For the past two weeks, I've challenged Jeremy Fuchs, site editor for GiantsGab, a leading Giants blog, to a series of debates in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. Jeremy is a longtime New York sports fan who very much enjoyed the Giants raising the Lombardi trophy one more time against the Pats.
The ball is released cleanly from Tom Bradyís golden right arm, spiraling through the air, its white laces cutting through the thin, domed air of Indianapolis, flying, soaring as it hits the top of the sky, until it comes crashing down, beautifully spiraling down back into Earth, racing down until its in our grasp, the players jockeying for position, bouncing off each other, and the ball, that ugly pigskin, finds its way to the ground. Incomplete. Giants win.
Thereís no better feeling than the pure joy of seeing your team win a Super Bowl. The raw emotion. The complete release of happiness, the smile that cannot be wiped off, the hugs and kisses. You didnít win the Super Bowl, but you feel as if you did.
The Giants didnít play a perfect game. The offense, other than the last drive, was rather stagnant; they would start something and it would just flame out, either in a punt, or in a field goal. The defense couldnít stop Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez and Danny Woodhead on all those inside concepts. Tom Brady, particularly in the 2nd quarter, looked unstoppable. And he was.
But, the Pats never put the Giants away. They never sealed the deal. They dropped passes downfield, uncharacteristically. They made mistakes, uncharacteristically. The Patriots donít put too many men on the field. Not in the Super Bowl. That doesnít happen. But it did.
The Giants didnít look like world beaters. They didnít look dominant. They were afforded just enough time. And, as NFL teams are learning, you canít give Eli Manning time. Because heíll march you down the field, hitting Mario Manningham on an absolutely perfect, beautiful throw, fitting into a window smaller than Rob Gronkowskiís impact. He made throws to Hakeem Nicks, all perfect. Eli Manning doesnít get fazed.
The Giants, despite it all, are Super Bowl champs. Persevering through all the injuries, through all the struggles, through the two losses to the Redskins, through all the times they looked like a 4-12 team, they persevered.
A Super Bowl team is not defined by how much it overpowers opponents. Itís not defined by what the score is, or how dominant the team is. No, a Super Bowl team is defined by how much of a team they are. By how together they are. By how they pick each other up. The Giants werenít the best football team. But after Sunday night, it was beyond clear: They were the best team. And in this NFL, a NFL of passing and stars, of legends and newcomers, a NFL of offense and of popularity, a NFL based on Madden and not on defense, a NFL thatís becoming far too individualistic, it was this team, this scrappy team from New York that, somehow, hoisted a trophy up. A team, flawed and not the most talented. But a team. And thatís what matters most.
Congratulations to Jeremy, the Giants and their fans. Jeremy was gracious in victory. Unfortunately, he's had some practice. I've almost forgotten what's like for the Patriots, now four-time losers, to win a Super Bowl. It's been a while. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the best coach-QB tandem when it comes to the numbers, but Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning again proved to be the best QB-Coach combination against Brady and Belichick. Not sure who is more upset today, Brady, Peyton or the Sanchize. The Giants won six straight elimination games. That's pretty damn good. Coughlin also settled the arugment over who is the best coach in New York, and it isn't Rex Ryan.
The Patriots were one step, one play, one stop, one catch and one drop short Sunday night. They put themselves in a position to win the Super Bowl but failed to close the deal. Dynasty, joy and dominance were replaced by pain, heartbreak and disappointment. A decade of dominance that began with the Tuck Rule ended with Tuck's hit on Brady. I thought the Patriots and Giants would give us a different game than they did earlier this season and in Super Bowl XLII. I had the Patriots win a high-scoring affair and Brady clicking for four quarters. I haven't been this wrong since I voted for Presdient Dole and bought my 2011 Red Sox World Series tickets. (I did get the part right about Coughlin and the Giants receivers.)
The Giants and Patriots gave us a carbon copy of their last Super Bowl, right down the hair-pulling missed catch and the amazing and unreal Eli Manning bomb in the Giants' game-winning drive. Man, oh Manning-to-Manningham. When the Giants converted on their first 3rd-and-6 on their first drive, this scary sequel began. That drive ended with the Pats getting pinned down early. The Giants talked trash all week and Chris Canty Tweeted pregame that the Giants would win. For about 55 minutes, the Patriots looked like they would get the last word. Instead, it was the sound of silence for Pats fans. The Patriots didn't just lose, they were "decapitated."
David Tyree did walk through that door (he was on the Giants sideline) and so did the ghost of Asante Samuel.
Wes Welker's drop on about the 20 of the Giants on 2nd-and-11 with 4:00 remaining will be the signature play of this game for the Patriots. He makes that catch 1000% of the time in Madden 2012. "It hit me right in the hands," he said after on the Comcast Post-Mortem show. "It comes to the biggest moment of my life (and) I don't come up with it. It's discouraging." After watching the replay 20 or 30 times, Brady shares some of the blame for the high pass. But the ball was in Welker's hands, but only for a split second. Pick one play that was the difference and that was it. Welker has plenty of company: Samuel, Buckner, Schiraldi, Stanley, last September's version of the Red Sox, the Celtics in the fourth quarter against the Lakers in Game 7 in 2010...
There was the floater Brady threw to Rob Gronkowski that was intercepted earlier, the two misses off the numbers by Deion Branch over the middle and the one that slipped through Aaron Hernandez's fingers in the final drive. For closers, Gronk was just a step short on the last hail-Mary. And who knows if a healthy Gronk would have been the target on the Welker miss?
Next we'll hear they were eating fried chicken at half time.
Brady's safety/intentional grounding on the first drive was simply inexcusable. The Patriots spotted the Giants a 9-0 lead which was too much in a game this close.
The Patriots failed when it counted all night. Next time they count to 12 on "Sesame Street" we'll remind the defense to tune in. Save for Danny Woodhead, all of the Patriots' key players on offense had a hand in this choke job. For a couple of quarters, the Patriots were able to move the ball. Brady connected on 16 of 16 and Eli was kept from the ball, except for one quick snap, for nearly an hour. But the Patriots managed only 17 points. Not nearly enough. In a few months we can look back at how the no-name defense bent and didn't break until their final play of the season and how Brady and the offense had a shot to win the Super Bowl on the last play with only part of a Gronk and say the Patriots had a pretty good year. But not now.
Here's a key stat: 0 turnovers for the Giants. Here's another one: Brady started 20 for 23 but finished 27 for 41.
Maybe it was the third-quarter hit by Tuck? Maybe it was the collar getting tight? Maybe it was those emails from Gisele? Or perhaps Madonna's looked-like-it-was lip-synced horrible halftime show? Brady hasn't won a Super Bowl since becoming a father. Anything for an excuse. Brady's legacy is still incomplete. Is he Mr. Clutch or the guy who can't come through when the Super Bowl is on the line? Right now, he's both.
The hatefest began right after the game when Pittsburgh's James Harrison (@jharrison9292) Tweeted "Told you, cheaters never win!!!!!!" That will be a debated issue until Brady and Belichick hang up the video cameras for good or win their fourth Super Bowl.
Not sure when Boston fans will get to see another shot at a title. NHL teams just don't repeat because the road is so difficult. The Celtics still haven't recovered from last year's Perkins trade and the Red Sox will be hard-pressed to keep their hold on third place. I hope I'm wrong again on all fronts.
The Patriots are probably our best shot at another crown, but that won't come until Feb. 3, 2013 at the earliest. Brady's still the best QB of our era. If you have the chance to see him play in person, take it or you'll regret it someday.
But Eli Manning was just a little better Sunday when he faced Tom Brady. And Tom Coughlin was just a little better when he faced Bill Belichick.
By the way, the Jets still suck.
As always, let us know what you think. Post your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page or e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @realOBF. Thanks for reading. Pass the clicker.
The author is solely responsible for the content.