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Snap Judgments: Giants 21, Patriots 17

02.05.12 at 9:57 pm ET
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In another Super Bowl thriller between these two teams, Eli Manning and the Giants again found a way to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots, winning Super Bowl XLVI by a 21-17 final.

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.

WHAT WENT WRONG

—  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.

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.

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.

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.

WEEI.com 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.

WEEI.com 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:

2015 PATRIOTS DRAFT PICKS

2015 NFL DRAFT

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