Giants vs. Patriots: 10 Things to Take Away from Super Bowl XLVI
The Super Bowl is done, and it did not disappoint the hundreds of millions of people who watched it all over the world.
For the New England Patriots and their fans, it was deja vu all over again watching Eli Manning drive the Giants down the field in the closing minutes that will be most remembered for yet another spectacular grab.
This time it was Mario Manningham reeling in a 38-yard grab with 3:19 to go that took the Giants away from their own end zone. Despite the Giants almost finding a way to lose, they held on to win 21-17 to capture their second Super Bowl in the past four years and fourth overall.
It has been an incredible run for a Giants team that many left for dead numerous times this year, starting before the first snap of the season when the team sustained a number of injuries to the defense in the preseason.
From the heroics of Manning to other players (literally) dropping the ball, this game had it all.
Here are 10 things to take away from Super Bowl XLVI.
10) No, Chad Ochocinco Was Not a Secret Weapon
There were those heading into this game who were convinced that Chad Ochocinco was going to be some ace in the hole that Bill Belichick was going to use in the Super Bowl.
After all, with just 15 catches in the regular season, the Patriots were primed to use a former Pro Bowler that everyone would have forgotten about, right?
Ochocinco had just one catch for 21 yards, and it was the only time Tom Brady threw to him all game.
The Super Bowl proved once and for all that Ochocinco never clicked in New England. If the Patriots coaching staff had any belief that Ochocinco could be relied upon, he would have been used more in the offensive game plan.
The question now is if he is someone that doesn't fit into a system, or if he's lost a step and is on his way out of the league. That will be answered next year when he's taking snaps...for another team.
9) Tom Brady Is Still a Great Quarterback
There will be those who are prisoners of the moment and start claiming that Tom Brady is overrated.
People were ready to crown Brady as one of the best quarterbacks ever if he vanquished the Giants and won his fourth title. Now many of those people will be ready to say he's just 3-2 in the Super Bowl.
Yes, Brady was outplayed by Eli Manning, as he went 27-of-41 for 276 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
But consider his main target, Rob Gronkowski, was playing at half strength and many of his receivers dropped passes at the most crucial of moments.
Make no mistake about it—Tom Brady is a great quarterback and will go down as one of the best in NFL history. With a few more pieces, the Patriots still have a great shot to go back to the Super Bowl next year and several more after that.
8) Mario Manningham Is Now a National Name
In 2011, the two Giants receivers that were routinely making headlines were Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.
But tonight, it was Mario Manningham making the play that will be remembered forever, snagging an incredible 38-yard pass with a little more than three minutes to go to take the Giants from deep in their own zone to midfield, en route to their last-minute, game-winning drive.
Since he starred at Michigan, Manningham has played a supporting role in New York. Whether it was because of Cruz and Nicks or the former Giant Steve Smith, Manningham has never had a real chance to truly shine.
Now that won't be the case, as Manningham will be etched in Super Bowl history, making the kind of catch that will be seen on Super Bowl highlights 50 years from now.
7) Rob Gronkowski Was Almost Useless
Rob Gronkowski had the most talked-about ankle in the world this week, and for good reason.
The second-year tight end set a number of NFL records for his position and had become the go-to guy in the end zone for Tom Brady. Without him at full strength, it would certainly weaken the New England offense.
While everyone tried to tell people that Gronkowski was going to be OK for the Super Bowl, it was quite clear early on that he wasn't. Overall, he had just two catches for 26 yards and was targeted three times overall.
You could make the argument the team should have never started him, though he did serve a role as a decoy at least. Ultimately, though, his limited use absolutely hurt the Patriots offense.
6) The Giants Proved That the Patriots Need a True Running Game
For much of the season, the Giants were criticized for having such a poor running game.
But both Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw got healthy at the right time and turned it up during the postseason, carrying it right through the Super Bowl.
The two men had 109 rushing yards on 26 carries while the Patriots had 83 yards on the ground. Take out a few reverses by wide receiver Wes Welker, and the Patriots running backs had just 62 yards on 17 carries.
Tom Brady can look great, especially in the regular season when he plays against a lot of inferior teams. But when the tough gets going against the NFL elite, you still need to have a competent running game to keep the opposing defense honest.
The Pats can't do that with their current personnel, and you can see why this team wasn't able to beat a single team over .500 until they beat the 10-7 Broncos in the playoffs.
5) Don't Blame the Patriots Defense
Did the Patriots give up a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter? Yes.
But consider just how criticized this defense has been all year—and why not? It deserved it.
It gave up 6,577 yards on defense this year, though it was 15th in points allowed.
Still, the Patriots defense actually played a very strong game, holding the Giants to 21 points. They sacked Manning three times, hit him another six and forced two fumbles.
Considering how porous their defense was for much of the year, the defense put the team in a position to win.
The fact is, Tom Brady should have engineered more than 21 points against a Giants defense that wasn't any prize itself, as New York became the first team in NFL history to rank outside the top 25 in terms of yards surrendered in the regular season and still win a Super Bowl.
Obviously, the Pats would have much preferred they win with that dubious record.
4) Wes Welker's 4th-Quarter Drop Ended His Time as the Patriots' Go-To Guy
Wes Welker has done a lot of good things with the New England Patriots, though he's never won an elusive Super Bowl.
He's caught an amazing 554 balls in his five seasons in New England for nearly 111 per year. While his 31 touchdowns during that time haven't exactly shattered records, he's been a guy that's come through in the clutch time and again for the Pats, while guys like Rob Gronkowski in recent years have been slamming the ball in the end zone.
But Welker's time as the go-to guy in New England may have come to an end Sunday when he dropped a critical pass with minutes to go.
Up 17-15 with 4:06 left, Brady took a 2nd-and-11 snap on the Giants' 44-yard line and saw Welker 23 yards down the field.
While the ball was a bit high and to the side, Welker jumped up to grab a ball that he'd catch 99 times out of 100. Instead, the ball fell out of his grasp. Two plays later, the Patriots were punting the ball to the Giants, who would go down and score the game-winning touchdown.
Had Welker made that grab, the odds are the Giants would have surrendered at least a field goal. Instead, the Patriots conceded possession and later the game.
A free agent this summer, the 30-year-old Welker may not even be a guarantee to return. Super Bowls can change a man's career in an instant. This play did that for Welker.
Even if he returns, the Patriots will likely continue to use their two tights ends more and more, which would take away from Welker's production.
3) Both Teams Looked Like Idiots in the Last Minute
In a game that had so many good players and two future Hall of Fame coaches, I was dumbfounded at what I was seeing when the Giants saw themselves with 1st-and-goal with a little more than a minute remaining.
With two timeouts, the Patriots were faced with a situation that if they had stopped the Giants dead in their tracks, they'd still be left trying to stop a field goal of under 30 yards with less than 30 seconds left to play.
In order to have a chance to win, it became clear to almost everyone that they needed to let the Giants score. That mindset clearly was not shared by the Patriots, though, who stopped the Giants and took one of their timeouts.
Somehow in that minute between plays, logic hit the Patriots coaches and players, because on second down, they allowed Ahmad Bradshaw to score—except they made it so obvious that Bradshaw had a perfect opportunity to take a knee on the one and allow his team to kick a field goal that would be shorter than an extra point.
Instead, Bradshaw decided to go into the end zone and allow Tom Brady a chance to take the ball with a little less than a minute to go.
It was a situation the Patriots should have gladly taken on first down, but because of their indecisiveness, they only had one timeout left. Still, Brady tried to throw numerous passes of 20 yards or less down the middle, which caused the Patriots to waste crucial seconds to clock the ball.
Still, the Patriots somehow found themselves nearly scoring on a Hail Mary on the last play of the game.
Overall, it was an incredible amount of bad play-calling and bad execution on the field during this last minute. You'd expect a lot better from two very talented teams.
2) Tom Coughlin's Roller Coaster Ends with a 2nd Title
Seven weeks ago, New York fans and the media were getting ready to write the obituary on Tom Coughlin's career with the New York Giants.
Coming off a big win at Dallas in Week 14 that put the Giants in the driver's seat to win the NFC East, Coughlin saw his team lay an absolute egg against the meek Washington Redskins the following week, losing 23-10 at home.
The game left the Giants 7-7 and out of first place. It looked like they were destined to blow a strong first half of the year by falling apart late in the year for the third straight season.
Instead of giving up, though, he saw his team beat down the New York Jets and then the Cowboys in a Week 17 game that was for all the marbles. The rest, as they say, was history.
Seven weeks ago, Coughlin was worried about getting fired. Now he's being discussed as a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame after he became the 13th coach to win two Super Bowls.
It's been a wild ride for the 65-year-old veteran that ended with him on the top of the mountain for the second time in four years.
1) Eli Manning May Be the Most Clutch Quarterback of His Generation
In a way, Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning have a lot in common.
After all, many people were ready to write off Eli Manning after he struggled his first few years in New York, with many fans ready to label him a bust.
Oh, what a difference a few years and two Super Bowl MVPs make.
Eli Manning capped off his eighth game-winning drive this year en route to his second Super Bowl victory against the Patriots. For a guy who was often criticized for being too calm and cool for New York, he's now being applauded for keeping such a mellow composure, even in the biggest of situations.
Manning has proven to be the kryptonite for Brady and the Patriots and has broken the hearts of many other NFL teams in his career.
While Manning may not have the numbers of other guys like Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or his older brother Peyton, there is no other quarterback you would want holding the ball, down a single score, in the final moments of a game.
Frankly, the only other guy I think has been this clutch since John Elway is future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner.
At 31 years of age, Manning is almost a sure bet to go to the Hall of Fame. With a young bunch of receivers and a defense that should be much healthier and better next year, this may not be the last Lombardi Trophy Eli Manning hoists before all is said and done.