Two throws with two totally different outcomes in the waning seconds of Super Bowl XLVI helped the New York Giants topple the New England Patriots once again.
On second and 11 with 4:06 remaining in the game, Tom Brady threw a 23-yard pass to Wes Welker, which Welker uncharacteristically dropped. How uncharacteristic? The All-Pro only dropped five passes all year, including the playoffs, none on a throw more than 10 yards downfield.
If Welker catches that pass, Brady and company would have a first down on the Giants 20-yard line with the clock running down from minutes. The worst case scenario if Welker catches that pass for the Patriots would be settling for a field goal four plays later, but not before running down the clock to at least 2:30 (if the Giants used their last timeout) or two minutes (if the Giants didn’t use their last timeout) if New England simply ran the ball three times in a row. As a result, the Patriots would have a 20-15 lead, leaving Eli Manning with about two minutes to score a touchdown (not a field goal). However, had Welker come up with the catch, Brady would be one first down or touchdown away from putting the game away and claiming his fourth Super Bowl ring (more likely).
Instead, Manning got the ball back on his own 12-yard line, and threw a 38-yard pass to Mario Manningham, who unbelievably kept both feet inbounds. How unbelievable was it? Well, earlier that quarter, Manningham failed to keep both feet inbounds on a more routine deep pass, which would’ve set the Giants up for a potential score. Manningham had been a bit of a disappointment all year, between killing fantasy teams, injuries, or flat-out dropping the game-tying pass with seconds to go in their Week 10 loss to San Francisco. Yet, Manningham managed to reel the ball in, ensuring a lifetime of free drinks and pats on the back in the New York/New Jersey area.
For the inconsistent Manningham to make that play while Welker couldn’t make his, is the exact reason why this Super Bowl was so interesting. That catch gave Manning and Tom Coughlin their second Super Bowl rings and could ultimately propel both into the Hall of Fame.
What about the other side of the coin? Brady will still go down as one of the best, but a fourth Super Bowl win would have established him as the clear-cut best-ever. Now, Brady only has one more ring than Manning.
It’s interesting that a quarterback’s legacy is ultimately determined by the amount of championships you win, but as Sunday’s game showed, sometimes the result is out of your hands.
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