Sunday, February 5, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Giants 21, Patriots 17
By Dan Graziano
INDIANAPOLIS -- A few thoughts from the New York Giants' 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday night in Super Bowl XLVI:
What it means: Legacy. Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin are two-time Super Bowl champions. The Giants have won their fourth Super Bowl and completed one of the most stunning in-season turnarounds in recent sports history. They were 7-7 after losing their second game of the season to the last-place Redskins but won six in a row to claim their second Super Bowl title in five years. It’s a run that at least rivals and may even top their 2007-08 run, which also culminated in a Super Bowl victory over the Patriots.
The quarterbacks: Early on, it looked as though Manning and the Giants might run away with it. The Giants' pass rush forced Patriots quarterback Tom Brady into an intentional grounding penalty in his own end zone on his first throw of the game and were rewarded with a safety and a quick 2-0 lead. Manning got the ball back off the free kick and went down the field in nine plays, hitting Victor Cruz for the touchdown that put the Giants up 9-0. They were being physical with the Patriots, dominating time of possession and more or less doing anything they wanted. Then, the pass rush dried up and Brady got hot, at one point setting a Super Bowl record with 16 consecutive pass completions as he orchestrated a touchdown drive to end the first half and one to begin the second. The quarterback play in this Super Bowl was expected to be stellar, and Manning and Brady lived up to the hype. In the end, though, it was Manning who led his team on the game-winning fourth-quarter comeback drive -- the third time in a row he’s done it to Brady and Bill Belichick. Brady had a shot at the end, but the Hail Mary didn't get answered.
The two tight end thing: The question all week was whether the injured ankle of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski would limit him in the game, and it clearly did. But it appeared as though the Giants took a while to adjust to that knowledge. They devoted much of their coverage early on to Gronkowski and not enough to the Patriots' other outstanding tight end, Aaron Hernandez, who had five catches for 40 yards in the first half and caught the touchdown pass on the Patriots' opening drive of the second half. The Giants adjusted in coverage and were able to slow down Brady better as the third quarter went along and the fourth quarter opened. Meanwhile, the Giants couldn't keep their own tight ends on the field. Travis Beckum left with a knee injury in the second quarter and Jake Ballard did the same in the fourth.
Turnovers kill: The Giants won the Super Bowl by beating the three best turnover-ratio teams in the NFL -- the Packers, 49ers and Patriots -- and winning the turnover battle in each game. Chase Blackburn's second-half interception of Brady was the only turnover in the game.
What's next: Free agency begins next month, and the Giants will triumphantly pick 32nd in the NFL draft in April. It looks to me as though offensive line might be a good target area, but that’s a discussion for another day.