Super Bowl 2012: 10 Plays That Could Have Changed XLVI

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIFebruary 6, 2012

Super Bowl 2012: 10 Plays That Could Have Changed XLVI

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    Super Bowl XLVI is over and the New York Giants have beaten the New England Patriots, 21-17. Much like the 2007 version of this game, the Giants used a late drive to seal their victory.

    Throughout the game we saw numerous plays change the momentum and entire course of the matchup.

    Here are 10 plays that, had they gone differently, could have changed Super Bowl XLVI.

New York Gets Safety on First Possession

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    On the New England Patriots' first play of the game, Tom Brady was under pressure and he threw an errant pass down the middle of the field.

    It just so happened that he was in the end zone and he didn't have a receiver anywhere near the pass. It resulted in a safety, giving the ball back to the New York Giants and giving New York an early lead.

    It was a surprising mental error from Mr. Brady. Had he not made that throw, the Patriots could have driven down the field for points rather than being down 0-2 early in the first quarter.

Wes Welker's Second Quarter Reception

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    Late in the second quarter, the New England Patriots were facing a 1st-and-12 on their own 2-yard line.

    Brady dropped back and found Wes Welker for a medium gain that gave the Patriots some breathing room. New England went on to drive the ball 96 yards for a touchdown with eight seconds left in the first half.

    If Brady hadn't found Welker, it's possible that the Patriots' drive would have stalled, giving the New York Giants great field position with plenty of time to build on their 9-3 first-half lead.

3rd-and-4 in the Third Quarter for New York

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    On 3rd-and-4 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter, Eli Manning found Hakeem Nicks for a first down.

    While the reception didn't turn into a huge gain, it did keep the drive going. And with the New York Giants down 17-9 with the New England Patriots offense cruising, the Giants couldn't afford a punt.

Giants Sack Tom Brady on 3rd-and-8 in Third Quarter

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    The New York Giants had just put three points on the board, cutting the lead to five.

    In the fourth quarter, the New England Patriots were facing 3rd-and-8 with 6:44 remaining in the game. Tom Brady dropped back and literally had all day to throw the ball.

    However, the Giants had good coverage downfield and Justin Tuck was able to sack Tom Brady.

    That one play stalled the Patriots momentum and led to great field position for Eli and the Giants.

Hakeem Nicks' Fumble in Third Quarter

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    With the New York Giants down by five and driving, Eli Manning found Hakeem Nicks for a big gain down the middle of the field.

    Nicks had the ball stripped, but luckily, fullback Henry Hynoski recovered.

    Had the Giants turned it over, the New England Patriots would have successfully caused the first turnover, shifting the Super Bowl back to their favor.

Tom Brady Throws an Interception in the Fourth Quarter

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    Early in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady evaded pressure and tossed a deep pass downfield intended for tight end Rob Gronkowski.

    The pass was underthrown and Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn was able to go up and make a play on the ball. The result was an interception and another stalled drive for the New England Patriots.

Giants Call Their Second Timeout with 9 Minutes Remaining in the Game

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    With 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter and the New York Giants facing 3rd-and-5, Eli Manning had to call the team's second timeout of the half.

    In the biggest game of the year, it's simply unacceptable for a team to waste their second timeout due to poor clock management, especially with that much time remaining.

Wes Welker's Dropped Pass in Fourth Quarter

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    On 2nd-and-11 with just over four minutes remaining in the game, Tom Brady found a wide-open Wes Welker for an easy first down.

    Unfortunately, Welker dropped the pass, which led to third down. The New England Patriots were unable to convert and were forced to punt.

    That play gave the New York Giants the ball back with plenty of time to retake the lead.

Mario Manningham Keeps Both Feet in Bounds

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    The New York Giants were down by two points with just under four minutes remaining in the game.

    On the first play of the drive, Eli Manning stepped into the pocket and launched a pass down the sideline to Mario Manningham.

    Manningham made a spectacular 38-yard reception (the longest play of the game), breathing new life into the Giants.

Ahmad Bradshaw Doesn't Stop at the 1-Yard Line

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    With one minute remaining in the game and the New York Giants within the 10-yard line, the game looked all but over. All New York had to do was run the clock down, kick a field goal and bask in the glory of being crowned Super Bowl champions.

    Unfortunately, Ahmad Bradshaw thought differently. He took the handoff, sprinted up the middle and stopped for a brief moment at the 1-yard line in an attempt to drain the clock even further.

    The moment didn't last long enough, as Bradshaw fell backwards into the end zone, giving the Giants the lead. More importantly, it gave Brady and the Pats plenty of time to possibly work their magic.

    If Bradshaw falls down as he should, the Giants kick a last-second field goal and win the game, without the rest of the drama.