The Touchdown Maker
By Dan Salomone
Additional photography by Mike Malarkey
Wide receiver Stephen Baker lived up to the nickname "The Touchdown Maker" when he swung the momentum of Super Bowl XXV with a 14-yard catch in the end zone with 25 seconds remaining in the first half.
In a game where offense was defense, the Giants needed long scoring drives. It's a good thing they had a touchdown maker.
Trailing 12-3 late in the first half of Super Bowl XXV against a Buffalo team that outscored its opponents by 223 points, Jeff Hostetler led a 10-play, 87-yard charge that culminated in a 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Stephen Baker. With 25 seconds left in the second quarter, the Giants cut the deficit to two points, swinging the momentum to their side as they went into the locker room.
But it almost never happened. On the play before Baker scored the touchdown, Hostetler threw a ball in the dirt that was intended for him down the seam, falling incomplete and setting up third-and-10.
"I'm like, 'Wow, there goes my chance; I'm not going to get another chance at this,'" Baker recalled. "But lo and behold, [offensive coordinator] Ron Erhardt called a play that we ran twice before in the regular season to beat the Cardinals and in the NFC divisional game against the Bears -- post corner route backside X flag -- and when he said that, I'm like, 'Oh my God, this is it, I'm about to make this happen, I'm about to run the best post corner route I ever ran in my life.'"
And he did.
"It was incredibly important," said former Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, who coached the wide receivers at the time. "Stephen Baker had done a great job throughout the year anytime you pressed him. He's so quick that he beats you… And this particular play, the inside release, he made a great stick and he caught what amounts to a corner route up in the corner of the end zone for the big score. That happened right before the half, which always gives you a little boost of confidence at that point in time. Don't forget, going in now, the Buffalo Bills were one of the most prolific offenses of all time." The Giants came out of the break with another touchdown drive that consumed 9:29 off the clock, a significant chunk of a Super Bowl record time of possession of 40:33. Big Blue went on to claim its second Lombardi Trophy, as Baker's touchdown sparked a 17-7 run to edge out one of the best teams never to win a title.
"It's been so long, it's like I kind of take it as a matter of fact," said Baker, who forever will be known as "The Touchdown Maker" among Giants fans. "And then sometimes, it will hit me, like, 'Wow, you know what, you're one of the few people that's scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl.' If you look in Giants history, there are not that many. And a lot of great players never did, like the great Walter Payton. So sometimes I have to pinch myself and say, 'You know what, you did do something pretty special.'"