I knew it was coming. The score was just 10-9, but in my mind it was already 17-9. New England was going to open the second half and march in for a score. The evolution of the first drive of the second half was one of the low moments of my football fandom. I was watching Tom Brady set a record for consecutive completions in a Super Bowl as he took over a game played in my city.
Coupled with the residue of Madonna still ringing in my ears, and I was in football hell.
I had been tweeting from the game, but my phone started to give out after a day of picture taking and social networking. I was glad, to be honest. I wanted to suffer through the second half alone with my misery. The Giants did just enough to keep me from total despair on their first drive of the half, but the field goal was of little consolation. I just didn't see how they were going to stop Brady.
The Patriots had the ball up five points, and the door was wide open for them. A touchdown would put the Giants almost out of reach. On third and 8 Brady wend down hard on a sack by Justin Tuck. The amazing thing about the play when you watch it is that Brady had plenty of time to throw. In fact, he sacked himself. He stepped up in the pocket early in the play, despite the fact that with a three man rush by the Giants, he had plenty of time and room.
Brady just got scared of the footsteps.
I've noticed that people who were at the game are far more critical of Brady's play than people who weren't. This is one of those instances where the quarterback just talked himself into a sack. Whether he was afraid of a turnover or what, I have no idea.
The same thing happened early in the fourth quarter. Brady slipped away from pressure and heaved a ball deep down field that was picked off. Of course, I LAUNCHED into a rabid diatribe berating every aspect of Brady's reputation. Watching the play live, you could tell that the ball never had a chance to be completed. Gronkowski broke open and had five yards on his man. Brady unleashed a lolly pop thrown that was easily hauled in by the Giants linebacker. After I watched the replay, the announcers spent all their time talking about Gronkowski's ankle, but he was open. The ball was woefully underthrown. There is absolutely no one to blame but Brady. He simply didn't make a good pass.
I was letting the Pats fans have it at full volume at this point. I went on and on about how amazing it was to be there as Brady came apart on the biggest stage. There was no response. What could they say? We were all watching the same thing. They knew it was true.
The Giants offense continued to frustrate, however. At the 9:35 mark, Eli called a timeout, then the Giants had a false start penalty, then he threw incomplete and New York punted in New England territory (again). For as well as Eli played in spurts, he didn't have a great game against a suspect secondary. He made some amazing individual throws and clearly out played Brady, but it wasn't a 'game for the ages' by any stretch.
The Pats methodically moved the ball on the ensuing possession, and when Brady converted another 3rd down with 5:22 to play, I hit bottom. The Giants were never going to see the ball again. They had foolishly wasted timeouts, and now the Pats were just going to take the air out of the ball and win the game. All Brady had to do was keep dumping off his 4 yard passes until the clock hit zeros.
I had already seen him take a safety. I had already seen him throw a pick in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl. What were the odds that I would see Tom Brady screw up yet again?
With 4:06 to play Wes Welker broke wide open. Remember those amazing route combinations I mentioned? He had no one within 5 yards of him. It was a gimme touchdown. Brady threw high and behind him. Apparently, there was TV talk that he had to throw where he did because of the safety. It's not true. The safety was nowhere near Welker. Brady just yanked the pass. That moment was the first moment of real hope I had that the Giants might win.
The rest of the game unfolded quickly. The Pats punted. Eli dropped the biscuit in the basket, and the Pats let Bradshaw score. Once the Giants hit the Pats 40, it sank in that I was going to watch the Patriots lose. They were going to lose. Tom Brady had given away a Super Bowl on a night when his defense played out of their minds.
It was hard to endure the Patriots final drive. I confess that I watched the clock far more than the field. As Brady dropped back for the Hail Mary, I frantically prayed that if it was completed that I would just have a heart attack and die. I didn't want to live in a world where "Like a Prayer" was the headline of every newspaper in America.
The play occurred in the far endzone, so I couldn't see the ball. My eyes raced to the officials waiving incomplete. The Giants sideline exploded. I openly mocked the devastated Patriots fans who had just hours earlier been taunting the crowd.
The celebration after the Super Bowl is surreal. As you can see from the picture, the confetti cannons don't fill the stadium. They basically create a TV effect. They only coat the middle of the field. The effect drastically isolates the fans from the players. Immediately, a good portion of the fans clear out. After the Pats fans left, there was probably about 60-65% of the fans still present for the awarding of the trophy. We waited for Eli to speak and then headed out.
I turned and congratulated the Giants fans, thanking them for coming and telling them to remember that Indianapolis took good care of them. On my way down the escalator, I was yelling, "God Bless Archie Manning!"
The walk back to my car was actually easier and less problematic than for a normal Colts game. So many fans were staying at hotels in the area, that there wasn't much traffic. The Super Bowl was just...over. I'm sure there were areas where Giants fans were partying, but walking down Capitol that night, there was no chaos. Everyone in our pack was walking quickly and contently back to where ever we came from.
I used the final juice in my phone to call my wife, my dad, my brother and share the moment with them. The entire week had been a triumph. For the Giants, yes, but also for all of us. The city, our city had won the Super Bowl. It wasn't our team that took home the trophy, but it was our people who made the lasting impact. It had been a celebration of Indianapolis, and it was a party no one will ever forget.
I got in my car and flicked on the radio.
"But will you still love me...tomorrow?" was playing.
I hit the button, not dwelling on it. I wanted to hear post-game reaction.
There was no question, no angst. The world was still going to love Indy in the morning.
Just got around to reading the last two segments now. Many thanks for defending our stadium. And for people who think that Nate was out of line, I don't think there's a stadium in this world where people are polite and welcoming towards loudmouthed visitors - part of the definition of being a "fan", you know? Human emotion and desire to defend your own turf?. Except maybe the Jacksonville stadium. But only because the tarps haven't been genetically modified yet to be capable of human speech.
You are exactly right about the intial perspective us mere mortals who had to watch the game on TV had about Brady's play (especially the throw to Welker) as opposed to those exhalted few who were actually at the game.
Even Bill Simmons admitted that the primary blame on the Welker throw belonged to Brady. Yet, watching on TV, with the slow motion replays and lack of perpsective, coupled with the Brady apologists... er, announcers, the blame went squarely to Welker.
Though not nearly as dramatic, I would make the case that Brady missing Wleker was every bit as costly (f not more so) than Peyton's interception against the Saints. The Pats are ahead and the game is virtually over if Brady makes that "easy" throw for an NFL calbier QB. Peyton's throw came with the Colts trailing and even if the Colts had scored, there would have still been plenty of times for the Saints..
We all know that Peyton got killed for throwing the pick. It was only after further review, that competent analysis pointed out that Peyton just threw the ball exactly where Reggie should have been and that whatever blame should have been at least mutally shared.
Whereas, those of us watching on TV, were immediately told that it was a Welker drop. We were shown the endless replays of Welker getting both hands on the ball and the ball being jarred loose as he hits the ground. (And Welker, being a true professional, even accepts total blame.)
As more games In today's NFL, especially playoff games, are decided by the luck of a bounce or the execution of just a few key plays, I would say that Brady missing Welker was more directly related to the Pats losing this Super Bowl, than Manning's pick six.
@DougEngland I was considering last night the Freeney/Gronk parallel. Granted, Freeney played for a full half before the ankle effects were visible in the SB (were they both high ankle? I can't recall.), but opposed to an individual play, here we have an individual player who was / could have been responsible for may individual plays.
My point, I suppose, is that I don't believe there's ever really "one play" - as much as the talking heads want there to be. There are dozens of plays/players that can turn a game.
@DougEngland It was close. Indy had a only 22% chance to win before Manning's pick. The Brady play itself dropped NE's win probability by .06, which isn't a ton, but I'd love to see what that number would have gone to if the pass had been completed.
NE was at 80% to win before the throw, 74% to win after, but if completed, that number jumps over 90%, I'd have to think.
You gave me several laughs with this final installment, Nate. I loved everything about this, especially you haranguing those Patriots fans. It´s always really interesting to read your thoughts about crucial plays when you´re at the game. Yes, Tombieber was indeed subpar during this game, in a manner that actually cost his team the win, but since the media can´t deal with it, what do you know, the conversation this week has already switched to how Brady is a lock for the Hall of Fame! Sigh. Thanks for the diary, Nate. Oh, and your shout-out to Archie Manning makes my day.
Interesting observation about the confetti. Also, LOL at "Like a Prayer" as the headline had that pass been caught.
Come on Nate, it is clearly Welker's fault he dropped that ball, just like it was Gronk's fault he didn't break up the INT or make the catch. You can't possibly be saying that this was the fault of Tom Brady? He's Tom Brady!
This post is dripping with sarcasm in case anyone thinks I am serious
Just an amazing series, Nate, despite your self-proclaimed d-bagginess. Took me back through the week and the wonderful euphoric feeling at the end of the game. So proud of Indianapolis. So happy that Tawmy lost again in our town.