Sometimes, it really is that simple.
The Giants won.
The Patriots lost.
In one of the hardest hitting, most competitive Super Bowls ever, two teams traded haymakers until the clock ran out on one of them. Super Bowl XLVI wasn't a referendum on the way the Pats or Giants are built. It doesn't reveal any hidden depths, qualities or flaws about either team. It was just a tough, close football game where the team that had the last real possession won.
The better team won the Super Bowl last night, but that's not saying much. The Patriots are a very good, though not extraordinary group, with the greatest coach of our generation. They are perpetual contenders, and nothing about last night's loss should cause them to rethink anything.
Tom Coughlin saw his team move the ball with ease and nearly made the same fatal mistakes Jim Caldwell did against the Saints. When he saw he had a dominant offense, he grew conservative, punting from the Pats 41 on fourth and 4. That was with 10 minutes to play in the second quarter and it would be a full quarter of play before the Giants would penetrate that deeply into Patriots territory. He decided that protecting a 6 point lead against a great offense was more important than scoring points. It was a foolish decision that would nearly cost him a Super Bowl. His team won, though, and despite getting outcoached, he's a hero today. If that game is played 10 times, the Giants win 6 of them and Coughlin loses 3 on his own because he knows his team is better and gets tight.
Bill Belichcik on the other hand almost stole another Super Bowl. It was 2001 all over again. His team was inferior, but they hit like hell and with any luck at all would be champions today. His decion to let the Giants score a touchdown nearly saved the season for his team. Of course, the Giants were foolish to score the touchdown, but I've already expressed my disdain for Coughlin above. Belichick was also crafty enough to realize the advantage of the deferred kickoff. Giving an elite offense the first possession of the second half is genius. You can make halftime adjustments and take over the game at a key moment. Brady was under a heavy rush early, but for a few minutes, the Pats solved the Giant rush, and if Brady has time, he is going to find someone open four yards downfield. By deferring, the Pats went from 9-3 down to 17-9 up without the Giants having any chance to respond. It was a masterpiece by Belichick, but he was not rewarded.
The Giants recovered two of their own fumbles last night and had a third wiped out by penalties. If the Patriots recover any of those balls, they win the Super Bowl, and today we are discussing how they are the greatest team of all time. Eli Manning took bad sacks in field goal range was spotty at best on third down going 5/11. He made one huge throw to help set up the game winning score, and deserves all the praise in the world, but it was hardly a performance for the ages. It was typical Eli. Just good enough.
Tom Brady took a beating, and really only got in a rhythm once. When he was on, he was on. He set a Super Bowl record for consecutive completions, and perfectly executed a drive at the end of the half to give his team an unlikely lead. Of course, he also made a HUGE gaffe by taking an endzone safety. His interception in the fourth quarter was a terrible throw, but I wonder if he doesn't make that throw five years ago. Maybe he's lost a little arm strength and can't get the ball over the top any more. We saw him make the exact same mistake against the Ravens two weeks ago, as if his arm just isn't quite what he thinks it is.
He had the chance to put the Giants away, but couldn't connect with Welker late in the fourth quarter. Welker dropped the ball, but Brady's pass wasn't where it needed to be. He could have hit Welker in stride, but put it just a little behind him and high. I've made this point before, but he's a better quarterback now than he ever was when he was winning Super Bowls. 2011 Tom Brady CRUSHES 2001 Tom Brady. Tom Brady was not clutch in 2001, and he's not a choker now. He was an above average quarterback then, and an all time great now. He does well in clutch situations because he does well in all situations. When it's a true coinflip, however, he's as subject to vagaries of luck as any man is.
Football is a game to be enjoyed in the moment. Imbuing a great championship game with extra meaning or using it to read tea leaves is foolish. It was fun, physical and thrilling. That should be enough.
The Patriots have the inferior club, but the better chance to be back next year, because they play in a dramatically weaker conference. The Giants might not even win their division in 2012. They almost didn't in 2011.
The Giants functionally had the ball last. The one minute touchdown drive is insanely rare.
The Giants fumbled three times, but didn't lose any of them.
Brady's pass was off by a foot. Eli's pass was right on the fingertips.
That's the difference in the game.
A champion was crowned last night, but nothing was decided.
There have been some comments here on where Peyton was during the Super Bowl. I did hear Al Michaels say Peyton is "somewhere in the building", and earlier in the week I had ready on Yahoo that Manning was working out at the Luke during Giant's first playoff game this year. And since they won he decided to continue with that streak of him staying in the fitness center during the Giants games. Ergo, I think he was in the fitness center again during the Super Bowl.
i think the patriots last play to let the giants score so they could have control of the ball was genius on their part... the accident about welker losing control of the ball was a shame because they would have won another super bowl if it werent for that play. i know im not a patriots fan but they played a great game.. anyway, yay giants! awesome team... so proud! :) -arianna villafuerte
I think you are crediting Bill Belichick a little too much, particularly about his decision to defer. He always does that, and he isn't the only coach who realizes the advantage of deferring. It wasn't some strategic game that he won over Coughlin, but just something that he, and other coaches, always do. (BTW, does anyone remember what happened in the coin toss of the 2006 AFC Championship Game - the last big game I can remember where the Pats got the ball first; did the Pats win the toss and actually receive? The Colts win and kick?).
I agree with his decision to let the opposition score, but if he doesn't waste a timeout on that challenge, he could have just played straight defense.
I also think you are being a little too hard on Coughlin. The decision to punt was bad, but I don't think he viewed this game as going against a great offense, in that I think he knew that his defense could handle the Patriots offense to some degree. Still, quite conservative. Also, I believe he, or at least Eli, told Bradshaw to go down on the 1. I guess you can say that Coughlin could have told Eli to kneel, but that makes the field goal further. Apparently the message was sent to Bradshaw, but he just tried to stop himself too late.
Also, you can say that Coughlin was out-managed by Belichick. Yes, Belichick was smart to defer and smart enough to tell the defense to let in the touchdown, and Coughlin did get conservative one time. But that isn't what coaching is mostly about. Coughlin and his staff put together a great gameplan. Their secondary play has been great. Yes, the Giants did give up 16 straight completions, but for less than 10 yards per completion. When the Giants rush finally started clicking, Brady had no where to go. The Giants had a better game plan. That's coaching too. The Patriots continued to try to run the ball with Woodhead (which hasn't worked really since mid 2010), and outside of Hernandez, could not get one advantageous matchup. Sure, a lot of it was Gronkowski, but it definitely looked like the Patriots started out unprepared. They got into a rhythm mostly because the Pats o-line protected its ass off for two straight drives. (even in the beginning, the first Pats real drive didn't feature much pressure either, as did their three and out after, as both were keyed by Pass Rushers deflecting Brady passes).
I feel bad for Brady, because I think he got injured on that Tuck sack. Up until that play he was 20/24, and after he was 7/17 with a pick and three bad throws to open receivers. It reminded me a lot of what happened to Aaron Rodgers in last year's NFC Title Game after he got hit in the head by Peppers. That said, he really should not have made that throw on the pick, especially since Hernandez was wide open closer in.
Overall, each team's units played well (offense, defense). I actually think the biggest factor might have been that the Giants special teams outplayed the Pats. The Pats got no good returns, while the Giatns actually got a couple, as well as Weatherford who was excellent. The Giants deserved that game, but the Pats, I thought, definitely played better than in Super Bowl XLII.
By the way, pierrezombie, we both lost our bet. Not a single snapshot of Peyton, and apparently the camera couldn´t capture him once in the entire stadium. It didn´t look like he was with Olivia and Archie either. Which, honestly, is a relief. Li´l Bro deserved all the attention during the game. I´m guessing 18 was in the stadium though, just really well-hidden. Maybe Irsay built a one-way ground (like one-way glasses in interrogation rooms), so Peyton would have the best seat in the stadium but remain undisturbed.
any sign of JC yet? sorry, couldn't help.
Its funny, if Patriots recover any of those two fumbles we would be talking about how great Brady is. Instead now ESPN is claiming Eli to be the greatest Manning. They don't know the difference between success (by measure of rings) and greatness (by way of QB play).
And please stop the Gisele's rant video. It was after the game, people are heckling you and you say something out loud in frustration. Give the lady a break.
I disagree with several points. 1) You killed Coughlin for one decision. Compare the conversion rate of 4th and 4 vs. Patriots getting those 30 yards on the punt back and they have to be similar; add to that the job security inherent in the punting, and there is no way I blame Coughlin for the punt. I don't think many coaches can keep that team with their heads up where they were late-midseason.
On a related note, scoring the touchdown is easily defensible (though not necessarily better). I've seen so many games recently lost by kickers on gimme field goals. Alabama-LSU (first game), Oregon-USC, Georgia-Michigan St., Boise St. loss, Oklahoma St.-Iowa St., Oklahoma St.-Stanford. Several of those had NC implications. Indy-San Diego :( I blame no one for scoring, even if Giants coaches seemed to agree with you.
What was a bad sack by Eli? He took one on 3rd down and still was in field-goal range. Had he forced a throw it would have likely been incomplete, possibly intercepted, and quite possibly fumbled during the motion. The smart thing to do was to eat the sack.
Difference in the game for me: better team + mostly equal play + fumbles luck was slightly better than dropsies + clear officiating advantage on calls and non-calls.
Possibly the most genius call of the game was taking a 12-man penalty late for five yards, when simply defending against the deep pass was the most important task, especially when said play will likely take up around 50% of the remaining time. Obviously you can't do it on the last play (it would have given the Patriots a free down), but on the penultimate play was sheer genius. Kudos to Coughlin if he intentionally did that.
Does the fact that if Peyton was healthy the Colts would have a very real shot of being on that Super Bowl continues to depress anyone else or it's just me?
Great perspective, Nate. Maybe I wanted you to revel (a lot) more in the Patriots´ loss, but every single one of your points is spot on, especially about Belichick´s utter strategic brilliance (and for once, no one in the media is stupid enough to pillory him for not contesting the decisive TD) and Eli´s not all time great performance. Eli didn´t suck at all, but he also wasn´t a beacon of otherworldly QB play, except on that pass to Manningham, which was simply mindblowing, and for which Manningham has gained the right to accompany Tyree on all SB highlights. A propos of that decisive TD, by the way, it needs to be said that reading Bradshaw´s comments, it appears Eli had realized kneeling at the 1 was better, and had told Bradshaw to do so, but he also said that instruction was given at the last minute, so Coughlin is probably at fault there.
Me, I´m just so happy Brady´s failure to go anywhere in the last seconds (I agree, it was really hard with that time, but there´s no doubt in my mind Peyton manages the clock much better -that penultimate throw to Branch was ill-conceived and executed, in my opinion-) put a dent on the myth of him as the clutchiest QB ever. And the media will never lick Eli´s boots as much as Brady´s, so maybe there will be an all around downgrade regarding the "he´s just a 4th quarter QB" frenzy (I can´t bring myself to hope for a moratorium).
I'm not proud of this, but I keep going back to look at that photo of Tuck kneeing Brady in the earhole. So great.
This game just showcased again the point you have been making for years... NFL playoff football has become such a crap shoot.
Great perspective on Brady. They can say all they want about the Patriot way, but they have come a long way from the days they wouldn't be introduced individually, but would only come out as a "team".
The punts were the right call by the Giants. Sometimes you have play field postion football. The punting was great by the Giants. To say that special teams is irelevant is laughable. the patriots should have let the giants score sooner. I hate the analogy of 'if they play ten times'. It's Irrelevant. I thought Coughlin managed a better game last night. I'll take Peyton in the regular seasn and Eli in the Post season.
@dmstorm22 1. Not every coach defers, and I'm going to credit BB for making the right call, regardless of the commonality of it.
2. I don't blame him for the timeout on the challenge. Live action, it didn't look like a good catch, and it was too big a play to let slide. The Giants WP went from under to over 50% on that one play, and it was a swing of 23%.
3. Didn't think the Giants gameplan was that great. They had better personnel.
@dmstorm22 Two things. First, about the challenge, I think Belichick definitely made the right call. That pass was a game-changer, and overturning it would have changed everything. It was incredibly close, and since the Giants were rushing to the line of scrimmage, he had to make a split-second decision. Frankly, slow-motion is the only thing that makes appreciating this play fully possible. As for Coughlin´s input on Bradshaw´s TD, Kyle already made my point. That´s just a massive omission by your HC in a close game.
@dmstorm22 Coughlin admitted that he didn't directly tell Bradshaw to go down. He said that he was glad it didn't come back to haunt him.
Speaking of which, did you see this quote?
(I clipped it yesterday, but can't remember where from -- MMQB maybe.)
"[Eli] Manning said he and Peyton talked after the game but that it was more an Xs-and-Os film session than an exchange of brotherly love. “I got to be with Peyton a little bit and he was just proud of me, he was proud of the team,” Manning said.
“A quarterback like Peyton, he knows the game well and he asked questions that a lot of people wouldn’t ask. The touchdown pass to Victor Cruz, he asked me if I saw that middle linebacker.”
That just fits my imagination of Peyton perfectly: "Hey, you won. Cool. But seriously, did you see the Mike on that TD or get lucky? Cuz if it was luck, we've got some stuff to work on."
Peyton was in a different suite because, apparently, he was sitting in a different one in 2007 as well.
Somewhere, Bridget Moynahan is smiling...
@filiusdextris They got 20 yards on the punt. Scoring the TD cost 15% win probability. Both sacks by Eli on the first drive were bad.
Coughlin didn't do the 12 men on purpose, though if he had I would have celebrated it. 12th man was hustling off the field w/o helmet on.
@filiusdextris Regarding that 12-man penalty late in the game, screencaps seem to show Tuck trying to get out of the field and not doing it on time, so I doubt it was intentional.
@jpjandrade i want to acknowledge the truthiness of this but i don't want to use the moniker of "like"
@pierrezombie You really went for it with that photo, huh?
@pierrezombie link to photo please!
@pierrezombie Look, we´re going through hell right now, and no matter how much I try, I can´t find a single shred of compassion in me for the Patriots, who because of their cheating and arrogance deserve all bad losses thrown their way for at least the next 20 years. The only thing I really admire about them is their coach (whom I nevertheless wouldn´t want as Colts HC), but still, there´s no denying he´s the best coach in the NFL by a mile, and the best chance to win a game you can find on the sidelines anywhere (Peyton excluded, of course, since he´ll get back on the field).
@silentkman Why would you take the inferior quarterback in the post season? That makes no sense to me.
@silentkman Field position football is overrated. The probabilities are way in favor of going for it. Coughlin made several gaffes last night.
Head over to AdvancedNFLStats.com and spend some time there. Read the Fourth Down Study, especially.
@Nate Dunlevy I agree Belichick had a good game, but I don't think it was a 'masterpiece'. Belichick's coaching in the 2003 AFC Title Game, or the 2004 AFC Divisional and TItle game. Those were masterpieces. This was a guy who did something he always does (defers) and did something that is the right call almost every time (letting him score). The second was definitely more impressive, because it is risky and the only other time I remember it in the playoffs was in Super Bowl XXXII, but I don't see this as a great Belichick game. In game management, it was fine, but other than stopping Victor Cruz, his defense couldn't do much other than stiffen in the red zone, which they always do.
1. Michaels or Collinsworth said the last time BB didn't defer the coin toss was the game Brady had his season-ending injury, and that it's probably a superstition thing now as much as anything.
36. Bradshaw said Eli was yelling at him "Don't score!" during the play, but he heard it too late to stop his momentum into the end zone.
@Kyle Rodriguez I think he was in that suite, but out of site. I'm pretty sure I saw Ashley Manning in the Manning family suite, so Peyton was probably there.
I didn't realize in 2007 he wasn't sitting with the family. They did show him on the screen multiple times though.
@Kyle Rodriguez Thanks for the precision, Kyle.
@Nate Dunlevy @filiusdextris I don't know that's something to celebrate. As per the rules on substitutions loitering on the field or not subbing efficiently isnt just a twelve man penalty, it's unsportsmanlike conduct. This wasn't a clever ploy by the Giants, it was Brady making a blunder. If they throw 14 guys out there don't snap the ball! As the rules read again the offense is allowed to rush the snap under 2 minutes. It's certainly not required to. The point is to allow both teams ample time to sub in good faith under most circumstances. Giving the offense the time back on the clock as Barnwell suggest doesn't close a hole in the rules. It gives the offense more incentive to try asshat trickery.
@Goéland Yeah. I'll keep it for a week to celebrate, then I'm going all black for the requisite mourning period for #18.
@WillyDuer OK, but this is gonna get me in trouble with Cowan:
@Nate Dunlevy Nate, Mike Scifres, Norvall Turner, and Darren Sproles have the counter-argument on Line One.
Given roughly equivalent talent, as many playoff games have, field position can be a big deal. Not saying the punt was the right call--I detst punts-- but I'm backwards-bitching about a dozen years of crappy field position for us and good FP for our opponents. Yes, the Colts had the best record over that time, but with a slight improvement, would likely have done better (esp in post season).
according to article in AdvancedNFLStats.com on Dec 25 field positon in important. Look what happen to the Colts against San Diego. why did the Giants get rid of their Punter last year? I willing to bet that the Colts lose at least 10 yards or more field postion because of the Special teams.
@Nate Dunlevy@silentkman The Advanced NFL Stats guy said that the more blatant conservative punt only cost the Giants .02 WPA, which seems low. I'm guessing it is the 4th and 4 (the other was the 4th and 10 on the second to last drive after the no-call). I don't think that play call was all that bad.
Seriously! Perhaps all time records for scoring. Ugh... Just watch, now Pagano will go against type and be a freaking offensive aggression freak!
@Goeland @Kyle Rodriguez
Yeah, this is why I never bet actual money on anything. I was really surprised that NBC didn't get him on camera even once. NOW he wants to be out of the spotlight. Heh.
I like the idea of his secret press-level bunker. It probably gets the All-22 feed live, has climate control with extra oxygen pumped in, and an electronic/bio-feedback/nerve-stimulation station set to 11.
@SouthernColt@Nate Dunlevy@filiusdextris Oh, I agree. The discussion was specifically about this kind of end of game context, where you have two plays left and are in need of a Hail Mary from 50 yards out. The interesting thing that started the debate is the fact referees have some leeway to apply the appropriate penalty, but apparently, they can´t put back time on the clock. That´s why the trade off of 5 yards for 7 seconds on the clock is positive.
@Goéland @Nate Dunlevy @filiusdextris I don't think this would work anymore. With the ability to challenge and whatnot it'd be a simple matter of pointing out the 2 extra men. Nevermind that it is actually unsportsmanlike, a 15 yard penalty is usually a much bigger deal than the 5 yard 12 man penalty. A real field general would be astute enough to spike the ball instead of run a play. There's no loophole in the rules. If the defense does this purposely and the offense responds appropriately you can stop the clock and get first downs rather easily.
@pierrezombie Awesome. Let´s hope there´s no mourning in the building.
Ha. That's beautiful.
@Bobman@Nate Dunlevy Which is all well and good in a world where you have unlimited resources. In a world where you have to limit your resource allocation, it makes perfect sense to allocate less to parts of the game that impact it less, over the long haul. Your supposition that they would have done better with a slight improvement assumes that they would not have been worse at some other more important area due to less resources available to that area.
Finally, no one is saying field position isn't important. What they are saying is that scoring is more important than field position. Field position football is known for giving up potential points in exchange for potential field position. This is inefficient and over the long haul, NFL coaches are forfeiting points that they needn't. As soon as some coach has the strength of will and forward thinking ability to see this, they will create an imbalance that will give them an edge (until it is copied).
@silentkman Field position in general matters, however the odds of pinning the Pats deep are far lower than the odds of picking up the first down.
Punting there is not playing for field position. It's playing for a CHANCE to force bad field position. You have to weigh it against the CHANCE for a first down.
That's what made it a bad decision. Trust your punter or your Pro Bowl QB. It's not a hard choice.
@silentkman Sorry I didn't see your reply before countering Nate, but I agree. All he said was it's overrated, which may be true. But it is certainly NOT unimportant. Based on drive stats from Football Outsiders, I'd say the Colts typical negative net delta in yardage based on FP is about 5 per drive--2.5 for each O and D. While it doesn't sound like much, keep in mind that the average drive across th whole NFL season is about 40 yards. At 8-10 possessions a game, that 5 yards adds up. Basically gives the other team one+ extra drives worth of yardage. Not all in one lump, but if they end up just five yards closer on a drive where they boot a 50- or 60-yarder (Scobee???), it could mean the game. Hopw about the Jets final kick return in last year's playoff game--from memory alone, they started their drive about the 40? What if it was at the 25? The Colts probably win that game.
Just curious what Advanced NFL stats thinks about the Giants having the lowest points per game allowed in the postseason and winning the time of possession throughout the playoffs at a whopping 35-25 advantage over 4 games, impressive indeed. Giants were No.1 in lowest PPG, Pats were No.3. It is almost like the postseason is a new season. No matter what your offensive and defensive rankings are in the regular season, if your O and D can elevate it in the postseason once you are in, that is all that matters. 2006 Colts, 2007 Giants and 2011 Giants seem to suggest that.
Teams could not play keep away from Eli while going against that Giants D. 11 possessions in Falcons game, 11 in Packers game, 13 in Niners game (2 more in OT), and 8 in the SB (since NE played smart too and did not turn it over till later and was glad to trade field position for FGs on the Giants side with TDs on the Pats side).