TAMPA, JAN. 26 -- There are plenty of keys for the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants, opponents in Super Bowl XXV on Sunday at Tampa Stadium. But is none more obvious than which one proves to be the more dependable force: the Bills' sleek no-huddle offense or the Giants' nasty and sturdy defense.

There seems to be more pressure on the Giants' defense than on the Bills' offense, and New York defensive players have acknowledged that all week. They must stop quarterback Jim Kelly. They must stop running back Thurman Thomas. They must stop wide receivers Andre Reed and James Lofton.

Considering the dramatic events away from the field, the silver anniversary Super Bowl will be played under difficult circumstances at best. The NFL will have one eye on its game and one eye on the Persian Gulf, where war has forced the league to increase its security around the stadium and consider contingencies should events escalate to where networks would preempt the game for news.

If the game is preempted Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said, "I would think in all likelihood it would be played the following Sunday."

The war also has heightened fears about a possible terrorist action. Stadium security will resemble that at Fort Knox: All cars entering the stadium will be checked and fans will walk through metal detectors; fans will not be permitted to carry electronic devices into the game; no blimps or private airplanes will be allowed into surrounding airspace; and some 1,800 area police and security personnel will be at the game and its related events.

The showdown between these teams with 15-3 records is scheduled for a 6:18 p.m. kickoff (WJLA-TV-7, WJZ-TV-13). It marks the first time in the NFL championship game for Buffalo, the second for the Giants and the first Super Bowl without the San Francisco 49ers since the Redskins trounced the Broncos in 1988.

And despite the limited hoopla and the serious mood, some players, such as Giants safety Dave Duerson, will remember this week as one of the most special in their lives.

"Going to a Super Bowl is something special in itself," he said, "but with war going on and all, obviously this is something you will never forget."

In terms of football, one of the Giants' concerns is keeping the score low. The Giants' offense -- which managed only five field goals against the 49ers in the NFC championship game -- isn't apt to score a lot of points. New York's ball-control offense averaged 20.9 points a game in the regular season.

"We know the deal," said running back Ottis Anderson, the oldest starting running back in the league, who will handle a lot of the running duties. "We have to keep the ball as long as we can and let the big D stop them. That's all there is to it."

Sounds nice, but it will be much more difficult to apply. In playoff games against the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Raiders, the Bills racked up an incredible 95 points. In their 18 games so far, they have scored 523 points for a 29.1 per game average.

Giants cornerback Everson Walls had this to say about one of the Bills' weapons, Reed, whom Walls saw up close in the teams' first meeting on Dec. 15: "In the first touchdown they scored against us {a six-yard pass to Reed}, right before he went across the goal line, I gave him a blow to the face. I told him after that it was a good catch and I asked if he was all right from the blow. He said, 'I get that stuff all the time.'

"He's a tough guy and he expects rough treatment. We're going to make sure we don't disappoint him. We're going to make sure we don't disappoint any of them."

Buffalo loves its running game, led by Thomas. He has done everything this year -- block, run and catch. So far he has rushed for 1,552 yards and 14 touchdowns. Thomas also has 57 receptions for 631 yards and two touchdowns.

His versatility is seen in the way Buffalo uses its star. He can line up in the backfield or in the slot, going in motion to find a crease in a zone defense.

"He's the best all-purpose back in the NFL," said Houston Oilers defensive coordinator Jim Eddy. "He's got great instincts inside and great speed to go to the outside. He's a super receiver out of the backfield. You look back at the all-time great running backs and there aren't many that can do as many things to hurt you as this guy."

"We may not be able to stop them," Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor said. "But we can slow them. I know we can slow them. That's the main thing we want to try and do. And the key to that is to stop Thomas."

And Kelly. It's his ability to make quick reads that makes the no-huddle go.

He also gets little defensive pressure and his ability to get four, five and sometimes six seconds to find a receiver is a credit to a solid offensive line. Working out of the shotgun formation most of the time doesn't hurt either. Kelly has been sacked an average of only 1 1/2 times a game this season.

"We have to put Kelly on his butt a few times," said linebacker Pepper Johnson. "He's one of those guys that's an uppity guy. He likes to stand up in there and not get dirty. I think up here in Tampa we'll have to put a little grass on him."

Kelly presented problems for the Giants when the teams met at Giants Stadium last month. Kelly led the no-huddle offense to touchdowns on the Bills' first two possessions. Those two series covered a total of 152 yards and ate up just 5:33.

That's fast. It's also typical of the Buffalo offense.

"The way I look at it," Kelly said, "only we can stop this offense.

"When you have as many weapons as I do, there's not much the defense can do. I can throw to James Lofton, Andre Reed or {tight end} Keith McKeller or Thurman Thomas. If we run the ball, then Thurman's the best running back in the league."

But what gives New York its best chance to win this game is its crew of linebackers -- Taylor, Johnson, Carl Banks, Steve DeOssie and Gary Reasons.

The X-factor is Taylor, who said this week that he realizes this could be his last Super Bowl. And he plans on playing like it.

"There's no show like this in all of sports," he said. "You can talk about the NBA Finals and World Series, but there's nothing like this. I think everyone plays in the Super Bowl like it's going to be their last one."