Sunday, February 5, 2012
Not Again: Giants Beat The Patriots In Another Super Bowl, 21-17
For the second time in four seasons, the New York Giants topped the New England Patriots in a Super Bowl.
New York quarterback Eli Manning (30 of 40, 296 yards, 1 TD) secured his legacy as he picked up his second Super Bowl MVP trophy with a 21-17 Giants victory at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Ironically, the win in Super Bowl 46 gave him more rings (two) than his more overrated choke artist brother Peyton (one), who plays in Indy.
Including the regular season, New York has now beaten New England three straight times and they've scored the winning points in the last minute every instance.
Everyone knew it was a joke that the Patriots (15-4) were favored coming into tonight since the Giants (13-7) not only had their number but they were a more balanced team. The painful part for Pats fans is that despite a shaky defense, not much of a running game and a lack of receivers, this was one they truly let slip away.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (27 of 41, 276 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) and the offense were up 17-15 and driving for another score late in the fourth quarter-a touchdown would have ended it-but Wes Welker (7 catches, 60 yards) dropped a pass that he makes 49 times out of 50. That mistake didn't cost New England the game but when you couple it with Giants receiver Mario Manningham's (5 catches, 73 yards) absurd 38-yard grab on the ensuing drive, they were two of the most pivotal plays in such a tight game.
New York seemed to make a mistake as Ahmad Bradshaw (17 carries, 72 yards) fell into the end zone with 57 seconds left, rather than drop at the one and kill the clock before a chip shot field goal. That ended up being a moot point since with less than a minute, one timeout and no deep threats, Brady couldn't get it done. He converted on 4th-and-16 to Deion Branch (3 catches, 45 yards) for a 19-yard gain but it ended with a hail mary into the end zone that was inches away from Rob Gronkowski's (2 catches, 26 yards) hands.
Speaking of Gronk, without him New England's options in the passing game were limited. Aaron Hernandez (8 catches, 67 yards, TD) played well but he also made a key drop, on the last-minute drive. Danny Woodhead (4 catches, 42 yards, TD) was effective but as expected, Chad Johnson (1 catch, 21 yards) had minimal impact. With Gronkowski clearly hobbled, the Patriots couldn't match the weapons of New York.
Hakeem Nicks (10 catches, 109 yards) was the best skill position player in the game while the Patriots contained Victor Cruz (4 catches, 25 yards, TD) but he did catch a touchdown.
New York owned time of possession-37:05-22:55 thanks to more balance (40 passing attempts, 28 rushing attempts vs. 41 passing attempts, 19 rushing attempts for the Patriots). It also helped that they fumbled three times (!) but recovered two and the other was nullified by too many men on the field for New England. Add in a bad interception by Brady and you start to understand why New York won it; they made virtually all the big plays.
New England spotted New York a quick 9-0 lead as Brady was flagged for intentional grounding out of his own end zone on the Patriots' first play. The Giants drove 78 yards on the ensuing punt and Cruz capped it off with a 2-yard catch.
The Patriots finally got on the board early in the second quarter as Stephen Gostkowski cut it to 9-3 with a 29-yard field goal.
Somehow despite sleeping through the first quarter and not converting in the red zone until the end of the second quarter, the Patriots entered halftime with a 10-9 lead thanks to Woodhead's 4-yard touchdown catch with eight seconds left. It was a stunning turnaround for a team that should have been behind by more but was still in it thanks to their defense.
Since they deferred as always to start the game, the Pats got the ball to begin the second half and looked like a different team after the 30-minute halftime. Hernandez made a 12-yard touchdown catch after breaking a tackle and New England was up 17-9 with 11:20 left in the third.
Who would have thought that would be the final points for the Patriots? Once again, the defense kept them in it as they held the Giants to a pair of field goals (38-yard and 33-yard) and New England led 17-15 heading into the fourth.
Brady forced a deep ball to Gronkowski on the second play of the fourth and it was picked off by Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn. If I'm making excuses, it's easy to say a healthy Gronk at least knocks that down but like in the AFC Championship game against the Ravens, an objective Pats fan has to ask, why did Brady put it up for grabs like that?
It didn't end up costing New England since their defense had one last stop in them before Welker's drop and Manningham's catch (challenged unsuccessfully by Bill Belichick) totally swung the momentum of the game.
The Patriots have the core to make another run at a Super Bowl next season and for the near future as long as Brady and Belichick are still around. Jerod Mayo (11 tackles), Brandon Spikes (11 tackles), Patrick Chung (6 tackles) and Vince Wilfork (3 tackles) are the key pieces to a defense that really came together in the postseason. However, there are a few areas that the team needs to address if they want to reach the next level and not lose their third consecutive Super Bowl.
New England needs to spend money in free agency and they also need to hold onto draft picks or trade up rather than trade down as they usually do. They need wide receivers, cornerbacks, running backs and pass rushers and they needed them yesterday. This loss was certainly painful but when you look at the roster, you realize that Belichick squeezed everything that he could out of this group and they still had a great chance to steal a win. Is there anyone you would rather have with the chance to make a play than Brady and Welker?
There's no reason to lament Gronk's injury since it's football and that comes with the territory. It's damn impressive that he played the entire game but he was only a shell of himself.
The clock is ticking on Brady and Belichick but with the right moves this offseason, there is no reason why this team can't reach this point again. They just better hope that they don't have to go through the Giants since until further notice, New York owns them. There is no way to dispute that, the better team won Super Bowl 46.