembers. "But I missed a block. I over-committed and Jeff Wright shot the A-gap" and tackled Anderson for a 4-yard loss. Anderson got the four yards back on the next play, but Hostetler's third-down pass was batted down, and the Giants settled for Matt Bahr's 21-yard field goal and a precarious 20-19 lead with 7:20 to go.

Had the Giants scored a touchdown, they would have led 24-19, which would have forced the Bills to kick two field goals or score a TD at the end. There likely would have been no "Wide Right."

"I was thinking to myself on the sidelines, ‘Where am I going to play next year?'" Oates says now, 15 years later.

In his mind, he was picturing the New York newspapers for the next few days. "By Tuesday, they'd start to figure out (who messed up) and on Wednesday morning I'd put my house on the market."

As we know, fate smiled on Oates and the 1990 Giants, and instead of being regarded as a goat, he is remembered as the iron-man center of two championship teams.

The 1990 season was marked by a 10-0 start with Phil Simms taking the snaps from Oates, Simms' injury vs. the Bills in the 14th game, then the miraculous ride with Hostetler through San Francisco and Tampa.

"Phil was having a spectacular year," Oates said. "He was playing with a lot of confidence, was the undisputed leader of our offense and was the toughest guy. He didn't mind sitting there and taking shots (to make plays)."

But Oates knew the Giants were still in good hands when Hostetler took over.

"Hoss and I lived near each other, our wives were close friends and our kids played together," the center said. "When Phil went down for the year, I said, ‘Hoss, this is your chance to be able to really shine.'

"He was a more mobile guy, and (offensive coordinator) Ron Erhardt changed the offensive scheme to allow Hoss to roll out more."

Oates, who played collegiately at BYU, started his career in the USFL with the Philadelphia Stars in the spring of 1982. In the early part of his Giants career, which went from 1985-93, Oates attended Seton Hall Law School. He passed the bar exam in 1990 and before that season became an attorney at a firm in Morristown, N.J. He finished up with two seasons in San Francisco, where he won a third Super Bowl ring.

Today, Oates, 46, is an executive at J.H. Cohn, a giant in the real estate and integrated business fields. He and his wife Michelle have two sons and a daughter.

And the 1990 Giants still hold a special place in his memories.

"We were the fourth- or fifth-best team talent wise, but we were the best team," he said. "That's the beauty of football. We were one of those teams where the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. We were able to work as a team, all three units complementing each other."

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