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Halftime analysis: Patriots 10, Giants 9

02.05.12 at 7:51 pm ET
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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.

Super Bowl Tweets, 5 p.m.: Bill Belichick sporting gray hoodie

02.05.12 at 5:58 pm ET
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It appears for Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who was spotted wearing the gray hoodie before Sunday night’s game, the superstition of the red one donned in his last Super Bowl was not taken lightly. 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.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Christopher Price, Michael Giardi, Rob Gronkowski

A closer look at the inactives for the Super Bowl: No Kevin Faulk, but Chad Ochocinco dressed and ready to go

02.05.12 at 5:08 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — The following Patriots are inactive for Sunday’s game against the Giants: Ryan Mallett, Kevin Faulk, Shane Vereen, Gary Guyton, Donald Thomas, Nick McDonald and Ron Brace.

No colossal surprises on the list, but the biggest name might be Faulk, a veteran who might have played his last game with the Patriots. With Faulk on the sideline, the Patriots will try their hand with rookie running back Stevan Ridley, who had been a healthy scratch previously, ostensibly because of a fumbling problem. Look for Ridley to serve as the backup on Sunday to BenJarvus Green-Ellis when it comes to working as the traditional, between-the-tackles runner.

One intriguing name who wasn’t on the list was wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, who was a healthy scratch for the AFC championship game, but now figures to be dressed and ready to go for his first career Super Bowl. This also marks the first time in several weeks that right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is active.

Meanwhile, Thomas and McDonald are likely the victims of a numbers game (both have been inactive more often than not in recent weeks), and rookie Marcus Cannon and Ryan Wendell will likely stand to benefit when it comes to playing time. Mallett and Vereen are rookies who have been more inactive than most over the course of the season, while Guyton has dramatically slipped off the depth chart and Brace has failed to break through over the course of the regular season.

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Chad Ochocinco, Donald Thomas, Gary Guyton

Super Bowl Tweets, 4 p.m.: Rob Gronkowski arrives wearing special shoe

02.05.12 at 4:29 pm ET
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Despite the attention surrounding Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski‘s ankle injury, no one outside the Patriots locker room had a definitive update on the tight end’s status as game time approached Sunday afternoon.

CSNNE’s Michael Giardi tweeted: #Patriots rolled into building around 35 minutes ago. Gronk wearing same special black shoe for that injured left ankle. Patriots writer Christopher Price, tweeting from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, tweeted: Faulk, Zoltan, Cannon and Gostkowski all on the field. No sign yet of Gronkowski.

The NFL Network tweeted: Can Gronk go full speed for 4 quarters?

The nation will soon find out what the deal is. writer Mike Petraglia tweeted: 60 minutes away from inactives for #SB46. What are your guesses, surprises?

Fans have remained hopeful despite the doubt surrounding Gronkowski’s ability to perform, with fellow Boston athletes hopping on the bandwagon.

Bruins right winger Tyler Seguin tweeted: Let’s go Pats!!!! I want to see what Boston’s like after we win another championship. #superbowl

Read More: Christopher Price, Michael Giardi, Mike Petraglia, Rob Gronkowski

Super Bowl Tweets, 3 p.m.: Patriots arrive at Lucas Oil stadium

02.05.12 at 3:43 pm ET
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National reporters provided fans with updates as the Patriots and Giants made final preparations for the Super Bowl.

Giant buses now leaving hotel, bound for Superbowl XLVI … tweeted NFL Network reporter Albert Breer. Has been a crazy scene here at the Giants hotel. Lobby packed with friends and family, temporary bar set up there.

The official Twitter page for the Patriots tweeted not long after, Team buses are pulling into Lucas Oil Stadium.

As for the players …

Patriots and Giants players alike have been interacting with fans on Twitter, replying with gratitude for their encouraging words and faith.

In a response to this tweet by a fan: This is the day you’ve been waiting 4! *insert backflip here*, Patriots linebacker Gary Guyton tweeted: And you know this man!!!!

One young fan showed love for Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, tweeting @Shoutout 2 @TeamVic for embracing his culture! >> Victor Cruz is emerging as Latin sensation.

Even R&B singing sensation and TV personality Ciara tweeted praises of Cruz.

2 Day was soooo much fun! Victor Cruz taught me how to salsa! The Cruz Salsa! Watch The Insider tonight at 7pm pst!

Hartford Courant sports columnist Jeff Jacobs tweeted: Victor Cruz refuses to salsa on command from freaky guy.

While it may appear that Cruz is known for his spiced-up dance moves on the sidelines of almost every game, CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell tweeted: If Victor Cruz is the Super Bowl MVP, he’ll make more in marketing than his yearly salary ($450,000).

According to a recent tweet quoting a movie, Patriots defensive end Andre Carter is keeping his sense of humor despite the big game.

What cologne am I gonna go with? London Gentleman, or wait. No, no, no. Hold on. Blackbeard’s Delight.-Anchorman

Read More: Albert Breer, Andre Carter, Ciara, Jeff Jacobs

The Giants weren’t the only ones to jump the gun

02.05.12 at 3:20 pm ET
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While much has been made of this, which showed up on the Giants’ website on Saturday, it appears the Patriots are also guilty of possible premature celebration. It was reportedly broadcast on Sunday morning:

National media offers final thoughts before Super Bowl XLVI

02.05.12 at 2:11 pm ET
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As the nation awaits the star-studded culmination to the 2011-12 NFL season, media outlets from across the country have been offering takes, opinions and inisight on Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI match-up between the Patriots and Giants.

Sports Illustrated NFL writers Don Banks and Chris Burke even go as far as offering detailed predictions as to why each team will take home the Lombardi Trophy.

With revenge for their Super Bowl XLII loss to the Giants still fresh in their mind, Banks gives the edge to the Patriots.

Wrote Banks: Someone high up in the Patriots organization asked me this week who I liked in this game, and as I answered he just nodded and said I was seeing it the same way he was seeing it. I told him that while it seemed like a complete toss-up on the surface, my gut was telling me to lean toward New England because of how much Tom Brady and Bill Belichick burn to get even with the Giants for that monumental upset and ruined perfect season of four years ago.

Trite maybe, but pride is a great motivator, and that memorable Giants victory in Arizona was, by far, the most bitter pill that Brady and Belichick have had to swallow in their 12-year run together in New England. They lost some of their aura and invincibility that night in the desert, and they’re not the type to quietly forgive and forget. I think they want this one as payback, and when two teams are this evenly matched, motivation can be the edge that matters.

Burke, on the other hand, thinks that the combination of a “dominant defensive line” and a surging Eli Manning will be the difference that leads the Giants to victory.

Wrote Burke: Justin Tuck told the media that he thought the Giants’€™ defensive line was being ‘€œoverhyped’€ in the run-up to the Super Bowl ‘€” ‘€œWe understand that no matter how good we are up front, we still need the guys on the back end to play well and vice versa,’€ Tuck said.

That’€™s all well and good, but New York’€™s defensive strength clearly lies up front, where Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and a host of others provide the Giants with one of the game’€™s premier pass-rushing units. All of those players talked this week about the importance of getting to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, at least to hurry his throws, if not to chalk up some hits and sacks.

The Sporting News, too, got two of its writers — Clifton Brown and Vinnie Iyer — to offer perspective and ultimately predictions on the game.

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