|02.06.12 at 3:02 am ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — This time it was the feet — not the hands — of the receiver that killed the Patriots during the game-winning drive.
Four years ago, David Tyree clutched the ball to the top of his helmet as Rodney Harrison helplessly looked on. On Sunday night, it was Mario Manningham tiptoeing on the left sideline for a 38-yard reception on the opening play of an 88-yard game-winning drive as Eli Manning did it again to the Patriots.
“They’re both spectacular catches,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “I think with Mario’s, the way he kept his feet in bounds and held onto the ball going out of bounds was a remarkable thing. Of course, David’s is forever and that’s the history. That’s never going to change anything. His was incredible. This just continues along in that fashion.”
Indeed, Manningham caught the ball and managed to get both feet down before being pushed out of bounds by Patrick Chung at midfield.
“When [officials] were on the sideline [indicating good catch], I finally realized we might win this,” Manningham said.
“He had both feet down,” Chung said. “Good throw, good catch.”
The man who made the throw — Super Bowl XLVI MVP Eli Manning — again won the respect of his teammates like Manningham for coming through in the clutch.
“He’s a playmaker,” Manningham said of Manning. “That’s what he does. I’m putting Eli in his own category. A lot of quarterbacks don’t talk but you really never hear Eli talk negative about his teammates at a news conference. He just knows what to do and how to carry himself.”
As for comparisons to Tyree’s miraculous catch with Rodney Harrison draped all over him, Manningham took it all in stride.
“If I do, I do, If I don’t, I don’t. We won. I’m not thinking about that. If that’s how it’s going to be, then that’s how it’s going to be,” Manningham said.
|02.06.12 at 1:08 am ET|
Brady put up perfectly respectable numbers in Super Bowl XLVI — 27-of-41 for 276 yards and two TDs — but Eli was better when it mattered most.
Eli Manning owns the Patriots, which means he owns Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Plain and simple. Eli will never be Brady on a historical scale — though he punched a ticket to Canton on Sunday night — but I guarantee you there isn’t a Giants fan alive who would trade quarterbacks now.
Eli has a 2-0 Super Bowl head-to-head edge over the best quarterback of this era (and that’s as far as we can go with that, the title of Greatest of All Time isn’t going to be Brady’s; two losses to a less-than-immortal QB means Joe Montana can wait for the next guy to come along) and the coach of his generation (again, that’s it — two losses to a very good but not all-timer in Tom Coughlin ends any Vince Lombardi debate).
And these aren’t wins where he stayed out of the way and let the defense do its work. This isn’t Trent Dilfer. Eli Manning has led the Giants on two game-winning, fourth-quarter TD drives in insanely pressure-packed situations and has done it with almost incomprehensible calm. I’ll count the Tyree catch as half-fluke, half-skill, but the throw to Mario Manningham — forget the catch itself for a moment — was as good as you’ll ever see in that situation. Manning then competed four of his next five passes on the final drive, setting up Ahmad Bradshaw‘s bizarre TD rush. (And I was fine with the Patriots letting the Giants score there — does anyone doubt Eli would have completed a TD on the very next play if the Giants let him throw?)
In the fourth quarters of the two Super Bowl wins, Manning was a combined 19-of-29 for 268 yards and two TDs with zero interceptions. In the fourth quarter on Sunday, Tom Brady was 6-of-14 for 64 yards with an INT.
Look, Brady was Brady on exactly two drives — the 96-yard TD drive to close out the first half and the 79-yard drive to open the second half. He was 16-of-16 for 154 yards and two TDs on the two drives, just a master class in clock management, patience and accuracy. The rest of the game he was mediocre at best, 11-of-25 for 122 yards, no TDs and the poorly thrown INT intended for a clearly hobbled (no way he plays if that’s an October game, that was a four, five-week injury) Rob Gronkowski.
|02.05.12 at 11:34 pm ET|
The Patriots were holding onto a 17-15 lead, and had just passed over into New York territory with just over four minutes left in regulation. New England was facing a second-and-11 when quarterback Tom Brady dropped back and found a very open Wes Welker down the left seam with a floater, but it appeared Welker turned the wrong way and couldn’t hang onto the ball. He lost control, and New England was forced to punt two plays later. New York then scored a touchdown with roughly a minute left to take the lead for good.
The Patriots still could have won the game. New England regained possession at their own 20-yard line with 57 seconds to play, but were again doomed by some uncharacteristic drops, one by Deion Branch and another by Aaron Hernandez. A final Hail Mary fell short.
As for Welker’s drop, the usually sure-handed slot receiver, who was targeted eight times and caught seven passes for 60 yards, was disconsolate after the game, answering questions in a monotone and staring straight ahead for most of his postgame session with the media.
“It’s one of those plays I’ve made a thousand times. Just didn’t make it,” Welker said after the game. “The ball is right there. I’ve just got to make the play. It’s a play I’ve made a thousand times in practice and everything else. It comes in the biggest moment of my life and don’t come up with it. It’s discouraging.
“It hit me right in the hands,” he added. “I mean, it’s a play I never drop. I always make. The most critical situation, and I let the team down.”
“Wes was running down the field and it looked like they messed the coverage up a little bit and I threw it to him,” said Brady. “He went up to try and make it, as he always does, and we just couldn’t connect. He’s a hell of a player. I’ll keep throwing the ball to him for as long as I possibly can. He’s a phenomenal player and teammate, and I love that guy.”
|02.05.12 at 11:29 pm ET|
Taking to Twitter after the Patriots’ 21-17 Super Bowl loss to the Giants Sunday night, both James Harrison and Ryan Clark of the Steelers brought up “Spygate,” suggesting New England didn’t deserve to win.
Harrison initially tweeted: Told you, cheaters never win!!!!!!!!!
Clark then followed up with a tweet reading: 0-2 post spy gate! Just saying!! Can’t spell ELIte w/o Eli! Night my friends!
Harrison retweeted Clark’s comments, adding, Ditto goodnight!
When @CroweKnows tweeted to both players, saying, Big talk from a defense that lost to Tim Tebow…. Clark responded by tweeting Not Brady though, which was followed by Harrison tweeting True.
|02.05.12 at 9:57 pm ET|
Mario Manningham played the role of David Tyree, making a remarkable 38-yard sideline catch on the final drive of the fourth quarter. The drive ended with perhaps the most bizarre touchdown in Super Bowl history, as the Patriots allowed Amhad Bradshaw to score — the Giants could have run out the clock, set up an easy game-winning FG — despite Bradshaw trying to stop himself from scoring. He fell into the end zone, untouched, and a failed two-point conversion gave the Giants a 21-17 lead with 58 seconds left. The Patriots got the ball to midfield on the final drive, but a last play Hail Mary fell short.
— Brady’s first decision was an awful one, as he was correctly flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone on the first offensive play from scrimmage, giving the Giants a 2-0 lead.
— A killer 12 men on the field penalty (Antwaun Molden seemed the guilty party) wiped out a Victor Cruz fumble at the New England 9 (recovered by Brandon Spikes) on a third-and-3. Two plays later Manning hit Cruz for a TD that gave the Giants a 9-0 lead.
— Turned out Rob Gronkowski was limited greatly by the high ankle sprain, catching just one pass (on that final first half drive) for 20 yards. His blocking wasn’t up to standard, either, as it appeared he could never get comfortable. He was unable to battle Blackburn on the fourth-quarter interception and was only able to give a half-hearted effort on the final Hail Mary pass. We all had Gronkowski injury fatigue over the last two weeks, but it turned out the storyline was justified. A huge story in this game.
— The commercials, as a whole, stunk. I’ll give you Clint Eastwood and Darth Vader. That’s it. Ferris Bueller Redux was a serious letdown. And Madonna’s halftime show wasn’t as much a musical act as it was the most-watched spin class instruction in history.
— A shocking drop by Welker with four minutes left in the fourth quarter allowed the Giants to get the ball back with 3:46 left (in fairness, it was on second down, and Brady and Branch missed on third down). Not a perfect throw by any measure, but Welker has to make that play and almost always does. A complete stunner, and a catch — remember, the Giants had just a single timeout left — might have been a game-ender. That drop, and Manningham’s catch, are the two plays that will forever stand out for Patriots fans from this game.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
— Brady was at his masterful best on the final drive of the first half, completing 10-of-10 passes for 88 yards on the 96-yard TD drive that concluded with a Danny Woodhead reception in the end zone. The drive ended with just eight seconds left in the half, and it’s absolutely fair question why the Giants didn’t use timeouts to stop the clock. This isn’t Tarvaris Jackson, this is a Tom Brady rolling down the field. The Giants let Brady control the clock on that drive, which gave the Patriots — badly outplayed for most of the first half — a 10-9 lead heading into the locker room.
— This is why they always defer: After Eli Manning took a knee to end the first half, the Patriots opened the third quarter with an eight-play, 79-yard drive that ended with Aaron Hernandez beating Chase Blackburn in coverage for a 12-yard score. Brady was again brilliant on the drive, completing all five passes for 55 yards. He was 16-of-16 for 154 yards on the back-to-back drives. As good a stretch of quarterbacking as you’ll ever see.
— Mark Anderson was a force, picking up a sack and a half and three hits on Manning. Brandon Deadrick had a key sack on the opening drive, stopping what seemed to be a TD drive in the making (the Giants would punt and Steve Weatherford’s kick was downed at the Patriots 6, the Brady safety was the next play).
— Odd statistical game for the Patriots, no 100-yard receiver, no 100-yard rusher. Wes Welker (who also had a 10-yard rush on a reverse in the first quarter) finished with 7 catches for 60 yards, and Hernandez had 8 for 67 yards. The Patriots did average 4.4 yards per carry, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis leading the way with 44 yards on 10 carries.
— Woodhead had two critical plays, the TD catch and a 19-yard reception on third-down from inside the New England 10-yard line with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. Edit: Three plays — Woodhead had an 11-yard catch on the final drive of the first half, but the key was he was able to get out of bounds and stop the clock at the Giants 11. A superb game for Woodhead, a bit of a forgotten player at times this season.
|02.05.12 at 7:51 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — Two quarters are in the books here at Lucas Oil Stadium, and the Patriots hold a 10-9 lead despite the fact that the Giants dominated most of the first two quarters. Here are a few quick notes.
‘¢ Considering how badly they played on both sides of the ball, the Patriots are fortunate to be in the situation they’re in. The Patriots were burned by some bad mental mistakes in the early going, as they took a safety (after an intentional grounding call on a play where Tom Brady was throwing from the end zone), a 12 men on the field call and a miscommunication on defense that led to an early touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz. It didn’t help that Manning looked very sharp in the early going, completing his first nine passes to set a Super Bowl record.
‘¢ The Giants were able to get a nice series on their first drive, but the Patriots came up with a pair of sacks on Manning (one by Brandon Deaderick, the other by Mark Anderson) to force a punt. The New England defense — which saw a rare start by Tracy White at linebacker — was aggressive early. Sometimes it worked (like on the two sacks), and other times, not so much. (Cornerback Antuwan Molden jumped a route on a pass for Hakeem Nicks, just missed, and the Giants ended up converting a 19-yard pass play.)
‘¢ Molden would later get flagged as part of a penalty for too many men on the field, and would also get burned on an impressive 18-yard completion from Manning to Nicks over the middle that gave the Giants a first down. A rough start to the Super Bowl for the young cornerback.
‘¢ The Patriots offense was sluggish out of the gate. On New England’s first offensive play from scrimmage, Brady held on to the ball too long and was hit in the end zone as he delivered. The quarterback was flagged for intentional grounding, and that gave the Giants a safety and a 2-0 lead. That penalty — and safety — was all on the quarterback, as it appeared he missed a wide-open Rob Gronkowski.
‘¢ On the ensuing drive, the Giants got their offense started quickly, with the key play coming on a 24-yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw when safety Pat Chung had a swing and a miss on a tackle that allowed Bradshaw to pick up a ton of yards. The Patriots were able to force a fumble but were flagged for 12 men on the field, which gave the ball back to New York. The Giants pushed it in when Manning found Cruz on a 2-yard touchdown pass (a slant pattern) between Jerod Mayo and James Ihedigbo that made it 9-0 with 3:24 left in the first quarter.
‘¢ The Patriots got their first sustained drive of the night at the end of the first quarter and the start of the second with a 10-play, 60-yard sequence (with Wes Welker providing the highlights with a 10-yard run and 19-yard catch) that ended with a 29-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to make it 9-3 with 13:28 left in the half.
‘¢ New England ended the half on an up note with a classic 14-play, 96-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard pass play from Brady to Danny Woodhead that gave the Patriots a 10-9 lead with eight seconds left in the half. Brady was 10-for-10 and Woodhead accounted for 33 yards on the drive.
|02.05.12 at 5:58 pm ET|
WEEI.com writer Christopher Price tweeted: Gray hoodie for Belichick.
Patriots Football Weekly staff writer Erik Scalavino tweeted: Guess who’s wearing a gray hoodie today?
The choice to wear one hoodie over the other may seem a little ridiculous for the amount of hype it has gotten, but Belichick’s gray hoodie has become as much of an icon to Patriots fans as Tom Brady has.
As for Brady, the quarterback ran onto the field to cheers from New England fans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Price tweeted: Tom Brady runs out onto field to very loud cheers. No Jay-Z on the PA, however. …To make Brady feel at home, here’s the music that usually plays when he takes the field at the start of warmups.
Patriots wide receiver Rob Gronkowski made an appearance on the field, reportedly with a heavily taped ankle but warming up all the same.
Comcast Sports Net reporter Michael Giardi tweeted: Gronk takes the field. Doing blocking drills with [Aaron] Hernandez. Some slight lateral movement. Getting good leg drive.