Super Bowl XLVI Wrap-Up: Making Sense of yet Another Giant Loss
Hours after the New York Giants’ crushing 21-17 defeat of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, thousands of Patriots fans were left asking “how the hell did they do this to us again?” This game was one of the most highly anticipated Super Bowls in recent history because of the magnitude of what was at stake – redemption.
Since several players and personnel have changed on either side over the last four years, it is easy to understand both teams had few leftover emotions from their last go-around. To them Super Bowl XLII had no bearing on this one. However, to Patriots fans, the concept of revenge played quite a significant role in the two weeks leading up to the game.
Flash forward to today. It has been three full days. Most of us now look foolish for “wanting” a match-up simply based on a score to we wished to settle. There is little doubt the San Francisco 49ers would have been a better match-up for New England. The Patriots secondary would have had an easier time trying to contain Vernon Davis, forcing Alex Smith to use his lesser known targets. Despite this, New England fans almost unanimously welcomed a potential Super Bowl XLII rematch against winners of three consecutive road playoff games. As a result the old adage “be careful what you wish for” is endlessly echoing through our minds.
The most ironic thing is that this game ended in an eerily similar fashion to the infamous upset that preceded it four years ago.
With the Patriots holding on to a two-point lead with just under four minutes to go, Eli Manning got the ball and had a chance to lead his team to a third consecutive comeback win against New England. Pinned at his own 12-yard line Manning opened the drive with a phenomenal 38 yard-pass along the sideline to Mario Manningham. Not only was it the longest play from scrimmage, but it drew comparisons to David Tyree’s famous catch in Super Bowl XLII. The play was challenged by New England but to no avail, as Manningham was able to secure the football and get both feet inbounds before falling out. Three plays later Manning hit Hakeem Nicks to move the Giants into the red zone at the two-minute warning. Already in great field goal position for Lawrence Tynes, the Giants ran off a little more than a minute and scored on an Ahmad Bradshaw touchdown with 57 seconds left. After failing on the two-point conversion the Giants lead was 21-17.
Brady got the ball back at the 20 with under a minute, and one timeout, needing a touchdown to win. After failing to connect with Deion Branch on a pass over the middle, and then Aaron Hernandez on a crossing pattern, Brady got sacked by Justin Tuck on third and 10. On fourth and 16, with title hopes on the line, Brady connected with Branch on an out-route for 19 yards and a first down. With the clock stopped at 0:32, Brady then found Hernandez over the middle for an 11-yard gain to move the Pats to the 44-yard line. After spiking the ball to stop the clock at 0:17, the Pats had time for two deep plays. On first and ten with 17 seconds to go, Brady fired a ball deep down the right sideline to Aaron Hernandez but it fell incomplete. The Patriots however were the benefactors of a 5-yard penalty after the Giants were called for 12 men on the field. But according to the rules, no time is put back on the clock. At the 49-yard line with nine seconds to go, Brady tried to run a quick sideline throw to Deion Branch but he was not able to stay inbounds with the ball. On third and five with five seconds remaining the Patriots attempted a hail mary that was batted down in the end zone.
So now that history has repeated itself, it is time to ask, what can we take away from this game?
Inexcusable and costly mistakes were a major reason New England lost on Sunday.
Tom Brady’s intentional grounding call on New England’s first offensive play resulted in a safety, giving the Giants a 2-0 lead. Another crucial play occurred on the ensuing Giants drive with 4:14 to go in the first quarter. With New York in the red zone and threatening to increase its lead, Victor Cruz fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Brandon Spikes. The fumble and recovery were negated however, because the Patriots had twelve men on the field. The Giants drive was kept alive, and it ended with a Victor Cruz touchdown, giving New York a 9-0 lead. Although New England responded with 10 unanswered points going into the half, these are nine points they never should have given up.
The most infamous play and one that will serve as a lasting memory, is Wes Welker’s drop on second and 11 late in the fourth quarter. It snapped a streak of four straight completions by Brady, created a third and long situation, and most importantly stopped the clock. After failing to convert on third down the Patriots were forced to punt and subsequently watched as Eli Manning led his team down the field for a go-ahead touchdown. Had Welker made the catch, the Patriots would most certainly have been accepting the Vince Lombardi Trophy from Commissioner Goodell at the end of the game. A Welker reception would have resulted in a first down at about the Giants 20-yard line. With one timeout remaining for the Giants, as well as the two-minute warning, the Patriots could have milked the clock and scored before giving the ball back to Manning with very little time left.
Eli Manning is now 3-1 in his career against New England, and all three of his wins have come on game-winning touchdown drives – although Ahmad Bradshaw’s awkward, indecisive touchdown run exemplified bad football strategy, but I digress.
Despite going 9-7 during the regular season, the Giants found a way to overcome their inconsistencies and locked up the fourth seed after winning their division. They caught fire at the right time, bowling over top teams in the NFC such as the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers on their way to derailing the Patriots in Indianapolis.
Although the Patriots played a better game overall, New York made plays when it needed to. Perhaps New Englanders should just give credit where it is due and congratulate the Giants on an unlikely yet amazing run.
A native of Wellesley, Massachusetts, Aashish is a lifelong fan of the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics. He graduated Wellesley High School in 2008, and is currently a senior at the University at Buffalo in Amherst, New York. You can follow him on Twitter @aashish1989.