Thursday, January 28, 2010

Super Bowl Countdown #7 - Super Bowl XLII - Giants 17, Patriots 14

Over the next nine days, Lattanzi Land is continuing a top ten countdown of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. This is a collaborative effort between myself and my good friend and football expert Dustin Holt. Every day, Monday through Friday, the next one will be put up, climaxing with #1 on Friday, February 5th. Some of these may surprise you, and some may make you ask what we are smoking. Enjoy, and any feedback can be made in the comment boxes or via email at joshua.lattanzi@gmail.com or dholt13@gmail.com - we continue our presentation with #7...


The theme of our next Super Bowl is ‘What goes around comes around’. Two teams from opposite ends of the spectrum met in University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale Arizona on February 3, 2008 for what could be described as The Perfect Nightmare.

Back on a February evening in 2002, the New England Patriots marched into New Orleans as a big underdog and defeated the St. Louis Rams in one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history (Ironically, that also took place on February 3rd). Since the victory, the Patriots added two more Vince Lombardi Trophies as they cemented themselves as the team to beat in the most recent decade.

After two years of playoff losses, including blowing an 18-point lead in the 2006 season’s AFC title game against the Colts, the Patriots added new weapons to a thin receiving corps, most notably future Hall of Famer Randy Moss and a little known future All-Pro named Wes Welker.

Patriots were focused heading into the 2007 campaign but what transpired was unimaginable. Win after win happened; blow out after blow out, even, and the Patriots moved closer and closer to becoming the first undefeated team in the 16 game era (1978-present) of NFL history.

Along the way quarterback Tony Brady had his finest season with an NFL record 50 touchdown passes, while Moss tallied an NFL record 23 touchdown receptions.

In week 17, the Patriots were at the Meadowlands in New York New Jersey to face the New York Giants with a chance of finishing 16-0. Instead of resting their starters and key players, the Patriots played to win and succeeded with a come-from-behind 38-35 victory.

While the Patriots went into the playoffs unbeaten, the Giants gained confidence with their narrow defeat (Who said there were never moral victories?). The Giants finished the season 10-6 and were the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs. They rolled to three road wins in the playoffs against Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay to make the Super Bowl.

The Patriots continued their winning ways by defeating Jacksonville and San Diego to reach the Super Bowl. The Patriots were the heavy favorites while the Giants were viewed as a team with a lot of heart, but not enough fire power to keep up with the Patriots. Sound familiar? Super Bowl 36 between the Rams and Patriots (#8 on our list) was won by underdog New England, ending the Rams reign and starting the Patriots run through the decade.

One of the old cliches in football is ‘they can’t score if they don’t have the ball’. This simple game plan was utilized to great effect by the Giants on the opening drive of the game by going on the longest opening drive in Super Bowl history: 16 plays that covered 77 yards in 9 minutes and 59 seconds. The Giants converted three third-down conversations on the drive and kicked a field goal to take an early lead.

The Patriots, though struck quickly on their opening drive by scoring a touchdown on the final play of the first quarter with a one-yard run by Laurence Maroney for a 7-3 lead.

The Giants responded by moving down the field but a tipped pass from the hands of Eli Manning was intercepted by Ellis Hobbs. The scoring in the first half was over but the Giants' defensive game plan was evident: hit the quarterback, as early and often as possible. Throughout the game Tom Brady was under pressure seemingly every time he dropped back to pass. Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and especially Justin Tuck were in Brady’s face all night long.

Famous defensive mastermind Buddy Ryan once said a quarterback can’t complete passes if he is laying on his back. The Giants evidently took a page from Ryan’s book and continued to attack Brady on every play.

Several times in the first half, Brady had Randy Moss open on a deep route for a possible touchdown, but the defensive pressure disrupted the throw or resulted in a sack. The Giants ultimately sacked Brady five times in the game.

Most of the pressure was coming from the Giants' front four, which allowed the linebackers to flood passing lanes that seriously slowed down the Patriots record-setting passing offense. Brady finished the game with 29 completions but for only 266 yards; most of the passes, though, were check downs to the running backs and to Wes Welker. Brady’s longest completion of the game was a mere 19 yards.

On the first drive of the second half, Brady led the Patriots down to the Giants' 25 yard line but a sack by Strahan pushed the ball back to the 31. Instead of attempting a 49-yard field goal, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick went for the first down and missed, giving the ball back to the Giants.

The Giants' offense got rolling on the first drive of the fourth quarter as Manning marched the Giants 80 yards on 7 plays. On the final play of the drive, Manning hit reserve wide receiver David Tyree for a five-yard touchdown and a 10-7 lead with 11:05 remaining.

After consecutive three and outs, the Patriots got the ball at their own 20 yard line with 7:54 remaining. Brady methodically moved the Patriots toward a go-ahead score and a perfect season with short passes to Kevin Faulk and Welker. With 2:42 to play, Brady found Moss for a six-yard touchdown pass to put the Patriots ahead 14-10.

Eli Manning now had 83 yards to go to spoil the Patriots' dream of a perfect season. After the game Manning said one of the critical things about the drive was the Giants were down four, which made them more aggressive instead of only trying for a field goal if they were only down by three of less.

Manning moved the Giants to their own 44 yard line, which included a fourth and one run for a first down by Brandon Jacobs. What followed is a play Giants fans will remember exactly where they were when it happened, while Patriots fans will get sick to their stomachs, at least until their next championship. On third and five, with 1:15 remaining, Manning was nearly sacked by several Patriots, he escaped and ran around avoiding defenders, then threw a prayer to the middle of the field. The prayer was caught by David Tyree, who used the side of his helmet to hold onto the ball while falling to the ground. The play went for 32 yards and gave the Giants new life. Manning then completed a 12 yard pass to Steve Smith to the Patriots 13 yard line on third and 11.

The very next play Manning threw a fade to Plaxico Burress, who beat Ellis Hobbs on a slant and go, for what would be the game winning touchdown with 35 seconds left. The touchdown and extra point made it 17-14 and was the third lead change in the fourth quarter, a Super Bowl record. It took a lot of time, but the hunter eventually became the hunted - in yet another 3-point Super Bowl margin.

As for the Patriots, they have not seriously contended for the AFC title since their heartbreaking 18-1 2007 season. Their win over the Rams in Super Bowl 36 began a dynasty and the crippling loss to the Giants in Super Bowl 42 ended the Patriots' reign on top of the NFL. For the Giants, it was lightening in a bottle. While 2008 actually produced a better overall team from the Giants, they lost their first playoff game and they missed the playoffs altogether in 2009.

1 comment:

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