A few weeks have passed since my beloved Patriots lost 21-17 to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. The Giants out-executed the Patriots in all 3 phases of the game. They controlled the action for most of the game and dominated the time of possession. Despite all of that, the Patriots kept the game close. Unfortunately they let too many opportunities slip away and could not make the game-clinching play. In the end, the Giants were the superior team and won the game. Here are my thoughts.
The game came down to execution and the Giants simply were better at it for most of the game. On the opening drive of the game, the Patriots’ D bent but didn’t break. They eventually forced the Giants to punt the ball. However the Giants’ special teams did a great job of pinning the Patriots deep in their own territory. On the very next play, the Giants got a lot of pressure on Brady while he was standing in the end zone. He panicked and threw the ball over everyone’s heads to make sure it wasn’t intercepted. You usually won’t see a flag for intentional grounding on overthrows but unfortunately it was the correct call which resulted in a safety. @#$%! 2-0, Giants.
Starting with the offense, I thought Brady played pretty well outside of the 1st offensive snap. It really bugs me when football n00bs (i.e. casual fans) say that Brady sucked and that the Patriots need to start looking for a better QB. Good luck trying to replace one of the top 3 QBs of all time. In either case, Brady eventually got into a nice passing rhythm and surgically marched down the field to score TDs on the final drive of the 1st half and the opening drive of the 2nd half. It felt like he single-handedly changed the momentum of the game in the Patriots’ favor and they took the lead at that point.
I don’t know how much Brady’s non-throwing shoulder was bothering him after being sacked by Tuck but it may have altered Brady’s accuracy from then on. However most of his passes were still relatively on target and I felt the Patriots’ receivers simply dropped too many balls late in the game. Brady was also great in the pocket and somehow kept many plays alive despite the pocket collapsing around him. Brady’s performance was definitely not the reason why the Patriots lost this game.
As a whole, I think the receiving group did okay. Ochocinco had his usual 1-catch-then-disappear performance. Welker and Hernandez played well for most of the game. However the entire group choked late, especially on the final two drives. Branch dropped a pair of passes over the middle and looked like he was expecting contact. Branch did make a great catch on 4th-and-16 to extend the final drive. Hernandez inexplicably dropped a perfectly thrown ball. He has a knack of dropping the easy pass and he could not have picked a worse time to have a mental lapse.
Welker had the biggest drop of all. The Patriots had the ball with a lead late into the 4Q. Brady threw a deep pass to his left and Welker failed to make the leaping catch. It doesn’t matter that the ball was slightly high and outside. Welker got both hands on the ball and that means that he should have come down with it. Not to overstate things but if Welker made that catch, the Patriots would have walked off with their 4th championship.
Maybe it was the homer in me but I thought Gronk would be more effective than he was. It was obvious how much the ankle was bothering him and he labored to move around the field. The Giants quickly realized that Gronk was nothing more than a decoy so they turned their focus toward slowing down Brady’s other options. On the intended pass for Gronk which was intercepted, I could see what Brady and Gronk were. Gronk was behind the LB with no over-the-top help. Unfortunately Brady was flushed to his right and couldn’t get enough on the throw and it was underthrown. Maybe a healthy Gronk would have broken up that pass and prevented the INT. Maybe a healthy Gronk would have been able to run faster down the field on the final play of the game and catch the tipped ball in the end zone for the game-winning TD. Maybe a healthy Gronk would have resulted in a win. We’ll never know. I hate Bernard Pollard.
Coming into the game, I was hoping the Patriots would run more to slow down the Giants’ pass rush. Unfortunately the RBs were not effective enough to keep feeding them the ball. BJGE did what he normally does which is rush for about 4 YPC in his limited touches. Danny Woodhead struggled rushing the ball but was great catching it out of the backfield. He kept the chains moving and added a nice TD catch in the 2Q.
Like in the previous Super Bowl between these two teams, the Patriots’ offensive line really struggled to protect Brady. RT Nate Solder looked like a turnstile. LG Mankins also played poorly getting beat multiple times. I wonder if he was still dealing with his late season injury. Even though Brady was not sacked much, he was pressured for most of the evening. I was amazed at how many times he bailed out the OL by sliding, ducking, and spinning in the pocket to avoid taking a sack. LT Matt Light played pretty well and I’m glad I didn’t hear his name mentioned that much.
As for the defense, like the rest of the team they played good but not great. I think the coaching staff did a great job of getting the players to try to rip the ball out and force turnovers. It showed and they caused at least 3 fumbles. Unfortunately they couldn’t capitalize and recover any of them.
I thought the DL played okay. They got run on a few times early in the game so they went heavier subbing in Gerard Warren who played well. Wilfork needed to have another unworldly performance like he had in the AFC Championship game but he felt short. The DL did not get any pressure at all on Eli Manning and he picked the entire defense apart. The defense gave up so many long drives all year and this was the story once again during the Super Bowl. They gave up 26 1st downs and couldn’t get off of the field when it mattered most.
The defense had a lot of un-Patriot-like mistakes. Early in the game the defense recovered a fumble but this was negated by a 12-man-on-the-field penalty. The Giants went on to score a TD. On the Giants’ final drive, the Patriots got a stop on 3rd-and-long but was negated by Ninkovich jumping offsides. It’s kind of tough ripping him for that because he played so well up to that point.
I thought the only players who played well were Spikes and Chung. Spikes is just as slow as Mayo but at least he delivered some hard hits over the middle of the field. Chung also made his presence felt on a few deep throws to the sidelines. I also thought Sterling Moore played well in spots coming up with a timely deflection late in the game. However he still plays too soft in coverage and gave up a few too many easy underneath throws.
The final drive by the Giants was brutal to watch. The Patriots only needed one stop. One big play. Anything and the game was over. I thought they got that “one” play on that 3rd down stop but it was negated by penalty as I mentioned earlier. On that long completion, it was just a great play by Eli Manning to Manningham. The ball was perfectly thrown to the sideline and Manningham tight-roped the sideline, made the catch, and absorbed a hard hit from Chung. There wasn’t much else the Patriots could do to defend that better because they were focused on stopping both Cruz and Nicks. People have complained why Belichick challenged that play. It was such a huge gain that he had to challenge it. If the play was overturned, the Patriots would have most likely won the game.
I am still hurting from this game. It sucks that Manning (and his stupid goober face) was clutch once again. It sucks knowing that the Patriots were absolutely powerless to stop him. To me this loss hurts more than the loss in Super Bowl XLII. I know that a perfect season was on the line in that game but people conveniently forget the Patriots barely beat the Ravens and then Giants in the regular season of that year. The Patriots were outplayed for most of that game as well and it took a miracle just for the Patriots to even come back to take the lead late in the 4Q so I never really felt like the Patriots would win that game. At least in this game, the Patriots had the lead late in the 4Q and possession so they controlled their own fate. Unfortunately they couldn’t make that one catch or that one tackle or deflection to seal the victory. In the end, the Giants made more plays when they needed to and deserved to win the game.
It’s going to be a long offseason…