NFL Nation: Super Bowl XLVI Rapid Reactions

Rapid Reaction: Giants 21, Patriots 17

February, 5, 2012
2/05/12
10:02
PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- Some initial thoughts on the New York Giants' 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI:

What it means: The Giants indeed have the Patriots' number. New York cost New England another shot at winning a fourth Super Bowl. New York has beaten the Patriots three times in a row, dating back to Super Bowl XLII. This also ruined the chance for quarterback Tom Brady to tie Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most Super Bowl victories by a starting quarterback. The Patriots were good enough to be the best team in the AFC, but they have to make some improvements and upgrades on their roster, particularly defensively, to win it all.

Defense can't hold: The Patriots' defense had a chance to hold a two-point lead with fewer than four minutes remaining. But the Giants drove 88 yards, capped by a game-winning touchdown by tailback Ahmad Bradshaw. Eli Manning completed a great, 38-yard pass to receiver Mario Manningham on the sideline to get the drive started. New England's defense played hard, but it's not an elite group that can close out games. That's something the Patriots have to improve in the offseason if they want to be a championship team.

Sloppy start: The Patriots were their own worst enemies to start the game. New England was uncharacteristically sloppy to start. Brady’s first pass was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, which led to a safety. The Patriots also had 12 men on the field on defense, which negated a fumble and eventually led to a Giants touchdown. But the Patriots fought back and took a 10-9 lead at intermission.

Brady bouncing back: The Patriots didn't win the game, but it wasn't because of Brady. You knew Brady wasn't going to have back-to-back bad games. He promised Patriots owner Robert Kraft as much. Although the start wasn't what he envisioned, Brady got hot in the second and third quarters and reeled off 16 straight completions in the second and third quarters. He finished 27-of-41 for 276 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He had a 91.1 passer rating. A key missed connection with Patriots receiver Wes Welker late in the fourth quarter might have sealed the game, but Welker failed to make a challenging catch.

What’s next: That’s it for the 2011-12 season. It turns out the Patriots were the second-best team in the NFL this season. What's next for New England and every other team is preparing for free agency and the NFL draft. Every team, including the Patriots, has holes to address. New England has plenty of cap room and high draft picks to improve the team. It will be a busy offseason in the division, so keep it locked on the AFC East blog for constant news, updates and analysis.

Rapid Reaction: Giants 21, Patriots 17

February, 5, 2012
2/05/12
10:00
PM ET

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.

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