MINNEAPOLIS .. — MINNEAPOLIS -- It is no longer justifiable to write off the NFC's domination of the Super Bowl as a purely statistical oddity.
The NFC has beaten the AFC in the Super Bowl seven straight years and nine of the past 10. That is not a cyclical circumstance. That is domination, even if the AFC is slow to admit it.
The AFC had perhaps its best chance to end the streak a year ago, but the favored Buffalo Bills fell to the New York Giants, 20-19, in Super Bowl XXV.
The NFC has a 13-12 edge overall in the Super Bowl, and this season won the interconference series against the AFC, 33-19.
"That's where the stronger teams happen to be," Bills coach Marv Levy says of the NFC. "I don't think the [initials] NFC make them stronger. I just think it's the way it came out.
"For the most part, they were stronger teams than the AFC
participant. Maybe the Giants and ourselves were very equal, and we might have turned it around. But we didn't. I don't think it's luck or what's in tea leaves. They beat us."
The Bills (15-3) get another crack on Sunday when they meet the best of the NFC, the Washington Redskins (16-2), in Super Bowl XXVI. Even before the Bills arrived here last night, they were tiring of the inevitable NFC-AFC comparisons. Baltimore's Carlton Bailey, a Bills linebacker, complained about the NFC's "mystique" and bad-boy image. Defensive end Bruce Smith said all the NFC talk should give the Bills added incentive.
But there are at least two very compelling reasons why the NFC has dominated over the last decade:
(1) Denver. It has been the Broncos' misfortune to lose three othe past seven Super Bowls by increasing margins. The Broncos were blown out by the Giants (39-20), the Redskins (42-10) and the San Francisco 49ers (55-10). In each case, Denver's defense was exposed as the Achilles heel of the team. Once the landslide began, there was no stopping it. Another part of that equation has been the poor performances of quarterback John Elway in the showdown game.
(2) Defense. Although it is stereotypical to say that the NFC plays better defense, that appears to be the case. The 49ers, Giants, Redskins and Chicago Bears -- who account for the past nine NFC victories -- all featured stout defense. Those defenses were able to defuse the AFC's big-gun attacks of quarterbacks Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason, Jim Kelly and Elway.