Now that the level of craziness and hoopla surrounding Monday night's Game of All Games between the Giants and 49ers has subsided, it's time to ask a simple question: Did Giants Coach Bill Parcells do the right thing by going for a touchdown instead of a field goal on fourth down with 3:59 left?

Of course, no one will ever know for sure. Second-guessers could hold a convention on this one.

One thing is certain about the call: It was brave. And although it didn't work, one will never fault Parcells for cowardice.

But was it smart?

On fourth and goal at the 9-yard line, two timeouts and momentum in hand, Parcells decided to go for the touchdown. Receiver Lionel Manuel ran a slant pattern, but was covered well by left cornerback Darryl Pollard. Quarterback Phil Simms was getting heavy pressure again and was forced to release the ball early. The pass was tipped and soared behind Manuel.

"We knew it was a difficult play," Parcells said, "but we didn't know if we'd get another chance. {The 49ers} have a powerful offense, so we thought we had to go for it."

Said linebacker Lawrence Taylor: "It surprised me a bit, but it's the coach's call. If we make it, the coach is a hero; if not, he takes the heat. It was a gutsy call to make. He can't put it up for a vote. He's just got to make a decision, and he did."

So let the second-guessing begin.

Second-guesser's point No. 1: Parcells is right about the fact San Francisco can score anytime, but during this particular game, that didn't seem to be a possibility. Offense was definitely in short supply as the teams combined for just 461 total yards. The 49ers had just 11 first downs, their lowest total since 1985.

Maybe Parcells should have kicked the easy field goal and then relied on his defense -- which had stuffed the 49ers for most of the night -- to get the ball back.

"I don't agree," said Giants cornerback Everson Walls. "We've been going for it on situations like that all year."

Second-guesser's point No. 2: Did Parcells give the 49ers' defense enough credit? San Francisco safety Dave Waymer didn't think so.

"I think that played into the Giants' decision to go for it," Waymer said. "They felt we were a finesse team. They think we play zone and don't pound. The NFC East does a lot of pounding, but I always thought this conference {the NFC West} is the most physical conference in the league. Hey, three points. It doesn't get much better than that. Unless it's zero or two."

In defense of Parcells, what was probably on his mind when he made the decision were two important facts: Jerry Rice, the league's leading receiver, had only one catch. And Montana is infamous for those quick -- and late -- scoring drives. The 49ers' only touchdown drive went 63 yards in five plays and 1:56. Parcells might have thought Montana could strike quickly again.

"Sometimes it seems that we just score as much as we need to and when we need to," said 49ers tight end Brent Jones.

"We did everything we possibly could to them," said Giants safety Greg Jackson. "We put good pressure on them and still lost. No one on this team can blame someone else for what happened. We all lost this one."