Ten thoughts on the New York Giants’ Super Bowl XLVI triumph.
1) Was it just me, or did Sunday’s game feel a little off until the Giants’ fourth quarter touchdown drive? It just didn’t have the feel of a Super Bowl, or at least not the feel of a memorable one. That isn’t to say that the Giants’ game-winning drive wasn’t remarkable, or that anyone should be disappointed by a game that literally came down to the last play, but it just didn’t have the feel of the biggest game of the year.
2) This morning, the papers and talk radio all seem to be wondering if the game somehow marks the end of the Belichick and Brady era in New England. Really? They won 10 games in a row before yesterday’s loss, and had Wes Welker or Deion Branch hung onto balls each normally catches, or had the last-second Hail Mary fallen into Rob Gronkowski’s hands — look at that play again at regular speed to see just how close it was — we wouldn’t be having that conversation. Let’s not let a play or two lead us to some silly conclusions. New England will be a contender once again next year. Add a deep threat on offense and tighten up the defense, and an already great team becomes even better.
3) Unless I missed it when I stepped out of the room for my third bologna sandwich or another plate of brownies, I don’t recall the cameras spotting Peyton Manning once during the entire game. Not once. And if Peyton wasn’t there, or if he chose to watch the game from some less visible location within the stadium, then that’s just another reason why we should all respect him. Presumably, he knew it was his brother’s day and didn’t want to take the spotlight from him. Anyone with a sibling would be touched by that gesture.
4) Remember all of the reporters and fans who mocked Eli at the beginning of the season for suggesting that he should be considered one of the top quarterbacks in the league? There seemed to be a lot of laughter from Dallas and Philadelphia in particular. So, Cowboys fans, who would you rather have, Romo or Eli? And Eagles fans, who would you rather have, Vick or Eli? What Eli does when the games are on the line is precisely what Romo — and, to a lesser extent, Vick — don’t do. He thrives. They don’t.
5) The concept of Eli thriving under pressure is one worth exploring. I can’t say I have read about this in the context of football, but baseball fans likely have read articles by sabermetricians who argue that there is no such thing as a “clutch player.” They argue that, statistically, there is no such thing as a player who performs better in clutch situations, and that to the extent we contend otherwise we are just being selective in our memories. I’ve always struggled with those articles as I do believe there are players who handle the stress of those moments better than others and who step up when those moments arise. Eli is one of those players. I don’t know if a sabremetrician could convince me otherwise.
6) There is a long history of obscure or surprising players making names for themselves in the Super Bowl. It started with Max McGee in Super Bowl I when he famously scored two touchdowns in a game he didn’t expect to play in; he showed up hung over and had to borrow a teammate’s helmet when Boyd Dowler was injured. It continued through Timmy Smith rushing for 204 yards for the Redskins in Super Bowl XXII and the Cowboys’ Larry Brown’s two interceptions in Super Bowl XXX. And, of course, there was David Tyree’s acrobatic catch the last time the Giants and Patriots matched up in the Super Bowl four years ago — Tyree’s last catch ever. I’m not sure you’d add Mario Manningham to that list, but there sure wasn’t a lot of talk about him in the two-week build up to the game. His drive-saving catch along the sidelines on Sunday will be talked about by Giants’ fans in the same way they talk about Tyree’s catch. That it came only minutes after commentator Cris Collinsworth accurately criticized Manningham for running his routes too close to the sidelines to give his quarterback a cushion for error only made it more dramatic.
7) When was the last game you saw a game, even a preseason one, where each team was penalized for having 12 men on the field? That’s the silliest of penalties, and it wound up hurting the Patriots, negating a fumble recovery and leading instead to a Giants score. Remove a single player from the field on that play, and we have a different game. And that penalty’s on the Patriots coaching staff. If you watch replays, you’ll see that this wasn’t the case of someone scrambling to get off the field. No, the Patriots illegal 12th man was scrambling to get on the field.
8) Funny that the Giants and their fans are already talking about how Eli’s second Super Bowl victory will entitle him to a place in the Hall of Fame. As much as Eli’s game has developed, two Super Bowl victories isn’t a guarantee for enshrinement in Canton, nor should it be. Last time I looked, Ben Roethlisberger also had led his team to two Super Bowl victories. People aren’t talking about his place in the Hall of Fame yet, are they?
9) A few years ago, when our book The Football Uncyclopedia came out, my co-author Adam Hoff took some heat for writing a section suggesting that there might be times when it made sense for a team to let its opponent score a touchdown. I don’t recall the specifics of the snarky emails Adam received, but they all suggested that he needed to have a brain scan. The Patriots’ decision to allow the Giants to score the go-ahead touchdown late in the game in order to ensure that they not only got the ball back, but got it back with time left on the clock, was a brilliant decision by Belichick. But for that decision, the Patriots would not have had the chance to win that game in the final seconds. And had they won, the decision to allow the Giants to score would have become legendary.
10) It’s funny how quickly sports fans turn the page. Less than 12 hours after the Giants won the Super Bowl, and less than 12 hours after the Patriots came within the length of Rob Gronkowski’s arm from doing the same, sportscasters and fans are already talking about next season. And from what I heard on the radio on my drive to work, both the Giants and Patriots have a lot of work to do if they want to get back next year. Really? The notion that the two teams that just proved themselves to be the best in the league somehow stopped being the best in the league when the clock struck midnight is so bizarre that it defies explanation. Unless you subscribe to the notion that both teams were lucky to get here, what exactly happened in those 12 hours to suggest that they both in fact aren’t the best teams in their conferences? Yes, there are other elite teams. And, yes, it’s difficult for teams to repeat. But, c’mon, people. Let’s give these teams their due.
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