|Date||January 27, 1991|
|Stadium||Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida|
|MVP||Ottis Anderson, Running back|
|Favorite||Bills by 7|
|Future Hall of Famers|
|Bills: Ralph Wilson (owner), Bill Polian (general manager), Marv Levy (coach), Jim Kelly, James Lofton, Andre Reed, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas
Giants: Wellington Mara (owner/administrator), Bill Parcells (coach), Lawrence Taylor
|National anthem||Whitney Houston|
|Coin toss||Pete Rozelle|
|Halftime show||New Kids on the Block|
|TV in the United States|
|Announcers||Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, Dan Dierdorf, Lynn Swann, and Jack Arute|
(est. 79.51 million viewers)
|Cost of 30-second commercial||$800,000|
Super Bowl XXV was an American football game between the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Buffalo Bills and the National Football Conference (NFC) champion New York Giants to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1990 season. The Giants defeated the Bills by the score of 20–19, winning their second Super Bowl. It is the only Super Bowl decided by one point.
The game was held at Tampa Stadium in Tampa, Florida, on January 27, 1991, during the height of the Gulf War. It was thus played under much patriotic fervor, highlighted by a rousing rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Whitney Houston during the pre-game ceremonies. The American Broadcasting Company (ABC), who broadcast the game in the U.S., did not broadcast the Super Bowl XXV halftime show (headlined by the American boy band New Kids on the Block) live. Instead, the network televised a special ABC News report anchored by Peter Jennings on the progress of the war, and then aired the halftime show on tape delay after the game.
The Bills and their explosive no-huddle offense were making their first Super Bowl appearance after finishing the regular season with a 13–3 record, and leading the league in total points scored with 428. In advancing to their second Super Bowl, the Giants also posted a 13–3 regular season record, but with a ball-control offense and a defense that allowed a league-low 211 points.
The game is best remembered for Bills placekicker Scott Norwood's last-second field goal attempt which went wide right of the uprights, leading to a Giants victory, and starting a four-game losing streak in the Super Bowl for the Bills. The Giants set a Super Bowl record holding possession of the ball for 40 minutes and 33 seconds. The Giants also overcame a 12–3 second-quarter deficit, and made a 75-yard touchdown drive that consumed a Super Bowl-record 9:29 off the clock. Giants running back Ottis Anderson, who carried the ball 21 times for 102 yards and one touchdown, was named Super Bowl MVP. He was the first awardee to receive the newly named "Pete Rozelle Trophy" (named for the former commissioner). Anderson also recorded one reception for seven yards. This is the first Super Bowl to feature two teams representing the same state. It was also the first Super Bowl in which neither team committed a turnover.
NFL owners voted to award Super Bowl XXV to Tampa during a May 20, 1987 meeting held at Coronado, California. This was the second time that Tampa hosted the game; the city previously hosted Super Bowl XVIII on January 22, 1984.
The Bills and the Giants entered the game using contrasting styles: While the Bills led the league in total points scored (428), the Giants led the league in fewest points allowed (211).
The teams had met earlier in the season as well. On December 15, in another nationally televised game, the Bills completed a season sweep at Giants Stadium, beating the Giants 17–13, a game which was close, but would prove to be not as close as this one.
The Bills had a very talented team with nine Pro Bowl selections on their roster. Their defense was led by defensive end Bruce Smith, who recorded 19 sacks and won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. Behind him, three of the Bills' starting linebackers, Darryl Talley, Shane Conlan, and Cornelius Bennett, were selected to the Pro Bowl. And on special teams, Pro Bowler Steve Tasker was a major threat, forcing fumbles, delivering jarring tackles, and blocking kicks.
But as good as their defense was, it was the Bills' flashy, high-powered offense that gained the most attention. Unlike the Giants, the Bills routinely used the no-huddle offense to storm down the field and score points very quickly. Instead of going into a huddle after each play, quarterback Jim Kelly would immediately send his offense back to the line of scrimmage and call the play there after reading the defense. This strategy prevented opposing defenses from properly reading the Bills' formation, making substitutions, or even catching their breath.
The Bills' no-huddle K-Gun offense worked well enough for Kelly to finish the regular season as the top rated quarterback in the NFL (101.2), throwing for 2,829 yards, 24 touchdowns, and only 9 interceptions. One reason for his success was that he had two outstanding wide receivers: future Hall of Famer Andre Reed, who made his specialty going across the middle on slants and crossing routes, recorded 71 receptions, 945 yards, and 8 touchdowns, and future Hall of Famer James Lofton, who was the deep threat with 35 receptions for 712 yards (a 20.3 yards per catch average). Tight end Keith McKeller contributed 34 receptions for 464 yards and 5 touchdowns. Pro Bowl running back Thurman Thomas had an AFC-best 1,297 rushing yards, caught 49 passes for 532 yards, and scored 13 touchdowns. Thomas also led the NFL in yards from scrimmage for the second consecutive season. A key to the Bills' prolific offense was the blocking of its superb offensive line, led by All-Pro center Kent Hull and Pro Bowl left tackle Will Wolford.
Even though Kelly missed the last 2 games of the season with a knee injury, suffered in the same game in which the Giants lost Simms, the Bills finished with a 13–3 regular season record.
The 1990 New York Giants were built to head coach Bill Parcells's specifications of "power football": a powerful defense and an offense that sustained extremely long drives. The Giants' defense ranked second in the league in fewest total yards allowed (4,392) and first in fewest points allowed, and boasted three Pro Bowl selections: defensive tackle Erik Howard, and linebackers Pepper Johnson and Lawrence Taylor. The secondary was led by defensive back Everson Walls, an offseason acquisition from the Dallas Cowboys, who recorded 6 interceptions, and safety Greg Jackson, who recorded 5 interceptions and 4 sacks. The Giants' offense was unspectacular, ranking just 17th in the league in yards gained and 13th in points scored. But they wore down opposing teams' defenses with extremely long drives, thus keeping their opponents' offense on the sidelines and preventing them from scoring. More importantly, the Giants set an NFL record by losing only 14 turnovers in a 16-game regular season. A big reason for the team's offensive success was the blocking of linemen Bart Oates and William Roberts, the only Pro Bowlers on the offense. Kick returner Dave Meggett led the NFL in punt return yards (467), while also gaining 492 yards on kickoff returns, rushing for 164 yards, and catching 39 passes for 410 yards.
New York began the regular season by winning their first 10 games, and then went into a tailspin and lost three of their next four. One week after losing to the division rival Philadelphia Eagles, 31–13, the 10–1 Giants were defeated on Monday Night Football in a 7–3 defensive battle with the 10–1 San Francisco 49ers, who had won the previous two Super Bowls and ultimately finished the regular season with an NFL best 14–2 record. Then, in their 17–13 loss to the Bills, New York suffered a major setback when starting quarterback Phil Simms went down for the season with a broken bone in his foot.
Simms' replacement, Jeff Hostetler, had started only two games in his seven years as a backup with the Giants. However, Hostetler displayed fine passing and scrambling ability in his limited playing time during the season, and threw only one interception and committed no fumbles. With Hostetler at the helm, the Giants responded by winning their final two games to finish the regular season 13–3, good enough to win the NFC East and earn the second seed in the NFC playoffs.
The Giants began their championship postseason run by easily eliminating the Chicago Bears, 31–3. In leading the Giants' "power football" offense, Hostetler threw only 17 passes, but two went for touchdowns and he threw no interceptions. He also directed a rushing attack that gained 194 yards, including 43 (and a touchdown) from Hostetler himself. This game offered a preview of what lay in store for Super Bowl XXV, as the Giants scored on drives of 75, 80, 49 and 51 yards, which lasted nine, 11, 11 and 16 plays. Overall, New York held the ball for 38:22, compared to Chicago's 21:38. But New York lost another key player for the season when rookie running back Rodney Hampton, the team's second-leading rusher during the regular season with 455 yards, suffered a broken leg.
The following Sunday, the Giants upset the San Francisco 49ers 15–13 in the NFC Championship Game. The 49ers, an NFL-best 14–2 in the regular season and winners of the last two Super Bowls, were 6½-point favorites at kickoff. Their outstanding defense was led by future Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott and linebacker Charles Haley, who led the NFC in sacks. San Francisco's offense was considered the best in the NFC, led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana and wide receiver Jerry Rice. However, with the exception of a 61-yard touchdown pass from Montana to wide receiver John Taylor, the Giants contained the 49ers' offense extremely well. A sack by Giants defensive end Leonard Marshall early in the fourth quarter knocked Montana out of the game. Despite their great defensive effort, the Giants still trailed 13–9 midway through the fourth quarter, but a 30-yard run from linebacker Gary Reasons on a fake punt set up kicker Matt Bahr's fourth field goal, cutting their deficit to 13–12. The 49ers (now led by Steve Young) tried to run out the clock on their ensuing possession, but running back Roger Craig had the ball dislodged by nose tackle Erik Howard, and Lawrence Taylor recovered the fumble in mid-air with 2:36 remaining. Five plays later, Bahr kicked his 5th field goal, a 41-yarder, as time expired to give New York the win.
As for the Bills, Jim Kelly returned from his injury to lead Buffalo to a 44–34 playoff victory over the Miami Dolphins. The Bills jumped to an early 20–3 lead, but Miami quarterback Dan Marino rallied his team back and cut Buffalo's lead to 30–27 going into the fourth quarter. However, Buffalo scored a touchdown on their first drive of the period with a 5-yard run by Thurman Thomas. Kicker Scott Norwood then recovered a fumble from Miami on the ensuing kickoff, allowing the Bills to put the game away with Kelly's 26-yard touchdown pass to Andre Reed. Kelly finished the game with 336 passing yards, three touchdowns, and 37 rushing yards. Reed was also a big factor, recording 123 receiving yards and a pair of touchdown catches. James Lofton caught 7 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. Thomas led the Bills' ground attack with 32 carries for 117 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns, while also catching 3 passes for 38 yards.
Buffalo then crushed the Los Angeles Raiders 51–3, the most lopsided score in AFC Championship Game history. The Bills' defense dominated the Raiders' offense, which was without running back Bo Jackson, who suffered a career-ending injury against the Cincinnati Bengals the week before, limiting them to an early field goal and intercepting five passes from quarterback Jay Schroeder. Meanwhile, the Bills' offense racked up 502 yards, piling up yards and points so fast the game was out of reach by the end of the first half. Kelly was 17 of 23 for 300 yards passing, and two touchdowns to Lofton. Thomas had 138 yards rushing, 61 yards receiving, and his backup, Kenneth Davis, tied a playoff record with three touchdowns.
The Bills were heavily favored to win Super Bowl XXV. Most experts expected that the Giants' defense would not be able to contain the Bills' turbo-charged no-huddle offense, which had scored 95 points in 2 playoff games. Many also questioned how effective the Giants' offense would be after failing to score a single touchdown in the NFC Championship Game. Also, in Week 15 of the regular season, the two teams met at Giants Stadium, where the Bills defeated the Giants 17–13.
For the first time, each player wore a Super Bowl logo patch on his jersey. This would not become a regular practice in Super Bowls until Super Bowl XXXII. The Super Bowl XXV logo was painted at midfield, and the NFL logo was placed at each of the two 35-yard lines. For the past Super Bowl games since Super Bowl VI, the NFL logo was painted on the 50-yard line.
With the Gulf War having begun 10 days prior to this Super Bowl's scheduled date of January 27; rumors had begun circulating of a possible delay or cancellation of the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. However, the NFL quickly denied those rumors by stating the games would go on as scheduled.
The game was broadcast in the United States by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), featuring the Monday Night Football broadcast team of play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and color commentators Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf. Brent Musburger hosted all the events with the help of then-ABC Sports analysts Bob Griese and Dick Vermeil, Musburger's regular color commentator on ABC's college football telecasts. Also, sponsors Coca-Cola and Diet Pepsi had to withdraw planned contest promotions or advertisements, due to the Gulf War situation (PepsiCo's contest, a heavily promoted $3 million giveaway in which viewers would be invited to call a toll-free number during the first three quarters; with the caller receiving a Diet Pepsi coupon and an opportunity to win one of 3 prizes totaling $1 million each, was also withdrawn due to FCC and Congressional fears and complaints from the telephone communications industry that the United States telephone system would be overwhelmed).
The game was broadcast in the United Kingdom on Channel 4, in Mexico on the Canal de las Estrellas, Canada on CTV and on Venezuela on Venevisión. Because of the Gulf War situation, this marked the first time the Super Bowl would be telecast in most countries around the world. Outside of North America and England, this Super Bowl was broadcast for the first time in countries such as Australia and Russia.
Whitney Houston performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" for Super Bowl XXV, backed by The Florida Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Jahja Ling. With America involved in the Gulf War, the positive response to the rousing performance was overwhelming, and it was released as a single and a video. It reached number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 – making her the only act to turn the national anthem into a pop hit of that magnitude.
Houston's rendition was critically acclaimed and largely regarded as one of the best renditions of the U.S. national anthem in history. The track was included on the album Whitney: The Greatest Hits. Following 9/11, the single was re-released by Arista Records, peaking at number 6 on the Hot 100 and was certified platinum by the RIAA.
The halftime show was titled "A Small World Salute to 25 Years of the Super Bowl". It was produced by Disney and featured over 3,500 local children from different ethnic backgrounds and a performance by boy band New Kids on the Block, with special guest Warren Moon.
ABC did not broadcast the halftime show live. Instead, they televised a special ABC News report anchored by Peter Jennings on the progress of the Gulf War. The halftime show was later shown on tape delay after the game at around 10:40 EST, although most ABC affiliates ran the first episode of Davis Rules following the Super Bowl, and may have televised the remaining parts of the halftime show later.
Nationally, the game was carried over CBS. Jack Buck served as play-by-play with Hank Stram his color commentator. In the teams' local markets, the game was carried on WNEW-AM in New York City with Jim Gordon, Dick Lynch and Karl Nelson and WGR in Buffalo, New York with Van Miller, Ed Rutkowski and Pete Weber.
To counteract the Bills' no-huddle offense, the Giants' used a tough-nosed, conservative plan on both sides of the ball. On offense, the plan was to use a power running game utilizing Ottis Anderson, aided by quarterback rollouts, bootlegs, and play-action fakes. As tight end Mark Bavaro later recalled, "we came out with three tight ends, fat slobs picking you up and moving you and letting you tackle O.J., if you could." This enabled them to take time off the clock and limit Buffalo's possessions. The Giants set a Super Bowl record for time of possession with 40 minutes and 33 seconds, including 22 minutes in the second half.
On defense, New York wanted to be physical with Buffalo's wideouts, and play with extra defensive backs to concentrate on stopping the Bills' passing game, while shifting focus away from trying to stop Buffalo's running game. In his book "The Education of a Coach", David Halberstam wrote that one of defensive coordinator Bill Belichick's specific plans to combat the Bills involved convincing his defense (who had been the best unit against the run in the NFL that season) that they would win the game if Thurman Thomas ran for more than 100 yards. Belichick also felt that Jim Kelly was not as good at reading defenses as some other elite quarterbacks were (for example, Joe Montana), and that Kelly tended to "freeze" what he was seeing from a series and then use that information on the next one, which meant the Giants could be a step ahead of him all game if they alternated their cover plans from drive to drive.
The contrast in strategies was evident during the 1st quarter. After forcing the Bills to punt on the opening drive of the game, the Giants consumed 6:15 off the clock by marching 58 yards in 10 plays to score on a 28-yard field goal from Matt Bahr. In that drive, New York ran five rushing plays and five passing plays. But the Bills struck right back on their ensuing possession with a five-play, 66-yard drive that took 1:23 off the clock, including a tipped 61-yard completion from Kelly to receiver James Lofton that set up Scott Norwood's 23-yard field goal to tie the game at 3–3.
After forcing the Giants to punt on their ensuing possession, the Bills' offensive strategy started to work to perfection. Kelly led the Bills on a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive that consumed 4:27 and moved the ball so effectively that the team never faced a third down. Kelly completed six consecutive passes (four to Andre Reed) for 62 yards, and running back Don Smith capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown run to give Buffalo a 10–3 lead early in the 2nd quarter. Smith's touchdown run was his only carry of the game and the last carry of his career. Reed's 5 1st-quarter receptions were a Super Bowl record.
After trading punts, the Giants were pinned at their own 7-yard line. On second down, defensive end Bruce Smith sacked quarterback Jeff Hostetler in the end zone for a safety, increasing the Bills' lead to 12–3. On the play, Smith had a chance to force a fumble, since Hostetler was holding the football with only his throwing hand. But to his credit, Hostetler held the ball away from Smith, helping to ensure that only two points would be surrendered.
Later on, the Giants got the ball at their own 13-yard line with 3:43 left in the 2nd quarter. New York abandoned their long-drive strategy and employed a quick-strike attack of their own. It worked, as Hostetler led the Giants 87 yards and scored on a 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Stephen Baker with just 25 seconds left in the half to cut New York's deficit to 12–10.
The Giants opened the 3rd quarter and resumed their original game strategy by driving 75 yards in 14 plays to score on Ottis Anderson's 1-yard touchdown run, giving the Giants a 17-12 lead. The drive consumed a then-Super Bowl record 9:29 (since surpassed by the Giants in Super Bowl XLII), and included four successful third down conversions. The highlight was a 14-yard pass to wide receiver Mark Ingram on 3rd down and 13 yards to go. Ingram caught a short pass and broke five Buffalo tackles to get the first down and keep the drive alive.
After forcing Buffalo to punt on its ensuing possession, New York drove to the Bills' 35-yard line. But on fourth and two, Smith tackled Anderson for a 2-yard loss. Buffalo then took over and stormed down the field, advancing 63 yards in just four plays and scoring on a 31-yard burst from running back Thurman Thomas on the first play of the 4th quarter, regaining the lead for Buffalo at 19–17. Thomas' touchdown run marked 1,000 points scored in Super Bowl history (1,001 with the extra point).
However, before the Bills' defenders had a chance to catch their breath, they found themselves back on the field trying to contain another long Giants drive. This one went for 14 plays and 74 yards, half of which came off passes from Hostetler to tight end Mark Bavaro, and took another 7:32 off the clock. The Bills managed to halt the drive at their own 3-yard line when linebacker Cornelius Bennett broke up Hostetler's third down pass, but Bahr kicked his second field goal to give New York a 20–19 lead. On the Bills' ensuing possession, they could only advance to their own 41-yard line before having to punt, enabling the Giants to take more time off the clock. The Bills finally forced New York to punt and took the ball at their own 10-yard line with 2:16 remaining.
On the Bills' final possession, Kelly led the team down the field with a mix of scrambles, short passes, and Thomas runs, of which the last was for a healthy, and very critical, seven yards, managing to get the Bills to the Giants 29-yard line, just within field goal range with eight seconds to play. Norwood attempted a 47-yard game-winning field goal. Norwood's kick sailed wide right, less than a yard outside of the goalpost upright. To this day, this is the only potential Super Bowl winning field goal attempt in which the kicker's team would lose if the kick were missed. After Norwood's miss, the Giants ran out the clock.
There were many impressive performances in the game by players from both teams. Jim Kelly completed 18 of 30 passes for 212 yards with no interceptions, while adding another 23 yards on six rushing attempts. Jeff Hostetler completed 20 of 32 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 10 yards. Dave Meggett recorded 129 combined net yards (48 rushing, 18 receiving, 37 on punt returns, 26 on kickoff returns). But the best performances came from both teams' starting running backs. Ottis Anderson rushed for 102 yards, caught a pass for seven yards, and scored a touchdown. Thurman Thomas scored a touchdown, rushed for 135 yards, and caught five passes for 55 yards, giving him 190 total yards from scrimmage. Thomas' 135 yards are the most yards rushing for a member of a losing team. This was also only the second Super Bowl to have two 100-yard rushers.
The defensive game plan for the Giants, written by defensive coordinator Bill Belichick, has been included in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Giants' triumph helped Belichick and wide receivers coach Tom Coughlin make their names and eventually land head-coaching jobs with the Cleveland Browns and Boston College, respectively. Currently, Belichick is head coach of the New England Patriots, while Coughlin went from Boston College to be the first-ever head coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and spent 12 seasons as the head coach of the New York Giants before resigning in 2016. Giants head coach Bill Parcells retired shortly after winning his second Super Bowl with the Giants. However, he went on to coach three other teams since then: the New England Patriots (whom he helped bring to Super Bowl XXXI) from 1993–1996, the New York Jets from 1997–1999, and the Dallas Cowboys from 2003–2006. Both Coughlin and Belichick have gone on to win Super Bowls as head coaches: Belichick with the Patriots in Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLIX, and LI; Coughlin with the Giants in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, coincidentally, both against Belichick's Patriots.
This was the first Super Bowl in which neither team committed a turnover. The only other Super Bowl to date without a turnover is Super Bowl XXXIV, in which the St. Louis Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans 23–16. Because of Thomas' high production, some sports writers, such as Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman, felt that he should have won the game MVP even though his team lost, just as Chuck Howley had done in Super Bowl V.
|Buffalo Bills||New York Giants|
|First downs rushing||8||10|
|First downs passing||9||13|
|First downs penalty||1||1|
|Third down efficiency||1/8||9/16|
|Fourth down efficiency||0/0||0/1|
|Net yards rushing||166||172|
|Yards per rush||6.6||4.4|
|Passing – Completions/attempts||18/30||20/32|
|Times sacked-total yards||1–7||2–8|
|Net yards passing||205||214|
|Total net yards||371||386|
|Punt returns-total yards||0–0||2–37|
|Kickoff returns-total yards||6–114||3–48|
|Interceptions-total return yards||0–0||0–0|
|Time of possession||19:27||40:33|
1Completions/attempts 2Carries 3Long gain 4Receptions 5Times targeted
Super Bowl XXV was the first Super Bowl where no new player records were set. Three players tied a record. One single team record was set according to the official NFL.com boxscore, the 2016 NFL Record & Fact Book and the Pro-Football-Reference.com game summary.
|Player and Team Records Set |
|Smallest margin of victory||1 point||Giants|
|Most safeties, game||1||Bruce Smith|
|Most fair catches, game||3||Al Edwards (Buffalo)
David Meggett (New York)
|Most safeties, game||1||Bills|
|Fewest passing touchdowns||0|
|Fewest punt returns, game||0|
|Fewest turnovers, game||0||Bills
Turnovers are defined as the number of times losing the ball on interceptions and fumbles.
|Records Set, both team totals |
|Fewest times intercepted||0||0||0|
|Records tied, both team totals|
|Fewest fumbles lost||0||0||0|
|Fewest punt returns, game||2||2||0|
Hall of Fame‡
|Buffalo||Position||Position||New York Giants|
|James Lofton‡||WR||Mark Ingram|
|Will Wolford||LT||Jumbo Elliott|
|Jim Ritcher||LG||William Roberts|
|Kent Hull||C||Bart Oates|
|John Davis||RG||Eric Moore|
|Howard Ballard||RT||Doug Riesenberg|
|Keith McKeller||TE||Mark Bavaro|
|Andre Reed‡||WR||Stephen Baker|
|Jim Kelly‡||QB||Jeff Hostetler|
|Thurman Thomas‡||RB||Ottis Anderson|
|Jamie Mueller||FB||Maurice Carthon|
|Leon Seals||LE||Eric Dorsey|
|Jeff Wright||NT||Erik Howard|
|Bruce Smith‡||RE||Leonard Marshall|
|Cornelius Bennett||LOLB||Carl Banks|
|Shane Conlan||LILB||Steve DeOssie|
|Ray Bentley||RILB||Pepper Johnson|
|Darryl Talley||ROLB||Lawrence Taylor|
|Kirby Jackson||LCB||Mark Collins|
|Nate Odomes||RCB||Everson Walls|
|Leonard Smith||SS||Greg Jackson|
|Mark Kelso||FS||Myron Guyton|
|Scott Norwood||K||Matt Bahr|
|Rick Tuten||P||Sean Landeta|
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