In a game that resembled Super Bowl XLII in Arizona four years ago, the rematch between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots ended up almost exactly like that game, as when he HAD to get it done, Eli Manning found a way to move his team down the field and get them into the end zone, resulting in a 21-17 victory and the Giants second Championship in four seasons.
Just as was the case four years ago, the G-Men took an almost improbable journey to make it to the biggest game in all of sports. As Dallas Cowboys fans will remember, New York came into Cowboys Stadium that season as a wild card team and beat the Cowboys who had home field advantage throughout the playoffs and ran the table, preventing New England from having a perfect 9-0 season.
Once again in 2011, the Giants were close to being totally out of the playoff picture, needing a last second touchdown against the Cowboys in Dallas just to stay alive. From that point on, they ran the table again this season. It began with a drubbing of the Cowboys in a game at the new Meadowlands to determine the NFC East Championship. From that point they won a Wild Card game against the Atlanta Falcons, a Divisional Game on the frozen tundra in Green Bay against the Packers and the NFC Championship in Candlestick Park in San Francisco against the Forty-Niners to make it back to the Super Bowl.
Things started off well for the Giants when Pats QB Tom Brady was called for intentional grounding on the first New England offensive play. That gave New York a 2-0 lead. After getting the free kick, Eli Manning led his team down the field to the end zone and a 9-0 lead. Everyone in Lucas Oil Stadium thought a blowout might be in the making, but the sleeping giant Brady and his teammates got things going and pulled to within 6 after a field goal.
The Pats added a touchdown to go up 10-9, and then score yet another touchdown to go up 17-9 at the half. Just as rock superstar Madonna took the field for her halftime performance, New England fans were feeling pretty good about things and thought a Patriots rout might be in the offing for the second half.
The third quarter was a defensive chess match. The Giants managed a field goal to move the score to 17-12, and then added another 3-pointer to get within two points, at 17-15. The New York defense turned up the pressure on Brady and company, giving Manning one last shot at pulling victory from the jaws of defeat.
Just as was the case four years earlier, Eli proved he was up to the challenge. Ahmad Bradshaw ran into the end zone from inside the ten with 57 seconds left in the game and after the PAT the Giants led 21-17.
Brady calmly moved his team down the field, but a last second desperation pass into the end zone for Rob Gronkowski was knocked away by the defense, and New York had the victory.
It was an excited Head Coach Tom Caughlin who talked with the media in his final press conference Monday morning. “I don’t know if you can explain it, to be honest with you. I don’t know if there is any explanation for it. The games are highly competitive. Very, very skilled teams. Outstanding quarterbacks on both teams. Great defense, to be honest with you. The numbers that you look at throughout the course of the year, the New York Giant and New England Patriot defensive teams that didn’t have the numbers, weren’t ranked in the upper echelon of the defensive teams in the league, but how both (defenses) have played in the playoffs, and how we played since the Jet game – just exceptional defensive play. Special teams, I recognize our guy Steven Weatherford and the way he’s played down the stretch and punted the ball, and created field position for our team. Just highly competitive, highly physical football games that are designed, and established, and work out exactly the way you would want. They are fourth quarter wins, and both teams are playing exceptionally hard. The New England coaching staff, Bill Belichick, a friend of mine, a guy that I admired for many years, a true Hall-of-Famer, a great football coach. The games are so competitive and so close, and we’re just fortunate to have made the necessary plays late in the game to win.”
MVP Manning was asked his thoughts on the similarities between this team and the 2007 team that won it all. “There are some similarities. Like the 2007 season, we started off fast, then we did hit a rocky road where weren’t playing our best football. But, when we needed a win, when we needed to start playing better, we came together as a team when the playoffs started. I think we had a great confidence going into the playoffs and realized that we had kind of found our way, our style of football that was going to give us the best chance of winning. That is playing smart offensively, taking the short throws, taking the flats, moving the ball and finding good third-down situations to hold the ball, hold the time of possession, win those type of things and have a defense that gets after the quarterback, play great defense. I think both sides of the ball had great confidence in each other. We knew that we could be patient. We knew that we could not force things, not try to make mistakes, and we would help out each other. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened and gave us a chance to win the game.”
As is always the case in any sporting event, there is a winner and there is a loser. Losing Coach Bill Belichick was disappointed to say the least when he faced the media after his team had their second loss in two years in the Super Bowl to the Giants.
“First of all, congratulations (New York) Giants. (They) Won a championship, they're a good football team and they're well coached. They obviously played well tonight. Very competitive football game, they just made a couple more plays then we did. By the way our guys played, fought, fought all year, fought tonight, and we had our chances. We just couldn't quite make enough plays. Giants made a few more than we did. Really isn't too much more to say about. (I) can't fault the effort of any of our players. They played as hard as they could, we could have just played a tiny bit better. It was obviously a very competitive football game."
Yet another NFL season has now officially ended and after a short grieving by all the male football fans in the US, life WILL go on without football until August when it all begins again. Enjoy the offseason!