Congrats New York Giants
The MVP has to go to the Giants Punter, Weatherford!!!!!!
Bradshaw's Reluctant Touchdown puts to rest unusual Super Bowl
INDIANAPOLIS -- Call it The Reluctant Touchdown. Ahmad Bradshaw's awkward and unwilling flop into the end zone is part of Super Bowl lore now -- there with Rice-to-Montana, there with David Tyree's helmet catch, there with Lynn Swann's ballet, there with Mike Jones' tackle one-yard shy. Those moments defined their times. In many ways, The Reluctant Touchdown defines ours.
The situation was this: The New York Giants trailed New England by two with one minute, four seconds left. The Giants, however, were on the Patriots' 6-yard line -- it would be a 24-yard field goal from there. Lawrence Tynes, the Giants kicker, had not missed a kick of less than 30 yards (or an extra point) in four years. The Patriots had only one timeout left, meaning the Giants were more or less set up to take the lead with less than 20 seconds left; a New York victory was all but assured.
Then, we had perhaps the strangest play in Super Bowl history -- a touchdown the runner didn't want to score, a touchdown designed by the defensive coach, The Reluctant Touchdown that gave the Giants a 21-17 victory and capped off a dramatic, exciting and frustrating Super Bowl. What can you say? These are complicated times.
* * *
We had expected an extravaganza -- two great offenses, two statistically challenged defenses, a fast track inside a dome. What would be the score? People were predicting 35-31. Maybe higher. Points! Touchdowns! Hey, that's what this football season was all about, right? Offense. Passing. Spectacular touchdowns. Yes, it all pointed to a light show.
There was an Indianapolis light show at halftime when Madonna turned the football field into a Lite Brite set -- it was really quite dazzling. But the game itself lacked color and brilliance. And that's hard to explain even now, even after the game ended. Everything in the game pointed to offensive spectacle. The defenses didn't exactly stop the offenses, not really. Both quarterbacks -- Tom Brady and Eli Manning -- had good days. There wasn't too much pressure on either one of them for most of the game. Both teams ran the ball pretty well. There was only one turnover in the game, and it was an interception thrown way downfield.
So why didn't we get a free-for-all? Like I say: It's sort of hard to explain. Things just seemed to happen ... and not happen. For instance, Tom Brady's first pass of the game was a long pass down the middle to absolutely nobody. This was inconvenient because Brady happened to be standing in his own end zone when he threw that pass. After an interminable referee meeting it was called intentional grounding and a safety.
The Giants promptly followed up with a 78-yard drive -- Giants quarterback Eli Manning hit all five of his passes, including the touchdown pass to Victor Cruz. Salsa dance! Yes, this was what we had expected. The Patriots actually forced a fumble two plays before the touchdown, but it was nullified because they also had 12 men on the field. The Patriots looked very much out of sorts. The Giants led 9-0. And then, for some reason, they would not score for the rest of the half.
The Patriots also stopped and started. Brady looked confused or exhausted or, well, something throughout the first quarter. Maybe it just took him a while to unwind. He did get hot at the end of the half. He led the Patriots on a 96-yard drive. He hit all 10 of his passes. The Patriots led 10-9 at halftime.
And once again, it felt like the show was about to begin. Brady came out hot in the second half ... he hit six more passes in a row and and led New England on an 79-yard touchdown drive. The drive looked so easy. The Patriots led 17-9. And then, for some reason, they would not score again the rest of the game.
Legacy Impact of Super Bowl XLVI
Source: SISI.com's Maggie Gray and Jim Trotter discuss the impact Super Bowl XLVI had on the legacies of Coughlin, Belichick, Brady and Manning. It was just weird. Maybe it came down to this: Both defenses seemed to follow the sound reasoning that their only shot was to prevent big plays. They were more than willing to allow the offenses to methodically plod down the field, short pass after short pass, hard run after hard run, but they were unwilling to blitz or take big chances or try to force the action. Both defenses leaned their backs against the ropes and covered up. There were no fumbles recovered by the other team. There weren't many passes broken up; no near interceptions except for the one Brady heaved downfield. It was like slogging in mud.
Pro football is unquestionably bigger, stronger, faster, smarter than it has ever been. The athletes are incredible. The strategies are mind-blowing. But something about this Super Bowl felt mechanical. The crowd seemed subdued. The quarterbacks dumped off a lot of short passes. The game just never quite seemed to take off.
But, hey, that's just how the matchup played out. That was just the rhythm of this game. The Patriots led 17-15 with about nine minutes left and they got the ball and it just felt like they would (in orderly fashion) drive down the field, run down the clock, put away the game. And the Patriots went about doing that. Brady completed a pass to Wes Welker. He completed another to Danny Woodhead. Welker picked up a first down on an end-around. Brady completed a first down pass to Aaron Hernandez. There was less than five minutes left.
And then ... one of those strange things happened, one that Patriots fans will never forget. Brady dropped back to throw and immediately saw something he had not seen all game long: A busted coverage. Wes Welker was running free. All Brady had to do was throw it out there to Welker -- something he had done successfully more than 100 times this year -- and it would move the Patriots into easy field goal range, it would give them a chance to run the clock down, it would possibly put away the game.
But Brady's throw wasn't quite right -- it almost seemed like he aimed it. Of course, with Welker a pass doesn't have to be just right. This is a man who has twice caught more than 120 passes in a season. Welker turned back toward it, jumped, seemed to get both hands on it ... only the ball bounced away and fell incomplete.
"We just didn't quite connect," Brady would say.
That misconnection would lead to a punt ... an amazing catch ... and, finally, The Reluctant Touchdown.
If there's one thing that drives me nuts about watching pro football today it is that nothing feels immediate. Great plays are under review. Fumbles are often discussed ad nauseum before they are awarded (and then, often, they are reviewed again). Marks are questioned; penalties are mulled over. This is probably unavoidable. Everything about the NFL has great gravity ... you have to get it right. And getting it right takes time.
So when Mario Manningham made one of the great catches in Super Bowl history -- a 38-yard catch on the left sideline with two defenders hounding him and at an angle where it seemed opposed to various laws of nature to get both feet in bounds -- we had to wait a few minutes to see if he REALLY caught the ball. He did, but it was those minutes of waiting that led us to the strange and dramatic ending.
See, at that moment Patriots coach Bill Belichick had all three of his timeouts. He really needed to keep all three for the obvious reason every football fan knows -- three timeouts means that you can stop the clock after first down, after second down and after third down. But Belichick decided to challenge the Manningham call. He lost the challenge. He lost the timeout.
The Giants had the ball at midfield. Eli Manning -- who, like Brady, seemed to have his way with the defense all day but could not quite finish off drives -- completed a pass to Manningham for 16 more yards. Two plays later, it was a pass to Hakeem Nicks for 14 more. So much has been written about this, but there's no question that Manning just seems so much more self assured on the field now at age 31. The gaminess of youth seems to have worn off. He is in control. Three plays later, the Giants had a first down at the 7-yard line, and the Patriots stopped Bradshaw after a one-yard gain. The clock showed 1:04. The Patriots used their second timeout. The Giants had the ball at the 6-yard line.
And now, we were at the crescendo. Belichick knew that because he had blown the timeout challenging that call, his team would have almost no shot at winning this game if he just let things run out. The Giants would let the clock go down almost all the way, kick the field goal, and win. The Patriots' only hope in that field goal scenario was a miss -- which was almost no hope at all. So Belichick told his team to let the Giants score on the next play.
But, of course, the Giants knew all this too. They knew that if they scored the touchdown, they would have to give the ball back to Tom Brady with about a minute left. True, the odds of Brady driving the Patriots for a game-winning touchdown in a minute were pretty low. But the odds of Tynes missing a 25-yard field goal for the win were even lower. Manning had an inkling that the Patriots might try to let the Giants score and he wanted to remind his teammates not to score.
In other words: Everybody was thinking the situation to death. That's the tough part of NFL these days. I don't say that in a bad way ... it's progress. People once used abacuses, now we use wireless Internet on planes. Quarterbacks once drew plays in the dirt, now coaches craft strategies using video technologies, tendency charts and mathematical formulas unimaginable to NASA when they first sent a man to the moon. We live in a time where 6-year-old kids on Madden design more complicated offenses and defenses than Papa Halas ever dreamed about.
But it is also true that Vince Lombardi probably was not worrying about whether or not to let a player score ... and, even more daunting, whether or not to score when the other team was trying to let you score.
Manning handed the ball off to Bradshaw. He ran hard up the middle and it seems that it was about the 2-yard line when he realized that nobody was trying to tackle him. And that's when Manning yelled at him to go down, and he tried to slam on the brakes, like Wile E. Coyote when he realizes that he's about to go over the cliff. You could almost hear the sound effects. Bradshaw managed to get his feet planted right about the goal line, and he put his hand down like he was going to take a knee. But his body was still going forward -- like those pro wrestlers who are thrown off the ropes -- and he turned and he fell slowly backward, on to his behind, into the end zone. "A tushdown," comedian Billy Crystal would call it.
"I thought I heard Eli yelling at me to fall down ... I tried," Bradshaw would say, but not unhappily. People can argue about the right and wrong thing to do there. If he had stopped and not scored the touchdown, and the field goal was somehow missed, that would be the worst decision in the history of the NFL. Of course, if he had scored and Tom Brady then drove the Patriots for the win, people would second-guess that too.
Brady didn't drive the Patriots for the win, though he did throw an amazing Hail Mary to end the game. There's an art-form to the Hail Mary -- to throw just high enough to give receivers a chance to settle under, to place it right in the middle of the end zone -- and Brady threw it perfectly. It still wasn't caught. The Giants won. And, instantly, people were talking history. They were talking about how Giants coach Tom Coughlin suddenly finds himself in rare company, with Don Shula, Vince Lombardi, Bill Parcells and others, as the winner of two Super Bowls. They were talking about how Eli Manning now has one more Super Bowl ring than his famous brother Peyton.
They were talking about how it's been a bit of a drought for Belichick and Brady, who for so long seemed invincible and charmed. They have not won a Super Bowl for seven years, and those years include two heartbreaking losses to Coughlin and Eli Manning's Giants. "We didn't make enough plays," Brady said. "We didn't do things well enough," Belichick said.
The Giants, meanwhile, celebrated happily. They are a big-city team, of course -- the biggest city team, really -- but there is something decidedly small-town about them. Eli remains the little brother. Guard Chris Snee is the coach's son-in-law. The Giants won their second Super Bowl in five years, but a few weeks ago they were 7-7 and there was again talk about firing Tom Coughlin. The Giants talk a lot about family.
And then there's Ahmad Bradshaw, who scored the biggest touchdown of his life though he didn't really mean to. ... Oh, sure, it's true that in the backyard, in the park with friends, in daydreams, you don't ever hope to score a Super Bowl-winning touchdown the way Ahmad Bradshaw scored it, by unenthusiastically falling on your rump in the end zone. Then again, maybe you do.
"It was the happiest moment of my entire life," he would say.
"I tried to go down, man," he would also say.
What can you say? These are complicated times.
Eli Manning, Giants thwart Pats again to cap magical run with 4th Super Bowl title
INDIANAPOLIS -- Elite and Eli. One and the same.
And now there are two Super Bowl championships and two MVPs to prove it.
Eli Manning is the big man in the NFL after one-upping Tom Brady and leading the New York Giants to a 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in Sunday's Super Bowl -- in older brother Peyton's house, at that.
"This isn't about one person," Manning insisted. "This is about a team coming together."
A team led by a quarterback who months ago claimed -- to snickers throughout the league -- that he belonged in the same stratosphere as Brady, and then proved it.
Just as Manning did four years ago when the Giants ruined New England's perfect season, he guided them 88 yards to the decisive touchdown, which the Patriots didn't contest as Ahmad Bradshaw ran 6 yards with 57 seconds left.
"Certainly Eli has had a great season. He made some great throws in the fourth quarter, and they deserved to win," Brady said.
They got some help from Patriots coach Bill Belichick, whose late-game risk didn't turn out as he planned. Belichick reasoned the Giants would run the clock down and kick a short field goal, so he gambled by allowing the six points.
The ploy failed.
"Ball was inside the 10-yard line, a 90 percent field goal conversion," he said. "Sure, could have done a better job in a lot of things."
Manning did everything asked of him in the final minutes, a habit for the eight-year veteran. He's beaten the Patriots in two thrilling Super Bowls. The Giants (13-7), who stood 7-7 in mid-December, now own the football world, and Manning owns two Super Bowl MVP awards, the same number as Brady.
It was a classic I-can-top-that showdown with the outcome in doubt until the last desperation pass fell to the turf as the last second ticked off the clock. Manning started the game with nine straight completions, a Super Bowl record; Brady hit 16 straight over the second and third quarters, breaking Joe Montana's Super bowl record of 13.
Manning finished 30 for 40 for 296 yards and one touchdown, while Brady was 27 for 41 for 276 yards with two TDs and one interception.
Mann Of The (Final) Hour
Eli Manning engineered his second fourth-quarter comeback in as many Super Bowl appearances and it was eerily similar to his first one four years ago.
"It's been a wild game, a wild season," Manning said.
Manning led six comeback victories during the season and set an NFL record with 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes. He showed that brilliance in the clutch on the winning drive, completing five passes, starting with a sensational 38-yard sideline catch by Mario Manningham.
On second down at the Patriots 6 and with only one timeout remaining, Belichick had his defense stand up as Bradshaw took the handoff. Bradshaw thought about stopping short of the end zone, then tumbled in untouched.
"I was yelling to him, 'Don't score, don't score,' " Manning said. "He tried to stop, but he fell into the end zone."
Brady couldn't answer in the final 57 seconds, although his heave into the end zone on the final play fell just beyond the grasp of lunging All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski. New England (15-4), winner of 10 straight since a loss to the Giants in November, was done.
Brady headed off with his head bowed, holding his helmet, still one short of the record four Super Bowl victories by Terry Bradshaw for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Montana for the San Francisco 49ers.
"Certainly it wasn't one play that was the reason we lost," Brady said. "Everybody feels they could do a little more. I'd rather come to this game and lose than not get here."
All around him was the wild celebration by the Giants, NFL champions for the eighth -- and perhaps most unlikely -- time.
"Great toughness, great faith and great plays by a number of guys today," Manning said, deflecting some of the attention. Still, he beat Brady. And he went one better than Peyton, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback who has one ring of his own but didn't play this season as he recovered from neck surgery.
"It just feels good to win a Super Bowl. It doesn't matter where you are," Manning said.
It was the fifth trip to a Super Bowl for Brady and Belichick, tying the record. And it looked like a successful one when they stormed back from a 9-0 deficit and led 17-9 in the third quarter. But the Giants, who reached New England territory on every possession except a kneeldown at the end of the first half, got field goals of 38 and 33 yards from Tynes. And it looked like Tynes, who kicked them into the Super Bowl four years ago at Green Bay and again this year at San Francisco, both in overtime, would get called on again.
Then Belichick, known to try just about anything in a game, took a risk that didn't pay off.
The Giants are the first Super Bowl winner that was outscored during the regular season. They were 6-2 after that 24-20 victory at New England, then lost four straight and five of six.
Coach Tom Coughlin insisted "the prize" was still within reach. Now the Giants are holding tight to that Vince Lombardi Trophy.
"What I was concerned with was these guys making their own history," Coughlin said. "This is such a wonderful thing, these guys carving their own history."
Coughlin got his own piece of the record book as the oldest coach, at 65, to win a Super Bowl.
It was the Giants' fourth Super Bowl championship, more than any franchise except Pittsburgh with six and San Francisco and Dallas with five, and they became the first team to finish the regular season 9-7 and win the title.
New England had the ball for all of one play in the first 11½ minutes, and that play was an utter failure, a rare poor decision by Brady. After Steve Weatherford's punt was downed at the New England 6, Brady dropped to pass in the end zone and had time. With everyone covered and Giants defensive end Justin Tuck finally coming free to provide pressure, Brady heaved the ball downfield while still in the pocket.
Only problem: No Patriots receivers were anywhere near the pass. The Giants were awarded a safety for Brady's grounding in the end zone.
Manning, meanwhile, couldn't have been more on target early, hitting six receivers in the first period. He also was aided by Bradshaw, who hardly looked like a running back with a bad foot. Bradshaw broke a 24-yard run, and New England made another critical mistake by having 12 men on the field on a third-and-3 on which the Giants fumbled.
Instead, New York got a first down at the 6, and two plays later Victor Cruz beat James Ihedigbo on a slant to make it 9-0, prompting Cruz to break into his signature salsa move.
Manning's first incompletion didn't come until 1:19 into the second quarter.
Tom Brady was under duress or sacked on 14 of 43 dropbacks Sunday, including half of his dropbacks in the fourth quarter, and five times on the final drive.
At that point, it was 9-3 after Stephen Gostkowski's 29-yard field goal. The Patriots got to the Giants' 11, but All-Pro DE Jason Pierre-Paul blocked a third-down pass.
Soon after, when the Patriots had a three-and-out and Pierre-Paul blocked another throw, Belichick and offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien had a quick discussion. Then O'Brien, soon to take over as Penn State coach, went over to the struggling Brady.
The talk must have helped. On the final series of the opening half, Brady was masterful. Starting at his 4, and ignoring the last time the Patriots began a series in the shadow of the end zone, he was vintage Brady.
With New York's vaunted pass rush disappearing, Brady went 10-for-10 for 98 yards, capping the drive that included two Patriots penalties with Woodhead's 4-yard TD reception with 8 seconds to go in the half. Hernandez and Woodhead each had four catches on the drive that, stunningly, put New England ahead despite being outplayed for so much of the first 30 minutes.
Brady kept firing -- and hitting -- in the third quarter, with five more completions. The Giants didn't come within shouting distance of the record-setting quarterback. He capped a 79-yard drive to open the second half with a 12-yard TD to Hernandez, but then the game turned. Again.
Consecutive field goals by Lawrence Tynes of 38 and 33 yards brought New York within 17-15. Brady then threw deep for his tight end after weaving away from two pass rushers. His throw was short, and Chase Blackburn picked it off early in the fourth quarter.
Although the Giants moved into New England territory again, as they did on every drive to that point, they bogged down and punted.
In the end, though, New York made the critical plays, just as it did in 2008. With Manning in the lead.
"Two hundred and twenty-eight countries just saw Eli," running back Brandon Jacobs said. "I don't have to say anything."
Without further adieu, here is your Ohio State Recruiting Class of 2012, as it stands today:
PLAYER POS HT/WT Location RIVALS SCOUT 247 ESPN VID
Warren Ball RB 6-2/200 Columbus, OH ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ 78
De'van Bogard DB 5-11/172 Cleveland, OH ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ 77
Jacoby Boren OL 6-3/273 Pickerington, OH ★★★ ★★★ ★★★ 78
Taylor Decker OL 6-8/313 Vandalia, OH ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ 78
Kyle Dodson OL 6-6/310 Cleveland, OH ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ 77
Brionte Dunn RB 6-2/215 Canton, OH ★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★ 80
Pat Elflein OL 6-3/285 Pickerington, OH ★★★ ★★★ ★★★ 79
Frank Epitropoulos WR 6-3/195 U. Arlington, OH ★★★ ★★★ ★★★ 78
Cardale Jones QB 6-5/217 Fork Union, VA ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ --
Jamal Marcus LB 6-2/235 Durham, NC ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ 80
Najee Murray DB 5-11/172 Steubenville, OH ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ 76
Joey O'Connor OL 6-4/295 Windsor, CO ★★★★ ★★★ ★★★ 80
David Perkins LB 6-2/225 South Bend, IN ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ 79
Josh Perry LB 6-4/228 Galena, OH ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ 80
Se'von Pittman DE 6-5/245 Canton, OH ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ 80
Tyvis Powell DB 6-4/185 Bedford, OH ★★★ ★★★ ★★★ 74
Armani Reeves DB 5-9/185 West Roxbury, MA ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ 80
Luke Roberts LB 6-2/230 Lancaster, OH ★★★ ★★★ ★★★ 75
Tommy Schutt DT 6-3/301 Glen Ellyn, IL ★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★ 80
Ricquan Southward WR 6-2/190 Lakeland, FL ★★★ ★★★ ★★★ 79
Noah Spence DE 6-4/245 Harrisburg, PA ★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 86
Blake Thomas TE 6-4/240 Westlake, OH ★★★ ★★★ ★★★ 77
Michael Thomas WR 6-4/203 Fork Union, VA ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ --
Adolphus Washington DE 6-4/230 Cincinnati, OH ★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 81