Outplayed, Outcoached in SB XLII
Patriots Pursuit of Perfection Falls One Game Short
Asante Samuel dropped a Super Bowl-clinching interception. Ellis Hobbs fell down on the Giants' winning touchdown. Matt Light false started .. twice. Laurence Maroney ran backwards on kickoff returns .. twice. The pass blockers missed countless assignments. Tom Brady threw several bad passes. Jarvis Green let Eli Manning escape his grasp.
There's two sides to that coin. Manning escaped Green, and that was amazing in itself. David Tyree's catch on the other end will be one of the all-time great Super Bowl highlights. The Giants defense, especially the line, overpowered the Patriots offensive line.
14 - - - 17
"They have some great pressure schemes, obviously some great pass rushers," Brady said. "Once we kind of got the idea of what they were doing, I thought we handled it much better but we just didn't get the ball in the end zone enough."
Before Manning found Tyree to convert that big third down, the Patriots defense forced a 4th down on the Giants' 37. Brandon Jacobs just barely gained the first down. After Plaxico Burress scored the final touchdown, cornerback Corey Webster tipped away a deep ball to Randy Moss that would have put New England in field-goal range.
The new 'The Catch' -- New York Giants receiver David Tyree uses his hands, fingers, helmet to make one of the great catches in Super Bowl history against one of the great safeties in NFL history. New England's Rodney Harrison was unable to jar the ball loose.
Photo courtesy: The Boston Globe / Associated Press
New York made the plays. New England didn't. The Giants won the game -- they earned it -- more than the Patriots lost it.
"They are a very good defensive football team," Bill Belichick said. "They played well. They made some plays. We made some plays. In the end, they made a couple more than we did."
The coaching battle was indeed the master chess match I predicted, and Bill Belichick may have made the costliest error. The decision to go for the first down on 4th-and-13 from the Giants' 31 on the opening possession of the second half will forever be questioned. It was a 14-play drive that covered 48 yards.
All season the Patriots converted those 4th downs in that no-man's land between a near-too-long field goal and too deep to make a punt worth it. Converting the first down, maybe scoring a touchdown, maybe going up 14-3 early in the third quarter on a long drive, maybe a back-breaker, certainly demoralizing.
Only if ...
It didn't happen.
Bad play call? Should they have punted? Go for the field goal?
It would have been a 49-yarder. Stephen Gostkowski's season-long was 45 yards (at Dallas). His career long is 52 yards, kicked in late November 2006 at home against Chicago. This was a controlled environment, indoors, no precipitation, no wind.
Gostkowski had earlier booted a kickoff out of bounds, another big mistake, and maybe a factor in deciding whether to attempt the 49-yarder or go for the first down.
The Giants did not turn that turnover on downs into points, but the change in the game was palpable.
Too much of this -- Giants defensive end Michael Strahan pressures Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the second quarter. The New York defense's constant harassment of Brady was one of the major storylines of Super Bowl XLII.
Photo courtesy: The Boston Globe / Reuters
Ultimately, the Patriots ran the ball just 16 times (Maroney just 6 times in the second half) and threw it 48.
"We had a great season, we just didn't win the game," Brady said. "Tonight doesn't take away from anything we have done over the course of the season. We had a great year. It is just unfortunate that tonight turned out the way it did. The Giants certainly deserve it."
"It's definitely tough. It's a heartbreaker," Richard Seymour said. "At the same time, we understand what it is. It's a game. Give the Giants all the credit in the world. They made the plays when they needed to and it's unfortunate, but you have to take the good with the bad.
"Make no excuses about what happened here today. They came out and they made the plays. Eli was spectacular. He didn't go down in the rush. We had him several times and he came up big for them. They're well coached. They did it."
Neither team rushed the ball that well. Combined they set a record for fewest rushing attempts (42) and fewest rushing yards (136) in a Super Bowl. Of the Patriots' 22 first downs, only 3 came rushing. Of New York's 17, only 4 came on the ground.
Both teams converted 50 percent of their third downs: New York was 8 of 16, New England was 7 of 14. The Patriots went 0-fer on fourth downs: two failed attempts.
The officials enforced 4 penalties for 36 yards against New York and 5 for 35 yards against New England. Lost in that are the "unofficial" yards lost due to penalty. Russ Hochstein's holding on an early 4th quarter kickoff officially goes down as 10 yards, but it sent the Patriots from their own 30 to their 11. For some reason, Gostkowski's kickoff out of bounds didn't count as a penalty, but it is a penalty and it gave the Giants the ball on the 40. That's a lot of "unofficial" yards.
Not enough of this -- New England defensive tackle Le Kevin Smith sacked New York quarterback Eli Manning, but it was a rare highlight for the Patriot defensive front seven.
Photo courtesy: The Boston Globe / Jim Davis
Despite what you'll read elsewhere, Belichick did cross the field to congratulate Tom Coughlin. The truth rarely gets in the way of a good story.
Brady has a record 100 career Super Bowl completions. He also threw the most pass attempts (48) in a Super Bowl without an interception.