Spring 2021 Magazine

On this day: Jan. 27, 1991 - Giants, Bills join for first postgame prayer at Super Bowl

With Super Bowl LV set for Feb. 7 and featuring the defending-champion Kansas City Chiefs taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, it conjures up memories of past Super Bowls played in Tampa. There have been four prior to this season, and one of the most memorable games of all time occurred 30 years ago today.

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Super Bowl XXV — on Jan. 27, 1991, at Tampa Stadium — featured the Buffalo Bills (who led the league in total points scored that season) taking on the New York Giants (who led the league in fewest points allowed). It came during a particularly patriotic time in the U.S. due to the onset of the Persian Gulf War, and the night began with Whitney Houston performing perhaps the greatest rendition ever of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The game itself — which was ranked No. 10 among the NFL’s 100 greatest games — was a tight, back-and-forth contest. Buffalo led 12-10 at halftime, fell behind in the second half, but had a chance to win the game when kicker Scott Norwood lined up for a 47-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds left to play. But his kick sailed “wide right,” as famously called by broadcaster Al Michaels. The Giants won their second Super Bowl, while that was the first of four straight Super Bowl losses for Buffalo.

What took place at the 50-yard line after that missed kick also went down in history: the first-ever Super Bowl postgame prayer. Members of both the Bills and the Giants kneeled, joined hands and gave thanks to the Lord.

 

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Praying with opponents after their games was actually something the Giants had begun earlier in that 1990-91 season. Sparked by two team chaplains having the same idea of players using the NFL platform to glorify God, what is now commonplace after nearly all NFL games began that season. Sports Spectrum detailed how the NFL postgame prayer huddle came to be in its Fall 2017 magazine issue.

Pat Richie, the San Francisco 49ers chaplain, earlier that season reached out to Dave Bratton, the Giants’ chaplain, to discuss the idea of Christ-followers on their teams praying together after the heated NFC rivals’ much-anticipated Monday Night Football matchup. Both teams got players to commit, and on Dec. 3, 1990, the first NFL postgame prayer took place.

Giants players continued to pray with their opponents after each game the rest of the season — except once, on Dec. 15 against the Bills.

“We only missed one game that year since we started,” Bratton said, “and that was against Buffalo, on December 15th. Afterwards, I looked at the team and we thought, ‘We may get a chance to rectify that.’ Sure enough, that’s what happened.”

The teams met again in Super Bowl XXV, and after a classic game, dozens of players joined together to thank God. Thirty years later, the tradition lives on.

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