An exciting game…but it was the New York Giants who come out on top to win the Super Bowl…disrupting the New England Patriots hopes..no matter what team you were cheering for…one thing is clear…both teams delivered an exciting and entertaining exhibition of professional football…as it should always be…
That’s my comment…pass it on,
Now we can talk about legacies. All week Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin have refused to play along with journalists’ what-ifs and hypothetical scenarios. Would a second Super Bowl triumph in five years be enough to secure both the Giants quarterback and head coach’s future spots in the NFL’s Hall of Fame? We’re not worried about all that. Let’s just play the game.
Well, they did play. For the third time in five years – and the second at a Super Bowl – the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots courtesy of a fourth-quarter comeback, Ahmad Bradshaw giving them the lead with 56 seconds to go on a touchdown he didn’t even mean to score.
With his team trailing by two points and the Giants facing second and goal from the six, Bradshaw knew it might be more dangerous to score and give New England the ball back than to stop short and take time off the clock before allowing his team to kick the field goal that would have still given them a one-point lead. The Patriots’ defence seemed to have had the same thought – parting to allow the back through, and as Bradshaw tried to go down at the one-yard line, his momentum carried him over the line.
No matter. With just one time out left, the Patriots were unable to engineer a response, the game ending on a desperate heave from Tom Brady into the endzone that would fall incomplete. Five years after seeing their perfect season ended by the Giants at Super Bowl XLII in Arizona, the Patriots once again found themselves walking down the tunnel as the confetti fell at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Just as in 2008, the signature moment arrived in the form of a remarkable catch on the final drive. For David Tyree you can substitute Mario Manningham, who showed startling body control as he dived to pull in a 38-yard pass down the left sideline while being hit by the New England safety Patrick Chung. It is a catch that will be replayed and replayed – perhaps only to be rivalled only by the also stunning drop by New England’s Wes Welker on the previous drive.
Then again, the start to this game was not without its surprises. Bookies had variously rated the possibility of the first score of the game being a safety at anywhere upwards of 50-1, but the odds on one arriving in this manner would have been many times higher still.
On the Patriots’ first offensive play of the game, Tom Brady dropped back to pass but quickly found himself under pressure from the Giants’ Justin Tuck. Although he launched the ball downfield before the defensive end could reach him, there were no receivers in the vicinity of the pass. The flag came down immediately for intentional grounding. With Brady standing in the endzone at the point of release, that meant a safety had to be awarded.
If it seemed unthinkable that a quarterback as experienced as Brady would make such an avoidable and costly mistake, then New York’s next score came on the back of an even more costly Patriots penalty. The Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes looked to have achieved a critical turnover when he recovered a fumble by the Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz at New England’s seven-yard line, only for his team to be penalised for having 12 men on the field. Instead of losing possession, New York got a first and goal at the six.
Two plays later Manning connected with the same receiver for a two-yard score. The Patriots fans at Lucas Oil Stadium had roared their approval as the Giants’ first drive came to an end with two sacks of Manning in three plays, but anyone who paid attention to the Giants’ NFC Championship game win over the San Francisco 49ers – in which Manning was sacked six times and hit 18 – would have known that he can take such punishment better than most. By this point he was nine of nine for 77 yards and the score.
The Patriots could manage only a field goal on their next drive, and the Giants looked primed to extend their advantage as they drove back into New England territory. Although the drive stalled at the Patriots’ 41, New York were able to force a quick three and out before setting off on another solid drive.
This time, though, it was their turn to be undone by a penalty – a holding call against the guard Kevin Boothe on third and one costing them a first down at the New England 36. Mario Manningham failed to reel in a long bomb from Manning on the next play, though the Giants might still have assumed theirs was not such a bad position to be in when Steve Weatherford’s subsequent punt was downed at the New England four-yard line.
By that point there were just four minutes left in the half, and Tom Brady had completed just five of eight passes for 49 yards. The Pats’ offence seemed to be suffering the ineffectiveness of their record-breaking tight end Rob Gronkowski, moving without his usual conviction following the high ankle sprain suffered against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game.
And yet suddenly they exploded to life, Brady completing his next 10 passes – including a 20-yard strike to Gronkowski – as the Patriots marched up the field for the touchdown that would give them a 10-9 lead at half-time, keeping their opponents off balance by staying in a no-huddle offence for much of the drive.
On third and three from the four, Brady received excellent protection as he waited patiently for Danny Woodhead to find space between two defenders before delivering the ball to him for the score. The drive had officially been 96 yards, but factoring in two further penalties against New England, they had actually gone 108.
The Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had imposed 30-minute breaks in the middle of practice sessions this week in order to simulate the extended half-time break during a Super Bowl – more than twice as long as it would be in a regular season game. The ruse seemed to work as his team raced straight down the field for another score.
Brady had begun this game seeking to equal Joe Montana by winning a fourth Super Bowl, but he surpassed another record set by his childhood idol when he connected with Wes Welker for a five-yard completion to the Giants’ 28 – his 14th consecutive completion. That figure was up to 16 when he delivered a 12-yard strike to Aaron Hernandez in the endzone. Even Chad Ochocinco had got in on the act with a 21-yard reception at the start of the drive.
The Giants responded with a field goal, though even that felt like a victory for New England. A promising drive had died out after the wide receiver Hakeem Nicks took a brutal hit from Patrick Chung – dropping a pass that would have given his team a fresh set of downs near the 10-yard line. Momentum began to turn back, however, as the Patriots went three and out, with Brady leaving the field looking dazed after a sack by Justin Tuck.
New York raced down to the Patriots’ 11-yard line, but after Ahmad Bradshaw twice failed to take advantage of some good blocking, Manning was sacked by Rob Ninkovich and Mark Anderson on third down. Once again the Giants had to settle for three.
Just as a poor decision from Brady cost New England at the start of the game, however, another would do so again here. There were shades of Manning’s miraculous escape and completion to David Tyree, as Brady slipped away from the Giants pass rush 10 yards near the New England 40-yard line and launched the ball downfield in the direction of Gronkowski.
If the match-up looked favourable – the tight end single covered by Chase Blackburn – the pass immediately looked ill-advised: underthrown to a player who had looked below his battling best all game. Blackburn stepped in front to intercept at the Giants’ eight-yard line.
The teams exchanged possessions, a New York drive stalling after they crossed halfway, before the Pats did the same. For New England, though, the missed opportunity was greater. A blown coverage had left Wes Welker wide open as he streaked upfield on second and 11 from the 44, yet when Brady delivered the ball to him, the wide receiver – usually one of the most reliable pair of hands in the entire league – let it slip through his fingers.
With that, the stage was set for the Giants and for Manningham, whose catch arrived on the first play of a drive that began at the New York 12 with three minutes and 46 seconds left to play. And which ended with a quarterback and a head coach one step closer to that Hall of Fame.
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