Super Bowl report card
Giants earn ultimate honors as Pats flunk historic test
Posted: Monday February 4, 2008 12:53AM; Updated: Monday February 4, 2008 8:51AM
While the scoreboard offers the only mark that really matters, SI.com's Bucky Brooks takes a look at how each team's units performed in Super Bowl XLII.
New York Giants
Quarterback: Eli Manning overcame a shaky stretch in the middle of the game to deliver an MVP performance. Manning repeatedly came up with clutch plays and showed his developing maturity by leading the Giants on a game-winning drive with less than three minutes left in the game. With three critical third-down conversions on the game-winning drive, and two pinpoint touchdown passes overall, Manning deserved the game's top honor.
Running Backs: Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for 87 rushing yards and set up the balanced attack the Giants used to control the tempo of the game. Additionally, the two backs provided excellent protection in the pocket on blitz pick up, delivering some bone-jarring hits. Their ability to stop Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi on their rushes allowed Manning to connect on several third-down passes in the first half of the game.
Receivers: Amani Toomer and Steve Smith steadied the offense while the Patriots successfully blanketed Plaxico Burress most of the game. Toomer and Smith repeatedly came up with clutch third-down conversions over the middle of the field, but it was the unlikely emergence of David Tyree that sparked the Giants' success. Tyree, who only had four receptions entering the game, scored the Giants' first touchdown on a quick slant and added a critical 32-yard reception on third down to keep their game-winning drive alive. Burress, who only finished with two receptions, still provided the game winner on a sneaky double move against Ellis Hobbs. And New Yorkers won't soon forget Kevin Boss's 45-yard reception that set up the Giants' first touchdown.
Offensive Line: Rich Seubert, Shaun O'Hara and Chris Snee controlled the point of attack and paved the way for a Giants' running game that dominated the first half. Although they surrendered three sacks in the game, the Giants' offensive line provided enough protection for Manning to throw effectively off play-action.
Defensive Line: After allowing the Patriots to score on their opening drive, the Giants' defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage the remainder of the game. Justin Tuck, who finished with two sacks and a forced fumble, was a terror from his defensive tackle position, and his relentless penetration up the middle was a big reason Tom Brady was unable to find a rhythm. But Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora also played key roles in helping the Giants limit the Patriots to 274 yards and 14 points. The defensive line accounted for four of the Giants' five sacks and generated 15 hits on Brady in the pocket.
Linebackers: Kawika Mitchell and Antonio Pierce were all over the field making plays. Mitchell, who played a large part in the bluff-and-blitz package used by the Giants, had a sack and eight tackles while Pierce added 10 tackles from his middle linebacker position. Their combined effort helped the Giants limit the yards after catch of Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk on the check downs in the passing game.
Defensive Backs: The Giants' secondary kept the Patriots' dangerous receiving corps in front of them all day. Corey Webster, Kevin Dockery, Sam Madison and Aaron Ross didn't allow the big play down the field, and their solid coverage allowed the Giants' pass rush to tee off on Brady in the pocket. Also, the Giants' secondary should be commended for its solid open-field tackling. With the Patriots relying heavily on the screen game to Welker and Donte Stallworth, the Giants needed to tackle well and their secondary was up to the challenge.
Special Teams: The Giants were solid on their coverage teams, but a costly penalty by Chase Blackburn almost cost the Giants in the third quarter. Jeff Feagles was solid, with a 35.2-yard punting average, and Lawrence Tynes made his only field-goal attempt. The Giants did just enough in this critical phase to get the win.
Coaching: The Giants' game plan on both sides of the ball was outstanding. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride used a surprisingly balanced attack to control the tempo of the game in the first half and he made great adjustments in the second half to take advantage of the Patriots' eight-man fronts. Steve Spagnuolo crafted an aggressive game plan on defense that consistently pressured Brady and successfully disrupted the rhythm of the Patriots' offense. Both coordinators deserve kudos for their excellent game plans against the Patriots.