Monday, 6 February 2012

Superbowl XLVI review

The New York Giants won the Superbowl for their second title in four years, defeating the New England Patriots for the second time in four years, for the bragging rights as they ran out 21-17 winners at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

History will show that Ahmad Bradshaw scored the winning touchdown with 65 seconds remaining - but that only tells half the story.

History will not show that New England let Bradshaw score the TD, in essence losing the lead so that the quarterback Tom Brady could get the ball back and attempt to win the game for the Patriots.  Unfortunately, errors came back to haunt the Patriots at the wrong time as they could not make the catches to extend the drive and at least give Brady a chance to throw for the endzone.  The last play of the game with 5 seconds left, was a 51 yard Hail Mary attempt that evaded the hands of Rob Gronkowski after being batted down.  When the ball hit the turf, time expired and confetti fell.

The old adage is that defence wins championships.  The Giants had the better defense, the Patriots defense is one of the most inexperienced groups in years.  The Giants forced the only turnover of the game, an interception by Chase Blackburn outjumping Gronkowski, a play that a fit Gronk may well have grabbed.

Twice the Patriots had forced fumbles, yet they could not recover the loose ball.  And when they did recover the ball on a fumble, the recovery was nullified by having too many men on the field.  A costly error as Eli Manning connected with Victor Cruz from 5 yards for the first touchdown of the game, to make it 9-0. 

At that point Brady and his vaunted offense had only had the ball for one play, which resulted in inside pressure from Justin Tuck forcing Brady to throw the ball way downfield to no recognisable or near receiver.  The officials correctly judged that to be intentional grounding resulting in a safety due to Brady's position in the endzone.  Had Brady moved five yards outside of the tackle box or thrown to the sidelines, it would have been second down and everyone would have shrugged their shoulders.

To me Brady seemed a little anxious throughout the match - there was a vacant look in his eyes especially after the interception.  The constant battle of evading the insistent pressure from the Giants front four led to Brady being out of his comfort zone - forcing some mistakes.  But credit to him for making some good throws such as to Branch on 4th and 16 in the last minute to keep a hopeful drive alive.

People may well say the Welker drop was vital, yes a pick up of a first down at the Giants 20 yard line meant the Patriots could control the clock down to the two minute warning score a field goal for a five point lead at least, forcing Manning to go 80 yards minimum with less than two minutes and only one timeout - owing to some odd time management by Eli.

I would not blame Welker, the blame lies with Brady conceding that safety and the defence nullifying their own turnover.  Take away those 9 points and the Giants are struggling to keep up.

The Giants have played their last 6 games on a wave of momentum since beating the New York Jets, then beating Dallas, then destroying a weak Atlanta helped. They then became the road warriors with wins at Green Bay and San Francisco to get to the SuperBowl. 

The momentum and confidence was with the Giants before the game, the Patriots were worried about how to deal with Victor Cruz and the health of Gronkowski.  So in giving them a 9-0 lead in essence was something you did not need to do.

Yet Gronkowski was not fit, and Hernandez did his best yet he is not Gronk.  And yet the Patriots who successfully kept Cruz quiet in cover 2 all day, they forgot to go man to man on Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham.  Brandon Spikes did not help by being unable to intercept or bat down passes by Manning.

The Patriots were guilty of having history in their hands yet silly basic errors - Ninkovich jumping offside on 3rd and 7, making it 3 and 2 instead late in 3rd quarter - coupled with a fine composed performance by Manning in the pocket who again did not blink when the game was on the line; means that the questions of legacy and dynasty are now being asked in New York and not Boston.  As for that front four of Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka are as good a front four I have seen in the NFL.

Whilst the legacy of Brady and Belichick is assured thanks to this amazing 11 year stretch of three Super Bowl wins out of five appearances, the record would sure look better if they just sorted out that defence.  Hopefully, a good draft can rectify matters as offensively they remain impeccable.

As a big fan, this defeat hurts more than XLII in Phoenix as in that game the Giants defense beat up Brady and deservedly won.  On this occasion, it feels like the Lombardi trophy was there for the taking and much like the two dropped passes in the last drive, the Patriots hurt themselves more than the Giants did.

1 comment:

  1. The Patriots not recovering those forced fumbles were critical! The safety was also a critical play as you've stated.