We interrupt the NASCAR festivities to tie up some lose ends from Super Bowl XLVI. Gisele, no need to apologize. You done good.
Bill Belichick allowing the Giants to score. Absolutely the right call. No question. Yes, the Giants could have botched a chip-shot field goal Chris Boniol-Tommy Hutton style or even fumbled while trying to run down the clock, but the likelihood of either happening was slim. The Patriots allowing time to tick away hoping the Giants would screw up would be equivalent to me never working and hoping I win the lottery one day instead.
Bill Belichick should have allowed the Giants to score one play earlier. Errh! Wrong. The Patriots had to play aggressively on first down so the possum play on 2nd down would be effective. There’s no proof of this nor has Belichick confirmed anything, but I’m almost certain it was the case. Had he called off the dogs on 1st down, the Giants, who were expecting such a move, could have surrendered. The very fact that Ahmad Bradshaw unsuccessfully tried to surrender on 2nd down only proves the Giants (or at least, Eli Manning) were aware of such a scenario and decided not to score if given a free pass. Playing dead on 2nd down was only successful because the Patriots competed on 1st down. This is why Belichick is considered a genius.
Speaking of genius, I though Belichick outcoached Tom Coughlin. Of course, Coughlin laughed last as the winning coach, but look at the obstacles Belichick faced. Less talented team? Check. Worse defense? Check. Lousier receivers? Check. Dealing with more serious injuries? Check. Not given any lucky bounces or second chances while the Giants got three? Check, Facing the hottest quarterback in the playoffs? Check. And still, the Patriots controlled the 2nd half and held the lead right up until those final minutes. Belichick’s preparation and unrivaled in-game management gave New England a chance to win. Sadly, the players couldn’t come through.
If you want proof of a specific scenario where Belichick got the best of Coughlin, I’ll give you two:
1. The final drive where Belichick allowed New York to score. Coughlin even acknowledged after the game he didn’t consider the Patriots would allow them to score. Only Eli Manning mentioned it to Coughlin and his teammates in the huddle. Whoops. (By the way, I love Tom Coughlin. I think he’s a fantastic coach. He’s everything Andy Reid isn’t. But it bothers me that after a loss in the Super Bowl, people all of sudden think Bill Belichick is a phony when in fact he gave his players every chance to win that game. They blew it.)
2. At the end of the 1st half, the Patriots were driving while trailing by six. In addition to adding points to the scoreboard, the Patriots were deliberate about eating clock so Manning wouldn’t have another chance before the half. The Patriots were due the ball to start the 2nd half and were obviously intent on taking advantage of back-to-back possessions. During that final 1st half drive, the Giants had all three time outs. At no time did Coughlin call a time out to preserve time for his offense. Hello, Tom?? You have the hottest quarterback in the world right now. Eli (and the Manning’s in general) is the absolute best at adding quick points at the end of halves. It’s not like taking a time out would have aided the Patriots in some way. They had all three time outs as well. In fact, they didn’t start using their time outs until there were only 29 seconds left. Refusing to use timeouts not only played right into the Patriots’ hands, but it cost the New York offense an opportunity to add points.
Do defenses still decide championships? Thankfully, yes. The NFL’s final four came down to three teams with excellent defenses and one team that played the AFC West champion. If you want national attention and Sportscenter highlights; build yourself a high-flying offense. If you want championships; find an unwavering quarterback and put a brutally physical defense behind him.
Did the Giants deserve to win? Of course. They were the better team and made every play the Patriots couldn’t when it mattered most – the Manningham throw and catch, pressuring Brady in huge moments on New England’s final two drives, an unexpected and outstanding interception against one of the NFL’s elite pass-catchers – the list goes on and on. Still, the Giants should consider themselves lucky. I won’t even include the Victor Cruz fumble that was called back due to penalty. That wasn’t luck on the Giants part, just stupidity by the Patriots. The other two fumbles, however, were possessed by New York witchcraft. Each one bounced away from a trio of Patriots and directly into friendly arms. The Giants were good and lucky. The Patriots were nearly as good but unlucky. As they say, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
Did a New York victory make the world a more horrible place? Absolutely. Whenever you give Brandon Jacobs a free pass to run his mouth even though he hasn’t been worth anything in three years, you know something went horribly, horribly wrong.
Was the Rob Gronkowski injury as costly as made out to be? I think so. It was obvious he couldn’t run well. He couldn’t cut, and the Giants stopped paying attention to him after the 1st quarter. Injured or not, though, he should have prevented that 4th quarter interception. Regardless, plenty of teams have beaten the Giants this year with fewer receiving options than the Patriots had with Aaron Hernandez, Wes Walker, and Deion Branch, so I’m not convinced a healthy Gronk automatically flips the outcome. Besides, the Giants secondary is relatively weak, and Brady wasn’t under heavy pressure all game long as he was in in the Super Bowl four years prior. The Patriot receivers simply didn’t make the big plays that Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham did. Which leads us to…
Was Gisele Bundchen out of line when she called out her husband’s teammates? Nope. While her words may have caused Brady some tense moments at work, she was right. Brady can’t throw and catch the football. However, Brady wasn’t perfect, either, so perhaps Miss Welker should chime in at some point in the next few days. Let’s also not forget that drops paved the Giants’ road to a title. The Packers couldn’t catch anything three weeks ago… and lost. The 49er defense couldn’t catch anything… and lost. The Patriots couldn’t catch anything in the 4th quarter… and lost. Congratulations, Giants. You were the best team over the final two months… and the luckiest SOB’s, too.
The Eagles will win the Super Bowl next season and every year there after. No doubt. Isn’t it obvious?