All Hail the New York Giants… (New York Giants!)
Another year of NFL football has come and gone, and I’ve got a pretty big smile on my face. Things didn’t go exactly as planned; if they had, the San Francisco 49ers, who played a fantastic regular season this year, would have emerged victorious with their first title since the whole owner-scandal incident back in 1997. Despite having a relatively error-free season of football, they made a couple of key errors in the conference championship game against the NY Giants, one of which led to excellent field position in Overtime. Given that the other teams I watch for – the Oakland Raiders, who despite the loss of Al Davis (which while sad may prove to be what the organization needs to rebuild properly) didn’t rally and make something of their season; the San Diego Chargers, who, as is their norm, played a great first half of the season and then lost whatever momentum/energy/whatever in the second half of the season, to miss out on the playoffs again; and the Indianapolis Colts, who we don’t even need to talk about, and who need to figure out how to run their team at all without Peyton Manning. Given that the NBA teams I watch are the Sacramento Kings, the Phoenix Suns, and the LA Clippers, I wouldn’t put too much stock in my sports advice, even though the Clips aren’t half bad this year. Same goes for hockey – my San Jose Sharks, who seem to be playoff plagued, and despite having been no less than 2nd place in the Pacific Division in the last five seasons, can’t manage to close the deal, losing in embarassing fashion in the Conference Finals 0-4 and 1-4 in the last two years. I’m really good at picking teams in sports. But then again, I’m a Sacramento State Hornet – check out our records online sometime, and you’ll understand.
But back to this year in football… or rather, let’s go back a few years to the first meeting of this years conference champions – the New York Giants and the New England Patriots – back in Februrary, 2008.
The Patriots were the team to beat. Having had a perfect season of 18-0 to date, they were the favorites to win Superbowl XLII by 12 points. Their organization had already put in for trademark rights to “19-0” and “19-0 The Perfect Season”. Tom Brady was unstoppable, having fantastic receivers in Randy Moss (who didn’t do squat on the Raiders), and Wes Welker. They had set records for the most points scored in a single season (589), the most touchdowns in a single season (75), and the highest point differential in a single season (+315). They had the best offensive line in the NFL, and that showed in Brady’s stellar performances in their 18 wins that season. It should have been in the bag.
Then the New York Giants met them in the Super Bowl and turned it all around. They were a longshot to have made the Super Bowl at all, with all their post-season games as away games. They had finished the season only 10-6, coming into the playoffs as the wild card, their last game a loss to the Patriots, in a failed bid to rob them of their perfect regular season. Despite that, they managed to upset the playoff run, all of which were come-from-behind victories, and earned their bid at the Vince Lombardi trophy.
And the game was pure magic – at least if you weren’t a Pats fan. Brady, considered untouchable up to that point, was sacked five times and fumbled the ball once, and was held to only one TD, despite passing for 30/48 completions. Eli Manning, Brady’s counterpart on the Giants, managed to throw two TDs. The second TD was set up by a phenomenal escape of two sack attempts by Manning into a pass to David Tyree, who caught the ball on his helmet, despite coverage, for a 32-yard gain. Three lead changes in the fourth quarter, and in the end, Eli Manning and the NY Giants emerged with a hard-fought 17-14 win over the NE Patriots, who ended their season at 18-1, with no trophy.
So, it might have been fate that brought the two teams together for a rematch on February 5, 2012. Super Bowl XLVI.
The Patriots won the toss, but elected to kick. The Giants punted on the first drive, and dropped the ball at the 6-yd line. Brady stepped up the very first play, and intentionally grounded the ball on a long pass to nobody, from the endzone, scoring two points for the Giants, and giving the ball back to the Giants, who scored on their drive to make it 9-0.
In the second quarter, however, the Patriots would rally, and score 10, making the Giants’ defense look soft, as Brady’s touchdown drive tied an NFL record 96-yards. They would enter the locker room with a 10-9 lead, and Giants fans wondering how their defense could allow Brady to make 8 consecutive passes, in that 14 play drive.
In the third, it would look like the Giants still had no answers to Brady and the Pats defensively, as the Pats would put 7 more points on the board, putting the Pats up 17-9. The Giants made two pushes to the redzone on succeeding drives in the third, but could not convert them to touchdowns, settling for field goals instead. The score at the end of the third quarter, 17-15, New England.
An early interception in the fourth, by Giants defenseman Chase Blackburn, on the 8-yard line on a long Brady pass attempt, appeared to bring life back into the Giants’ game, but on the next drive, the Giants punted from the 43-yd line.
Two second half misplays by the Giants lead to them having only one timeout remaining when they received the ball on the 12-yd line with 3:46 left on the clock. The Giants’ fortunes would change on the next play when Mario Manningham made a spectacular sideline catch falling out of bounds for a 38-yd gain, which would also cost the Pats a timeout, as the catch was close enough to be challenged. Losing the challenge, the Pats were left with only two timeouts which would prove critical in the final plays of the game.
The two minute warning would hold the clock, with the Giants at the Pats’ 18-yd line. A minute later, the Pats would use their second timeout, with the Giants at a 2nd and Goal situation from the 6-yd line. It looked like the Giants would use up the clock by stopping short of the endzone at the 1-yd line, kick a very short field goal, and give the Pats the ball back with about 20 seconds left, one timeout and a one point deficit. New England coach Bill Belichick would see this as the probable scenario and had his defense allow Ahmad Bradshaw to run the ball up the middle, and stop at the 1-yd line. However, not realizing this strategy – Manning admits to having not told Bradshaw – Bradshaw saw the opening, ran the ball, and by the time he realized Manning was shouting “Don’t score!” to him during the play, momentum caused him to tumble into the endzone, with 58 seconds on the clock. The Giants were up 21-17 after a failed 2-point conversion, and the Patriots would start the ball at their 20-yd line on a touchback on the following kickoff.
Two dropped passes, and a 6-yd loss on a sack, which forced the Pats to call their final timeout, Brady would be staring down a 4th and 16 situation, on their own 14-yd line. Brady rose to the challenge and completed a superb 19-yd pass to Deion Branch for the first down. He followed it up with an 11-yd pass to Aaron Hernandez, with a spike after, to stop the clock. The next play would be an incomplete pass, but due to the Giants’ penalty for having 12 men on the field, the Pats would have the ball on their own 49-yd line with 9 seconds left. The next play would be an incomplete pass, and with 5 seconds left on the clock, the final play of the game would be a Brady hail mary pass to Rob Gronkowski, deflected to the ground in a sea of Giants’ defenders’ hands.
And another year of football comes to an end – except for the Pro Bowl, which doesn’t count.
It was a fun season this year, especially the playoffs. The games were exciting, and while I could hardly believe it myself, the Super Bowl did manage to eclipse the San Francisco – New Orleans playoff match up that ended with the 49ers making two lead-changing touchdowns in the last three minutes of the game. While they were defeated by the Giants in the next week, I could not be too disappointed, once I heard that the Patriots were to join them in the Super Bowl.
I’ve never been a Tom Brady fan, which is one reason why I’m not a fan of the Pats. A lot of his success can be attributed to the fantastic offensive line that the team has, which was demonstrated when Brady was injured in the season opener, and the untested Matt Cassel came in and was able to finish the season 11-5. However, in this Super Bowl, there were examples of Brady’s true talent, as he was able to make some difficult passes when the defense was able to break through, such as the 19-yd pass on 4th and 16 which kept the Pats alive at the time. Unlike the previous Super Bowl, the Giants’ defense was not as successful in breaking through to Brady, with only two sacks for 10 lost yards.
The Pats were able to keep pressure on the Giants for much of the game – the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third had me pacing, as the Giants defense came up short, allowing two touchdowns in two successive drives. However, the Giants were able to recover, and played a solid game down the stretch, preventing any more scoring by the Pats, though there were moments, such as the last drive, where it was nerve wracking to watch. Both teams played very well, and felt closely matched, which showed in the nail-biter finish that they provided this year.
It will be interesting to see what happens to both teams next year – both teams have proven to be extremely strong teams this year. History, however, had the Giants’ season following their win (2008 season) with a mediocre finish, washing out to the Carolina Panthers in the first round, while Brady has showed signs of being ‘skittish’ in the playoffs, if his offensive line isn’t able to stop the defense from getting to him. I hope that these two teams are able to maintain their strengths, as both teams are extremely entertaining to watch, and earned their spots in the Super Bowl this year.
And hopefully, one of my teams can give them a run for their money, one of these years.
But for now…
All Hail the New York Giants!
(New York Giants!)
-The Lemurs, Madagascar
My 2 yen,
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