Monday, February 6, 2012

Giants Spoil Super Bowl Again, 21-17

The good news is that if the Patriots play the Giants next year, it means they made the Super Bowl again. The bad news... if the trend continues, they'll lose by five points next time. The Giants literally made a few more plays than the Patriots and notched a 21-17 win in Super Bowl XLII... I mean XLVI. The loss makes the Patriots 3-4 in the Super Bowl, and sends them back to the drawing board to prepare for season 13 of Tom Brady's career.

The Patriots offense missed opportunities in the first half -- a foolish safety taken by Tom Brady, and a blocked pass on third down that forced a field goal instead of a touchdown. And then they couldn't do enough in the second half -- scoring just seven points on the first drive, having a bad pass get intercepted, and losing a golden opportunity on Wes Welker's key drop. And in the end, those mistakes and missed opportunities, coupled with the inability to take advantage of bad penalties and fumbles by New York, led to the loss.

Aside from cornerback Antwaun Moulden, safety James Ihedigbo, and most of the defensive line, it's tough to pick out Patriots who had bad games. Moulden got beat early and often as the Giants sprinted out to a 9-0 lead. Ihedigbo just isn't the answer at safety; maybe he can bulk up and move to linebacker full-time next year. And defensive linemen Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick couldn't handle one-man blocks and got pushed off the ball all game long. Vince Wilfork followed up his best game as a pro with a mediocre effort where he got no pressure and didn't impact the Giants running game at all.

The Giants were able to run the ball better than anticipated, totaling 114 yards and 4.1 yards a carry. But they won the game through the air, with quarterback Eli Manning 30 of 40 for 296 yards 1 touchdown, no interceptions, and a 103.8 rating.  The Patriots running game was, as usual, best out of the shotgun/spread formation, and they got 4.4 yards a carry but just 83 yards overall. Brady had an average game, 27 of 41 for 276 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 killer interception, and a 91.1 rating.

In many ways, Brady's interception was like the late INT in the Ravens game two weeks earlier. The Patriots were near midfield, late in the game, and all they needed to do was run some time off the clock and score a touchdown or field goal to make the game almost impossible to lose. But again, Brady heaved it toward the end zone, and the pass was picked off on a good defensive play.

This time the play wasn't called in the huddle, it was a broken play. But with all that was on the line, Brady needed to be smarter and either take a short gain or throw the ball away. The Giants didn't score on the ensuing drive; but if the Patriots had run the clock and scored, they are likely world champions this morning.

The next drive was almost as maddening, with two consecutive just-miss passes to Wes Welker and Deion Branch, either of which would have put the Patriots in field goal range with a chance to run the clock down to less than 2:00. The first pass was thrown slightly behind Welker, though he still got two hands on it and should have caught it. And the second one was barely tipped by a Giants defender, which was just a good play by him.

Once the Giants got the ball back, it felt inevitable that the defense couldn't stop them again. New York had drives of 10, 9, 8, 7, 10, 9, and 10 plays to that point -- yet the defense had mostly kept them out of the end zone. However, a 9-play touchdown drive, with one excellent catch and a bunch of easy pitch-and-catch plays sealed the deal.

Again, it was the little things. As Belichick says all the time, the difference between teams at this level is razor thin, so any mistakes are magnified. If the Patriots had won, people would have looked at a potential pass-interference call that wasn't made against Sterling Moore, a holding call that cost the Giants a drive with 4:18 left, or the inability to hold the Patriot at their own 2 yard-line before the half.

But they won, so people will look at Brady's safety or INT, the Welker drop, and the fumbles that were recovered by New York. It's just the price of being in the big games; win and you're a hero, lose and you're a bum. Note: some would also cite the Giants fumble that was called back on a penalty, but given that the infraction was 12-men on the field, there's no way to know the fumble would have occurred without the 12th man or that the Pats wouldn't have recovered it without the extra defender.

As for who starred and sucked in the game, here's a short list. 


1. Tight end Aaron Hernandez: 8 catches for 67 yards and a touchdown (and 1 important drop).

2. Receiver Wes Welker: 7 catches for 60 yards and 1 bad drop.

3. Receiver Deion Branch: 3 catches, 3 first downs (converted a third- and a fourth-down).

4. Running back Danny Woodhead: 4 catches and a touchdown, and 2 carries for 21 yards.

5. Linebackers Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo who combined for 22 tackles and 2 forced fumbles (and only blew 3 or 4 plays between them).

6. Safety Patrick Chung: 6 tackles, 1 pass defended, and several hard hits that knocked Giants players out of the game (some temporarily, some permanently).

7. Linebacker Mark Anderson: 5 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2 QB hits, and very good pressure inside and out.

8. Punter Zoltan Mesko: pinned the Giants at their 12 on his last punt, and turned around field position with a 48-yarder in the second quarter.
9. Linebacker  Rob Ninkovich: not always pretty, but he got good pressure off the edge (0.5 sacks and 2 QB hits).

10. Gerard Warren and Shaun Ellis: stepped in for overmatched young players and were stout against the Giants running attack. 


1. Offensive guard Logan Mankins: missed too many assignments and didn't get much push on running plays.

2. Moulden, Ihedigbo, Deaderick, and Love: for reasons already covered.

3. Whomever the 12th man was on the aforementioned penalty.

The rest of the team was somewhere in between, as was the coaching. Once again, the Patriots came out with a bad offensive game plan and got shut out in the first quarter of the Super Bowl. (Trivia question: name the last Patriots player to score for the team in the first quarter of a Super Bowl; answer below.)

Offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien is off to Penn State next year, and we'll be back to Josh McDaniels -- the man who got overmatched in the last Super Bowl loss to the Giants. Only time will tell if McDaniels learned enough in his travels away from the Patriots; but the team still needs to consider hiring the best available coaches, not just the ones Bill Belichick trusts. 

So where does that leave us? Well, the weather looks nice in Boston this week, so there's always that to fall back on:

Or you could follow the Celtics, Stanley Cup champion Bruins, or wait for pitchers and catchers to report (and order some Popeye's fried chicken). I'll be looking at the Patriots biggest areas of need and which players they might target in free agency, trades, and even the draft. 

Statistical Oddity of the Week: It might be hard to swallow, but the Patriots are now tied for the most Super Bowl losses by a franchise with four. 

Weekly Water-cooler Wisdom: "Welker should have caught that one."

Keep the faith (if you have any left),

- Scott

15-4 :(
2-1 :(

PPS. Trivia answer:
Tight end Ben Coates caught a four-yard touchdown pass from Drew Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI (1/26/1997).

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