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The TD controversy that wasn't

2/6/2012

INDIANAPOLIS -- Imagine the fallout if the Giants had lost. The Ahmad Bradshaw non-kneel/touchdown would've been one of the most debated plays in Super Bowl history.

Clearly, the Giants were guilty of indecisiveness. Players and coaches didn't appear to be on the same page on how to play it, with Tom Coughlin admitting Monday it would've been his fault if the Patriots had pulled it out in the final minute.

"Would I have orchestrated it differently? Perhaps," Coughlin said at Eli Manning's MVP news conference. "You certainly don’t want to leave that much time on the clock. But anything that would have become as a result of that would have been my fault because I really didn’t instruct the runner not to score."

This was the situation: With 1:04 remaining, down by two points, the Giants had the ball at the Patriots' 6. There are two schools of thought: Take the go-ahead points as soon as possible or take a knee, using clock and forcing the opponent to burn timeouts.

There's risk in both scenarios: Since 2001, kickers are 37-for-38 on game-tying or go-ahead field goals inside 26 yards with under 1:30 left, according to ESPN Stats & Information. (That's a 97.4-percent success rate.) This is how the Giants wanted to play it; they wanted to eat as much clock as possible, sending in PK Lawrence Tynes for the potential game winner. But no one told Bradshaw not to score, except for Manning yelling, "Don't score! Don't score!" as he handed him the ball.

That hardly qualifies as solid, mapped-out strategy.

We all know what happened. The Patriots' defense parted like the Red Sea, letting Bradshaw score with 57 seconds left. He pulled up at the 1 and started to take a knee, but leaned into the end zone to put the Giants ahead, 21-17. (The two-point conversion failed.)

So the Giants gave the ball to Tom Brady with just under a minute to play, 80 yards from the end zone. The Patriots' win probability, based on historical NFL data, was just 3.4 percent. That's slightly greater than the 2.6-percent failure rate on chip-shot FGs. We're splitting percentage points here, but if the Patriots had scored on that Hail Mary, wow, we'd have some controversy on our hands.