Super Bowl 2012: The One Play That Decided the Championship

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Super Bowl 2012: The One Play That Decided the Championship
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The biggest play of Super Bowl XLVI was not the game-winning touchdown by New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw, the over-the-shoulder sideline catch by wide receiver Mario Manningham or the crucial drop by New England Patriots' sure-handed pass-catcher Wes Welker late in the fourth quarter.

It was a play earlier in the quarter that meant so much more.

With the Patriots up 17-15 in the early stages of the final stanza following a remarkable interception by Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn at his own 8, on second down of the subsequent New York drive, Bradshaw was stripped of the football by Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes.

For a moment the ball laid free on the ground, waiting to be scooped up by a New England defender. It wasn't, however.

The fumble was recovered by Giants offensive lineman Chris Snee.

Although Eli Manning and Co. were forced to punt eight plays later, the Patriots missed out on an opportunity to change the complexion of the game by recovering the fumble and possibly scoring to significantly increase their slim lead.

It was the second Giants fumble of the game that the offense was fortunate enough to recover. Hakeem Nicks put the ball on the ground after catching a 17-yard pass in the third quarter, but New York fullback Henry Hynoski recovered the ball at the 33-yard line.

New England was stuck on 17 points for the rest of the game, while the Giants played solid defense and were able to make one final late game drive down the field to secure their second world championship in five years.

Until next year's Super Bowl, we can play the "What if?" game about the 133 plays run in the biggest game of the season. It just goes to show you that wins, losses and championships are decided by a bounce of the ball, and inches and guys making the most of being in the right place at the right time.

As a result, the Giants are holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy instead of the Patriots.

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