From the pregame preparation through the entire game, the New York Giants made choices that put them in a position to win the game. The New England Patriots, on the other hand, did not.
Here are four decisions that allowed the New York Giants to win their second Super Bowl in five years.
Entering Super Bowl XLVI there was no doubt that the New York Giants’ defensive game plan centered on getting pressure on Tom Brady and Patriot running backs.
It was a plan that helped lead the Giants through the playoffs this year and was similar to the recipe that brought them success against New England in 2008.
The difficult piece to figure out, though, was how Bill Belichick and Tom Brady would try to combat it.
As it turned out, they could not.
The defense set the tone for the entire game on the Patriots first possession as they forced Brady into an intentional grounding penalty that led to a safety.
In choosing to relentlessly bring disruption to the pocket for the entire game, the Giants defense dared Brady to beat them down field. Not only this, but they also challenged the New England running backs to break runs to the outside. Both played out in the Giants’ favor.
Without that pressure-oriented defensive scheme, the Giants’ do not take home the Lombardi Trophy.
After the Patriots began the second half by scoring a touchdown and increasing their lead to eight, the Giants got their first turn with the football. After a few passes and runs, they found themselves on the edge of the red zone facing 4th-and-5.
Tom Coughlin and the Giants coaching staff had a decision to make.
Down by a touchdown and a two point conversion, trying for a new set of downs inside the New England 20 yard line was certainly an enticing option. However, if it failed there was a risk that New England would go back down the field and at least make it a two possession game.
That could not be allowed to happen.
Coughlin sent out Lawrence Tynes for the field goal try and he brought his team to within five. Then, at the close of the quarter Tynes kicked another one from the 15 yard line that brought the deficit to just two.
By choosing to chip away in the third quarter, Coughlin gave his team a chance to win in the fourth.
Early in the fourth quarter, with his team up by two, Tom Brady made an uncharacteristic mistake. On first down, he under threw a pass into good coverage. He decided that if he passed the ball in the vicinity of Rob Gronkowski, he would certainly be able to catch it over linebacker Chase Blackburn.
It was a choice that the Patriots will regret for some time.
Instead of a first down for the Patriots deep in New York territory, Blackburn intercepted the pass and gave the ball back to Eli Manning and the Giants offense. Even though no points directly resulted, it was the pivotal moment in the game for both teams.
If Brady decides to throw the ball away, the Patriots may have gone down the field and scored. Not only this, but he probably also chooses not to pass the ball if the Giants have someone other than Blackburn covering Gronkowski.
The interception not only stopped the Patriots’ drive, but kept momentum on the New York sideline as well. With the score 17-15, the game was still hanging in the balance.
With one timeout remaining and just less than four minutes left to play the Giants began their game winning drive on their own 12 yard line. Understanding their need to score at least three points Eli Manning immediately took to the air, completing four of five passes to bring New York to the Patriots 18 yard line.
Well within field goal range, they then set out to take time off the clock.
With Tom Brady’s history of dramatic comebacks, the Giants would not give the Patriot offense very much time with the football.
If New York had continued attacking through the air, they would have risked incomplete passes and stopping of the clock. However, by running the ball the Giants were able to get in the end zone while also forcing the Patriots to use their second timeout.
Thus when the Patriots got the ball back with 57 seconds remaining they were a one-dimensional offense. Even for Tom Brady, that proved to be too much.
The choice to manage the clock down the stretch, and not just focus on the need for points, allowed the Giants to win Super Bowl XLVI.