On Black Sunday (Super Bowl XLII for non-Patriot fans), people were quick to point at Tom Brady for losing the game. The argument goes that he didn't score enough points. The Pats lowest scoring game that year came vs the Jets in week 15, where they only put up 20 points to the Jets 10. Much was made of the prolific offense that was scoring at will, but 2007 had it's close games. There was a 4 point win over the Colts in week 9, a 3 point win over the Eagles in week 12, another 3 pointer over the Ravens a week later, and a final 3 point game over the Giants (yeah, those Giants) in week 17. In those games, the defense had to step up for the win, and they did.
Intelligent people that watch Patriots football know something about Bill Belichick. Every game is crafted toward that particular opponent. He tries to take away your #1 strengths and make you beat him with #2 and #3. Some teams step up and do that. Judging by the winning record alot of teams can't. In the games where we face a strong offense, defensive play is critical. In 2007, it was the turning point in several games.
In the Super Bowl, the Giants did the same thing; they tried to take out Brady. Their defensive line was the true MVP. If not for the ability of Welker (tied the Super Bowl record of 11 catches) to get open, there would have been no offense at all. Belichick who is a master at counter-strategy countered nothing. On fourth down, he opted to go for it rather than let Gostkowski try for the field goal. You know, the one that would have made it 17-17 at the end of regular play, or at least forced them to try for a two-point conversion. It was not Bill's best game.
Finally, though, Brady marches down the field for the touchdown, that takes us to 14-10 and all is right with the world. Now the defense who has been bothering Manning all night needs to hold. Yet, they didn't hold. There was the pass that Eli gift-wrapped for Asante, but he bobbled instead of getting the game ending pick. That's OK, it's just one play. There's the final touchdown catch where injured Hobbs was left on an island with Plaxico; virtually everyone else was blitzing. He over-read the inside move, but there was no help, so I don't fault him as much for that. Then there is the sticky helmet catch. Aside from alot of holding (that usually doesn't get called), I was wondering why Harrison wasn't covering Tyree better. How did he let him get so open? Then Tony Dungy openned my eyes.
In reviewing the spectacular Super Bowl XLII catch by the New York Giants' David Tyree against the New England Patriots, Dungy pinpointed a subtle mistake made by defensive back Asante Samuel. "That's something out of character for Asante," he said. Point made.
What was the subtle mistake? He was the one-on-one cover guy for David Tyree on a deep (off-camera) route. In Dungy's breakdown, the whole field is shown. Asante was on him as tightly as he could be; Tyree was going nowhere. When Asante saw Manning struggle in the grasp, he left Tyree and ran toward Manning. Harrison was playing on the opposite side of the field, saw Tyree come in for a closer route, and ran to him. Missed him by THAT MUCH, to quote Don Adams. So instead of hanging the helmet catch on Harrison, it firmly goes on the shoulders of Asante Samuel, who coincidentally ceased to be a Patriot the next season. Leaving your receiver when the quarterback has the ball isn't a subtle mistake to me, but Dungy's a pretty soft-spoken man.
The loss doesn't hurt any less, but I feel better about Rodney knowing he wasn't the guy who flubbed the play, but was rather the guy who almost saved it. Thank you Tony Dungy for that insight.
Now let the haters rant.