Giants finish resilient season in fitting fashion; more Snaps
Giants displayed perseverence all year, did it again when behind against Pats
Mario Manningham's clutch fourth-quarter catch had shades of David Tyree to it
Tom Brady set SB record for consecutive completions, but struggled in 4th quarter
INDIANAPOLIS -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we digest the Giants' impossibly dramatic and gritty 21-17 defeat of the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI Sunday night in Lucas Oil Stadium. As it turns out, it was a rematch, and a redux, indeed...
That's the thing about resiliency. It won't go away.
The New York Giants don't care that they were the first 9-7 team in the history of the NFL to win the Super Bowl. It doesn't matter to them that no team had ever before won a Super Bowl after enduring a four-game regular-season losing streak. They also don't give a whit that no other team had ever survived being outscored in the regular season and gone on to earn a ring and the big confetti shower.
The only thing that really resonates with these Giants is that they did what they set out to do. They won it all. In the most unpredictable of fashion. New York refuses to do things the easy way, but it also refused to give up and disappear when the rest of the NFL had all but written it off at 6-6, coming off an embarrassing blowout loss at New Orleans on Monday Night Football and a narrow defeat at the hands of the Packers in early December.
The perseverance that defined the Giants' entire season was again on display against New England, with an early 9-0 New York lead giving away to a 17-9 deficit, only to see Tom Coughlin's team rally for the game's final 12 points and its second Super Bowl title in five seasons.
"We hung in there and made it happen,'' Giants running back Brandon Jacobs said. "After going 7-7 (in mid-December), we knew we still had the opportunity to win our division and make the playoffs. We stayed in and kept fighting. We always believed.''
That belief was again rewarded, and now Coughlin and Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning have greatly burnished their legacies, with both of them joining the two-time Super Bowl winner's club. Manning was again superb in the fourth quarter, just like all season, shaking off some tough moments in the middle of the game to lead New York on the nine-play, 88-yard touchdown march that decided the outcome.
"We've had a bunch of them this year, fourth-quarter comebacks,'' said Manning, who was 30 of 40 for 296 yards, with one touchdown, no interceptions and a 103.8 passer rating. "Offensively we played very well and played smart. In the fourth quarter, it was a situation we've been in before. It was one of those situations where we knew we had to score, and the guys stepped up and made some plays.''
It's a remarkable six-game run the Giants went on starting with that Week 16 win against the rival Jets, and it signals once again that when we dismiss New York prematurely, we do so at our own peril. The Giants faced elimination in each and every one of those games, and the precarious and pressurized nature of their situation seemed to bring out the best in them.
"The New York Giants are world champions, that's the story,'' Manning said. "That's all that matters.''
He's right. The bottom line again says the Giants are the best team in football. You can call them the "worst best team'' in Super Bowl history, but they don't care. As long as you call them the champions.
Manning won the MVP, but you could make a strong case that Giants receiver Mario Manningham made the most memorable play of this Super Bowl, with a ridiculously skilled catch of that 38-yard Manning pass on the first play of New York's game-winning drive.
It had to remind you a little bit of David Tyree's helmet catch four years ago in the Giants' upset of the Patriots, and it was just as pivotal to New York's victory. It was Manning's longest completion of the game, and on the play, Manningham was well covered by both safety Patrick Chung and defensive back Sterling Moore. But Manning threw a beautiful pass, and Manningham hauled it in while somehow keeping his feet just in bounds.
The irony is, early in the week, on Tuesday's media day, I asked Manningham if he ever let himself think of perhaps being the Giants receiver who would make a Tyree-like catch this time around?
"I hope it doesn't come down to that this time,'' he said.
But it did. And he came up with the play of the day. And the Giants found a way to beat the Patriots late once again.
"It was Manningham's play,'' Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks said. "For real, that play put us over the top. It was clutch and we made it at the right time.''
Pretty soon, if we're not careful, a whole generation of children in America are going to grow up having never seen a Super Bowl blowout. "Daddy, tell me about that 55-10 49ers rout of the Broncos again, and what that was like.''
The last nine Super Bowls have all now featured seven-point games in the fourth quarter, and New York didn't take its final lead in this one until just 57 seconds remaining.
Well, Mike Holmgren is off the hook. Now he's not the only Super Bowl head coach who has opted to allow the opposing team to score a game-winning touchdown late in the game -- which at least flies in the face of conventional wisdom.
On the Ahmad Bradshaw 6-yard touchdown run with just less than a minute remaining, the Patriots defense parted like the Red Sea, allowing Bradshaw to score untouched. That gave New York a four-point lead at 21-17, and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said he decided the field goal was a foregone conclusion for New York at that point and wanted the ball back with a chance to win.
"Ball was inside the 10-yard line, a 90 percent field goal conversion (in that territory),'' Belichick said, refusing to elaborate much more on his decision.
As Green Bay's head coach in the Super Bowl of 1998, Holmgren had his defense purposely give up a late touchdown run down close to the goal line against Denver in order to get the ball back. But like New England's gamble, the move didn't work, and the Packers lost.
"I liked it,'' Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "It was better than not having no chance at all. We had a chance to win it there at the end; we just couldn't do it.''
For the record, I've got no problem with Belichick's decision. The chances of blocking the field goal are minimal in that situation, and New England at least gave itself a chance to win with possession and 57 seconds remaining.
Tom Brady had a torrid streak in the middle of the game, at one point completing a Super Bowl-record 16 passes in a row. But in the fourth quarter, Brady looked a little off, and you at least have to wonder if he was right after absorbing a tough sack early in the fourth quarter.
Brady threw a little bit behind Deion Branch on two critical occasions in the final quarter, and both passes bounced off Branch's hands. Another time, Brady made Wes Welker turn and twist too much to haul in a long pass, and Welker couldn't pull that one in either. Those were costly, as was the lone interception Brady threw, in the fourth quarter to Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn. On that deep ball to tight end Rob Gronkowski, Brady under-threw the ball and hung it, allowing Blackburn to make the unlikely pick.
I would think after this Super Bowl, more and more teams are going to start deferring when they win the pre-game coin toss. New England almost always does it, and the Patriots showed why it can be such a weapon. The Patriots were down 9-3 late in the second quarter, but went on a Super Bowl 96-yard touchdown drive to close out the first half, then matched that score after getting the ball to start the second half. Just like that, New England went from down six points to up 17-9. It has been reported that teams win about 90 percent of the time when they manage a so-called "double-score.''
During that two-possession swing span, Brady was a mind-boggling 16 of 16 for 154 yards with two touchdown passes, which set a Super Bowl record for consecutive completions. All of it took place with Giants quarterback Eli Manning never touching the ball during that portion of the game.
After all the pre-game speculation about the possibility of New England's versatile receiver-defensive back Julian Edelman matching up in coverage against Giants slot receiver Victor Cruz, Edelman didn't see the field on defense.
The Patriots, never one to do the expected, instead used Sterling Moore and Antwaun Molden as substitute defensive backs. The Giants were hoping New England threw Edelman into coverage, but the Patriots didn't give them their wish.
No stadium glitches this time. No seating snafus. No egg on the face of the NFL and the host Indianapolis Colts and owner Jim Irsay. From all accounts, Indy hit not just a home run with its Super Bowl debut, but a grand slam. All week long.
I'd be shocked if this wound up being the city's only shot at hosting the league's big Roman-numeraled affair. I could see the NFL coming back to Indy in another six or seven years, with the only real downside being the relatively small size of Lucas Oil Stadium (68,000-plus), which made it the fourth smallest Super Bowl venue ever.
If you're wondering, the Giants' comeback from that eight-point deficit was just shy of tying the largest in Super Bowl history. Believe it or not, there's never been a Super Bowl comeback larger than the 10 points the winning Saints trailed by early against the Colts two years ago, and the 10-0 hole the 1987 Redskins were in against Denver, before winning 42-10 behind Doug Williams' monster second quarter.
I get the whole "12th man'' edge that teams always talk about having, but Sunday night was ridiculous in that department. Both the Patriots and the Giants were penalized for having 12 men on the field at different points, with the New England penalty proving hugely costly, in that it wiped out a New York fumble (by Victor Cruz) on third down and kept the Giants' first touchdown drive alive. New York's offense was later caught trying for the old extra-man advantage in the first half.
In the fourth quarter, New York picked up a 12-man penalty on defense, on New England's final desperation drive.
It took some guts on the part of the officiating crew, but that was the correct call on New England's first play from scrimmage, an intentional grounding flag in the end zone that resulted in a safety by New York. Tom Brady, under pressure, simply threw the ball deep down the middle of the field to no one in particular. In fairness, however, the 45-yard line was wide open on the play.
For a while there, it looked like a Jets fan's worst nightmare come true: Patriots running back Danny Woodhead, the New York cast-off running back, scores a touchdown that seems destined to wind up winning the Super Bowl for New York's hated AFC East rival, New England. The Giants' comeback at least spared them from that fate.
But then again, given that the Patriots were facing the Jets' intra-city rival in the Giants, Rex Ryan and all of his team's fans were in a no-win situation Sunday night.
One of our takeaways from this game should be that no matter how much a player rehabs in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, a high ankle sprain is very difficult to recover from in time to have any real impact in the game. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski played, but he wasn't his usual self against New York, totaling just two catches for 26 yards.
Just as Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney showed us two years ago against the Saints, playing and playing effectively on a high ankle sprain are two different things. Freeney had one sack in the first half against New Orleans, but was largely invisible after that. Last year, Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey didn't even get on the field against Green Bay after spraining his ankle against the Jets in the AFC title game.
This was the fifth Super Bowl for the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady tandem in New England, and the Patriots are still looking for their first points in the first quarter of Super Bowls. Once again, New England went scoreless in the first 15 minutes, trailing New York 9-0 at that point.
The slow starts didn't used to bother New England in the slightest, but lately that has not been the case. The Patriots dropped to 3-2 in Super Bowls under Belichick and Brady, after winning their first three trips to the big game.
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