Audibles at the Line
Unfiltered in-game observations by Football Outsiders staff

Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

New York Giants 17 "at" New England Patriots 14

Mike Tanier: Best first quarter ever. Two good drives, clock keeps moving. 7:05 p.m. and we are a quarter of the way home. Last year's Super Bowl took three days.

(Eli Manning throws a pick to Ellis Hobbs at the New England 10-yard line with 12 minutes left in the second quarter.)

Sean McCormick: Ellis Hobbs was borrowing Jimmy Hitchcock's eyes on that play. Bad luck for Eli, but even so, the early story is the tremendous job of blitz pickup the Giants' backs are doing.

Aaron Schatz: In the second quarter, do you believe the officials should have thrown a flag on Amani Toomer when he pushed Ellis Hobbs away by the facemask, then made that great catch on the sideline? I think that was clearly offensive pass interference, although I don't take anything away from Toomer's good job getting the feet down in bounds.

Regarding penalties, clearly the officials have swallowed the whistles on holding, just like the rest of the playoffs. Since they are doing it equally for both offenses, it isn't that big a deal.

Sean McCormick: That was offensive pass interference. I would say that if the refs are going to let the players play, then it was reasonable not to call it, because Hobbs was using his hands as well and you can say both players were fighting to locate the ball. But I wouldn't have had a problem with an official throwing a flag on that play.

Ryan Wilson: Well, if it's a penalty against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL, it should be here, I think. Also, I didn't think that was a delay of game on Eli Manning. The play clock just hit zero and I've never seen it called that early.

Mike Tanier: The Toomer catch should have been OPI. There was mutual contact but its hard to ignore a hand to the facemask.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots need to stop sending five defenders. It is not working. Manning is fine against five. The Giants pick it up. Either send six, or send the traditional four and make sure guys are covered.

And color me shocked that the Patriots did not throw a challenge flag on the blown handoff to Ahmad Bradshaw, ruling that Pierre Woods recovered the ball and was down by contact. That was a major field position play if the Patriots win that challenge.

Russell Levine: Worse call obviously on the non-fumble recovery. That is New England ball. That is a challengeable play, is it not? Woods was clearly on the ball in possession when he was touched down.

Looked to me early on that Tom Brady was not comfortable. He failed to spot a couple of open guys and misfired a couple times.

(Late in the first half, the Patriots convert a long third down to escape the shadow of their own end zone.)

That first down conversion to Donte Stallworth on third-and-13 could end up being one of the key plays of the game even if New England doesn't score before half.

Sean McCormick: Beautiful play design, and yes, it could well prove to be a crucial play.

(The Patriots didn't score; Brady fumbled with about 15 seconds left in the half, and the ball was recovered by Osi Umenyiora.)

Aaron Schatz: And at halftime, the story of the game is that the Pats offensive line is getting completely destroyed, but the Giants offense has also looked pretty bad except for the first drive.

Doug Farrar: That's been the surprise to me through the first half. New England's line has been a clear liability. The Giants know that not even Tom Brady can get a big play off if he's running for his life all the time. Justin Tuck might earn his entire new $30 million contract in this game alone.

Also, I gained a new level of respect for Ahmad Bradshaw when I saw him carry Ty Warren about five yards. That guy's not just a scatback. I know that winning the physical battle isn't New England's game, but they have to be concerned about the fact that they're really getting pushed around.

Mike Tanier: In the first half, the Giants have been doing it with a mix of really daring blitzes and out-of-the-mind play by their big three pass rushers. But the Patriots are complicit because they are barely using their flats-and-short-crosses game. Their few screens were mostly effective. In the second half they are going to have to run more quick-strike stuff, especially if the Giants are going to send safeties.

Sean McCormick: The second half is probably going to come down to the conditioning of the Giants defensive line. In all of the Patriots comeback games -- against Indy, against Baltimore and the first Giants game -- the offense was able to make big plays in the fourth quarter after the pass rush slowed down. This is the best pass rush in football, and the Giants have the depth to hold up, but they tired down in the regular season game and it sprung Randy Moss for the deep touchdown. The Giants offense is going to continue to move the ball, and they'll probably score points But it's going to come down to the defensive line, I suspect.

Mike Tanier: Clunk. Tom Petty started "Free Fallin'" and I died of boredom. Can we get Air Supply next year?

Doug Farrar: Agreed. Anyone who actually survived the "Five Hours of Frank Caliendo" pregame show deserved better.

Sean McCormick: So, through three quarters, where does this defensive performance rank? If anything, it seems like the Giants have been more dominating than the 1990 team was against Buffalo or the 2001 Pats were against the Rams. Both those offenses moved up and down the field, but the Giants have really tamped down the yardage.

Doug Farrar: The front seven has performed as well as any I've seen in a Super Bowl. Thomas Boswell wrote a wonderful article about Mike Schmidt and Robin Yount many years ago in which he talked about the fact that we sometimes don't really understand true greatness until the player who had it retires. We know Michael Strahan because of the gap-toothed smile and the fact that he's funny and a smooth talker, and we know that he's a future Hall of Famer, but how many 36-year-old defensive ends do you know who can sack a quarterback before the guy blocking him can get out of his stance, then deflect a freakin' screen pass on a different play? Truly amazing.

Bill Belichick is going to hate himself for not taking the three and going for it on fourth down halfway through the third quarter. Aggressiveness index or not. And I wrote this before the David Tyree touchdown drive. They didn't make the Giants pay for the Eli pick, nor did they make them pay for the Chase Blackburn 12-men-on-the-field thing.

(Tom Brady throws a six-yard touchdown to Randy Moss with 2:45 left in the game, putting the Patriots up, 14-10.)

Russell Levine: Brutal decision by the Giants to go man up on Moss with no safety help on the go-ahead touchdown. Hard to fault anything about the defensive effort tonight, but that was a head-scratcher.

And David Tyree etches his name in Giants lore with that catch at the 1:15 mark, converting the third down, extending the drive, and joining Stephen Baker in Giants lore.

(Eli Manning ends the drive that was punctuated by the Tyree catch with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress. The Giants win Super Bowl XLII, possibly the biggest upset in Super Bowl history.)

Mike Tanier: Well, that was intense.

One of the worst-called games by the Belichick coaching staff that I have seen. The fourth-and-13 was nuts, I hated the first-half offensive game plan, and I hated that single-coverage call at the end against Plaxico.

Absolutely amazing performance by the Giants defensive line. Count not just the sacks but the other plays, like Strahan breaking up that dumpoff to Kevin Faulk and all the times Laurence Maroney got stuffed. Amazing effort by the defensive staff to design that game plan, but a lot of it was just man-on-man dominance.

Brady had little time to throw, but he made some awful passes. Really bad game for him. Awful game for Matt Light. Awful game for Ross Hochstein. Rodney Harrison ... it wasn't just the Tyree catch; there were a lot of places where he was just a step too late or slow.

So much of this game was field position. The Patriots always had to drive 85 yards. That's why I wondered about the fourth-and-13. The Giants got the ball back and were able to play punt-and-pin again. The Giants touchdown drives were both long, but the first one could have been longer if Hanson had pinned them at the 10 instead of punting through the end zone.

This game was just another reminder of how much this sport is a game of inches and seconds. Eli eluding a sack by the fabric on his jersey. Tyree pinning the ball to his helmet. Bradshaw clawing the ball away from that linebacker in the pile. Jacobs' head and shoulders following through over Rich Seubert's body on that fourth-and-1 at the end. Suddenly we are watching the biggest upset since at least Super Bowl III.

Stuart Fraser: Strahan or Tuck should be MVP, not Eli. You don't give an offensive player the MVP award when his team scored 17 points.

Vince Verhei: I agree with you, but Tom Brady once won Super Bowl MVP for an offense that scored 13 points.

Stuart Fraser: The Any Given Sunday about this one is both really short and really long. The short version is "The Giants D-Line absolutely took the game over."

A slightly longer version notes that the Giants linebackers and secondary tackled very well, limiting the yards after catch on short passes that often kill teams going against the Patriots. After the first Giants game, we talked about how the Patriots were like Tiger Woods, how they could be beaten, but you had to execute to the best of their ability play after play after play, drive after drive. You know what? The Giants' defense did just that tonight. Congratulations to them, and to Steve Spagnuolo for the game plan. I wish him luck as head coach of the Redskins, because I think he just won that job tonight.

Whilst the Giants were playing the perfect game -- at least on one side of the ball -- the New England offense was misfiring on almost all cylinders. Maybe it wasn't 2001 or 1985, but 2005: the AFC Divisional round, where the sixth seed Steelers stopped the AFC's No. 1 Indianapolis offense with a pass rush, and the offense did enough to win out. Brady's stats -- 29 of 48 (60.4 percent) for 266 yards and a touchdown -- echo Manning's 22 of 38 (57.9 percent) for 290 yards and a touchdown, and each was sacked five times. The Patriots almost managed to win anyway -- and if they'd gone to the short passing game with both Moss and Wes Welker in the first half, maybe we'd be talking about Belichick's genius for adjustment again.

But while the offensive game plan for New England (and the call to leave Hobbs man-up on Plaxico Burress for the winning score, because we didn't learn that this was a bad idea on the freaking first series of the previous matchup, not at all) was horrid, the execution was worse. Rushers came unblocked much of the time. Brady handled the pressure poorly -- I mean, he was being hit all the time in the first Giants game, too, but it didn't seem to slow him down all that much. Maybe he was more injured than the Patriots let on.

And where do we put the 2007 Patriots in the sporting pantheon? Now it's easy: Best team not to win the Super Bowl.

Doug Farrar: They are absolutely the 1968 Colts, in my mind. Same "best team ever?" speculation, their quarterback was the NFL MVP, and they were beaten by a team that had weathered some major regular season struggles to win while the "better" team struggled in the big game. That Colts team won their Super Bowl two years later, so we'll just have to see what this means for the Patriots. Of course, Don Shula and Earl Morrall rose from that defeat to find perfection with the '72 Dolphins. But that's the question for the Pats now -- are they the 1968 Colts, with enough left in the tank for another run, or are they the 2001 Rams, where it's all about to go downhill and stay there for a while?

Sean McCormick: Another parallel with 2001: Remember how the Pats played the Rams unexpectedly tough but lost, then went on to not lose another game all year? It's more impressive when you get that loss in Week 8 than Week 17, but you can argue that the same dynamic was in effect. The Giants clearly used that game as a springboard.

Russell Levine: It seems that perhaps an older Pats team wore down at the end of the year. They had to grind out a few over the second half of the season and appeared beatable in all three playoff games. The accusations of running up the score against Washington, et al., seem like a long time ago.

Ridiculously early speculation, part I: You have to wonder how the Pats will bounce back from this. They suddenly look mortal, and the defense is awfully long in the tooth. Asante Samuel could be gone. They're potentially staring at an off-season spent combating more allegations and, if they're proven, further sanctions. They're already missing a No. 1 pick. I can't imagine they won't be huge favorites heading into next season, but watching their psyche next year should be awfully interesting.

Sean McCormick: In Vegas, maybe. Looking at the likely personnel changes, I would give San Diego the best odds of winning next year, followed by Indianapolis. New England would be third. As you said, they looked old and worn out, and they're going to be losing a lot on defense in the offseason.

Mike Tanier: Junior Seau should go. Harrison should go. But they still have a very young core.

Stuart Fraser: They're missing a No. 1 pick. They have San Francisco's, which is substantially higher than the No. 31 they've forfeited.

If they can bring back Randy Moss, then all the key components of the offense remain in place. I'm sure Belichick (assuming he's back and Spygate doesn't become a critical mess) is capable of doing what Tony Dungy has done, and holding together a defense which is good enough despite the roster turnover.

Also, frankly, who else is going to win the AFC East?

Vince Verhei: I'm trying to find a metaphor that describes my surprise.

I feel like I have learned which religion is correct, and it is not my own.

I feel like aliens have been walking among us, and they have chosen to reveal themselves en masse.

I feel like my life has been one great science experiment, and I am not in the control group.

I've got a mini-notebook filled with play-by-play notes and reactions, but ... we all saw the game. The Patriots' pass protection was futile. If the Giants blitzed, the blitzer came through unblocked. If they rushed four, those four got pressure anyway. The Patriots were outschemed (Steve Spagnuolo is a genius) and outmanned.

When Brady did have time, he was highly erratic. One example: He's got Randy Moss open on first-and-goal in the fourth quarter, and throws it way high and outside. Didn't matter much, because he found him on third down, but it was the most notable example of his un-Brady day.

The Patriots got away from their identity for the first 55 minutes of this game. Where were the slants and quick outs? They didn't show up until that last touchdown drive. It seemed like Brady was looking for the home run every play, and some of those sacks came because he held the ball too long.

I still can't believe this, but the Patriots were completely outcoached today.

I'm not sure what exactly to say about the Giants offense vs. the Patriots defense -- that's the only part of this game that went largely as expected. Eli Manning was great again, really going without a turnover (that interception was clearly not his fault, and the Giants recovered both of his fumbles) and leading two go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter. Is that a Super Bowl first?

So, here's what we say about the Giants: They were a very ordinary team for 17 weeks. They then caught absolute fire (Has any team ever beaten three better teams than Dallas/Green Bay/New England in the playoffs?) and won the Super Bowl. Why did that catch us off guard? Because there was no indication this was going to happen. It's unprecedented. It's inexplicable. It defies all rational thought.

Unfortunate advertising note: The NFL Network is doing a replay of the game on Wednesday. The commercial for this replay (which has been running for days) ends with Tedy Bruschi pumping his fist and screaming "That's how you finish!" Oh boy.

And I do not understand the fourth-and-13 call, particularly because they opted to punt on fourth-and-2 in the same drive before being bailed out by the 12-men penalty. I mean, fourth-and-13? Even if you're worried about a missed field goal moving the ball back eight yards further, well, I'd punt the ball from there before I'd go for it, and no, I'm not kidding. Worst-case scenario if you punt, Giants have the ball at the 20, instead of getting it at the 31, which is what actually happened. Really, that just made no sense at all. Which I guess makes it perfect for this day.

Stuart Fraser: Something else to think about: It's time to re-evaluate Tom Coughlin. He made the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars a winning team from their second year, and gave the franchise an identity it's held onto with Jack Del Rio and would be a widely recognized success story if it weren't stuck in Jacksonville.

He turned Tiki Barber into a great back, much as Barber is loath to admit this. He was smart enough -- and man enough -- to know when a coaching style wasn't working in New York and changed it to suit his players. And now he's won a ring and he's clearly out-coached Bill Belichick in so doing. He's 103-89, which is pretty much the same winning percentage as Jeff Fisher -- and he did most of it with an expansion team. Maybe he's not quite up there with the absolute best, but he's laid down another piece of what's shaping up to be a pretty good legacy.

Aaron Schatz: As far as Coughlin, nobody ever said he was not a good in-game coach. What we said was that his personality wore down his players over a few years, and we all believed we had gotten to that point. Clearly, he dramatically altered the way he interacted with his players this year, and it was very successful come the postseason. He gets a lot of credit for that. It's one thing to change your play-calling strategy. Not everyone can take a step back and say, "Wow, I'm an a**hole and it is hurting my ability to get the most from my employees. I need to change." -- and then actually change, and succeed. It is impressive.

Oh, and Jeff Feagles was swell. Someone should mention that.

Doug Farrar: I'm glad we're talking as much about the Giants as we are, because I think it would be horribly unfair to tell the story of this Super Bowl as the game the Patriots lost, not the game the Giants won. A lot of people are going to do that, and it's just not right.

As much as Brady was off with his passes, the Giants' pass rush was tripping him up all day, and Justin Tuck should have been the MVP, because he stopped Brady from being able to step up and throw when the pressure came from the sides, and Brady finally had the chance to go play action only late in the game when that front four tired out. The New England offensive line played like crap, but that was as good a front seven as you'll ever see in a Super Bowl. Antonio Pierce was a freak with the screens and outside runs. New England couldn't get anything going long because they didn't have time, and they couldn't get consistent short gains because the defense was set up for that as well.

There are a few comparisons that come to mind. Aaron and I had a long phone conversation after the game, and we were gong through the different trends and comparisons. Vince said it best -- there is no historical precedent for this. The 2001 Pats got hot a lot earlier in the season. The 2005 Steelers, who beat the NFL's best offenses on the road on the way to their championship, were rated far higher by FO's numbers -- better in team efficiency than the Seahawks. The 2006 Colts got hot later, but we know that they were good enough to win from what they had done in their previous year. The 2003 Panthers were a bit more decisive in the playoffs, and they didn't beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

I don't think there is a Giants comparison, unless we go back through the 12 years of game-by-game DVOA we have and look for trend graphs which indicate teams that got very hot late, so that we can maybe, just maybe, explain why the hell this happened. Aaron mentioned to me the fact that had FO existed in 2001, he would have been all over the Rams to beat the Pats in the Super Bowl, because while there was a perceived chance that New England could win, the Rams were on the tail end of their "greatest of all time" swing.

We like to think that we can use DVOA 5.0 (or 6.0 or 7.0, eventually) to map it all out, but we know we can't cover it all. There are intangibles such as emotion and chemistry and contrasting hot and cold streaks, and the sheer weight of momentum that defines a team either way. I thought that the Pats would win this game by 30, because I didn't think that I'd see the New England team I'd seen over the last six weeks -- the one that has won game after game by the thinnest of margins on borrowed time. In each of those games (except the Baltimore game, which they should have lost and somehow just didn't), glaring vulnerabilities were covered up by excellence in other areas. Well, I was right. I didn't see the team I had seen before. I saw the team with all of those vulnerabilities and none of the compensatory aspects that would have won the game.

And the Giants were a juggernaut. What an unbelievable performance. I want the Seahawks to fire Jim Mora and hire Steve Spagnuolo as Mike Holmgren's replacement. I want Brandon Mebane to play like Justin Tuck and Patrick Kerney to be half as good as Michael Strahan in six years. I want Shaun Alexander to carry Ty Warren on his back for five yards instead of getting tackled for losses by waterboys. I love physical teams, and I'm just jealous.

Aaron Schatz: I don't understand the fourth-and-13 either. Belichick coached horribly tonight, the offensive line was horrible, Brady looked bad -- but at least give Brady credit for leading a game-winning drive. The fact that the defense couldn't hold that lead doesn't make it less impressive, just like the failure of the Carolina defense in 2003 didn't make Jake Delhomme's performance any less impressive. This is two straight years the Patriots have blown the last game in the fourth quarter, and it is time to accept that they need younger linebackers and more depth.

The Giants' defensive line is amazing. The MVP of this game should have been given to Tuck, Strahan, Umenyiora, all together. Eli Manning was impressive again, although giving him the MVP is silly. The interception wasn't even really a bad throw. The Washington Redskins are insane if they do not offer their head coaching job to Steve Spagnuolo after this. I feel very good for Michael Strahan, a sure Hall of Famer who finally got a ring. I feel terrible for Junior Seau, a sure Hall of Famer who did not.

And don't forget Jacksonville when you talk about the teams most likely to knock the Pats off their perch next year.

Pat Laverty: I think one aspect of the defensive scheme that's being overlooked is the Giants' linebackers. The counter to that kind of DLine pressure is screens. The Patriots are the best in the business at running the screen and they tried it many times, but each time they did, it seemed that Maroney/Faulk/Welker just got hit by Mitchell/Pierce/et al as soon as they touched the ball. It seemed the Giants' linebackers had it sniffed out really well and shed the blockers really well.

Tuck/Strahan/Osi can get all the pressure they want on Brady, but if he's dumping off for 15-20 yard screen plays, Tuck doesn't look so good. The play of the linebackers in taking away the screens forced Brady to look a little more downfield and sit in the pocket for another moment or so.

Aaron Schatz: This is definitely a place where Spagnuolo's scheme for the Super Bowl took away what was a clear weakness of the Giants defense in the regular season.

Ned Macey: Analytically, I think an even better comparison for the Pats is the 1999 Rams. That team had an offense come out of nowhere and just throttle teams. By the playoffs, teams had adjusted, and they won two low-scoring defensive struggles to escape with a Super Bowl. Their full-season DVOA and Pythagorean ratings are through the roof because they pounded teams early.

My point is that the Pats' overall metrics were inflated because of the newness of their offense. Once countered, they became merely great rather than otherworldly.

New England's offensive DVOA averaged 51.1% through eight games. The last 8 weeks, it averaged 34.5% which is in line with other great offenses. I think this offense, once figured out, is no better than the Greatest Show on Turf or the great Colts offenses. Those are teams with a history of proving they can lose a playoff game.

To go further, their scoring differential through eight games was 331-127. The second half of the year, it was 258-147. We explained it away, naturally enough, as bad weather or the weight of the undefeated season, but I suspect that these Pats were not as good as we thought they were. Of course, I have free access to write whatever I want and never had the balls to write this until after they were upset in the Super Bowl. Still, hindsight is 20/20, and the Pats were definitively not dominant in the second half of the season.

I think everyone's reaction to Spagnuolo is a little odd. The Giants, to our eyes, were an average team who got on a hot streak. Their defense was an average defense who got on a hot streak (and, per Aaron in the preview, didn't really improve in the playoffs until the Super Bowl.) In the regular season, they were no better than they were the year before.

Then, they have one great game against what I suspect was a wildly overconfident opponent, and we're sure this guy is a coaching legend in the making? I'm not saying he won't be great, but if the Giants win was just "anything can happen in one game," I'm going to hold the same standard to the defensive coordinator. Especially since he got abused by this same team in Week 17; somehow I doubt he was holding plays for an eventual Super Bowl at that time.

Finally, in Super Bowl XXXVI against the Rams, Brady was 16-for-27 for 145 yards with one touchdown, and the offense scored 13 points. Today, he was 29-for-48 for 266 with one touchdown, and the offense scored 14 points. One time he was Super Bowl MVP, and the other time, he had a bad game.

Stuart Fraser: There was, maybe, one indicator from the Week 17 game we might have missed, though I don't know if we even have game charting data on it yet. The Giants had a ton of QB hits and hurries in that game. The Patriots barely got to Eli until the fourth quarter. We think, but haven't shown, that hits/hurries are often a harbinger of sacks to come. Well, certainly happened here. I wonder if in some way the Arizona surface was easier to play on for the Giants' speed rushers over the Patriots larger linemen when compared to the Meadowlands. Maybe New York just played better. Maybe the linemen the Patriots used in the first game are actually better pass protectors than the guys ahead of them on the depth chart, at least against the sort of rush the Giants brought.

This is the third straight year that a team has come from nowhere (or some value of nowhere) to win the Super Bowl. DVOA 5.0 is 1-for-3 on picking these out (it thinks the 2005 Steelers were about 5 percent off the #1 Colts). Unfortunately, the Super Bowl it picked was kind of retrospective.

It seems in general that maybe we're entering a different era here, where regular season performance is, for whatever reason, less indicative of playoff performance. A commenter on the board noted how the wild cards have had greater success since the NFL went to 32 teams, so maybe that's part of the cause. Maybe it's a change in the frequency of injuries - there's no such thing as avoiding injuries in the regular season, but the teams that break out in the playoffs are always pretty healthy.

Obviously we'll have to look at the Giants -- and the Patriots -- to see if there's anything we should have seen. It'd be nice to have DVOA for the run and shoot offenses of the early 1990's, to see if DVOA was systematically overrating the Patriots for some reason - I don't see why it should be, but I'm kind of used to the experimental data confounding expectations. I can't see any way we could have predicted this, but... well, we still have to look.

Aaron Schatz: I should clear up a misconception about the improvements we made to the formula in 2006. I didn't spend a month doing numbers with the express goal of making the 2005 Steelers look better than the 2005 Seahawks. The goal was to make the numbers correlate better to winning and from one year to the next over a 10-year period, not a one-year period. The fact that the changes moved the 2005 Steelers up to third in the league that year are simply a coincidence.

As far as this team, nothing that has happened for the past month changes the fact that the Giants were mediocre during the regular season. The indicators just weren't there. This team gave up 44 points to Tarvaris Jackson and the Minnesota Vikings less than two months ago. That's what makes this accomplishment remarkable. That's why the Giants will go down in history for doing something incredible -- not by luck, but by not accepting their regular-season level of mediocrity, and raising their game for the postseason, and overcoming the hardest schedule of opponents of any Super Bowl champion in history, and taking down the team that had just completed the greatest regular season ever. The proper response to an upset is to celebrate success, not to rejoice in failure.

As for me as a Patriots fan, I'm surprisingly serene about the loss. Obviously, it is a disappointment, but they were outplayed. The better team for five months isn't always the better team over a three-hour period, and you don't get the trophy for being better over five months. We learned that in 2001 when we were on the other end of this. The fact is, we got three championships out of this team. We've had seven years of winning football. This year was an amazing ride. This team added a lot more happiness to my life over the last few years than it did sadness last night. Furthermore, that had to be one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever played. Bummer for my team, but man, it was a really exciting game, especially if you like defense.

Onwards to 2008. In a couple days, we'll start talking about how to rebuild the Atlanta Falcons, and the whole cycle starts anew.

(P.S. We apologize for the problems our hosting company seems to be having today... this time it isn't even our server specifically.)

Comments

351 comments, Last at 09 Feb 2013, 12:02am

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

First, congratulations to the New York Football Giants. They outplayed AND outcoached the Patriots and deserved to win.

Some comments:
* First, to the retirees:
Troy Brown -- thanks for a great career. Sorry you didn't have the chance to come on the field once this year for a swan song. I hope the Pats find a place for you in the front office.
Junior Seau -- thanks for two good years and stepping it up this year. Enjoy going back to surfing.
Tedy Bruschi -- thanks for a great career, but please be willing to retire so you won't suffer the indignity of being cut next near.

* Maybe Josh McDaniels should have been more aggressive towards those HC sports earlier. He dimmed his star considerably with an atrocious offensive game plan. Yes, the Giants' front 7 (esp. the front 4) played superbly, but in an ironically Martizan display of hubris (this time you're right, Aaron), the Pats tried nothing to adjust for it.

* Belichick was a poor sport for walking off the field with 0:01 remaining (at least he shook Coughlin's hand).

* A TD will lose the game. So HOW THE HELL can you call a jailbreak blitz and put Hobbs one-on-one against Burress? That really needs to be explained.

* Definitely frustrating to see the Pats D blow two game-ending plays (dropped INT by Samuel on final drive and the missed sack on Tyree's catch).

* And speaking of Tyree's catch -- WOW. That's an all-time Superbowl highlight play.

* Can we all agree that Rich Conley is right about Matt Light and Nick Kazcur?

* I thought the close up of Tom Brady (the play after they showed him yelling at some receiver) was very telling -- he looked totally lost and mentally beaten.

* Moss was right in his comment about not understanding the Pats not matching the Giants' intensity (though I would limit that to the offensive side of the ball -- I thought the Pats D played well all game until the final drive).

* Any Pats fan who complains about officiating costing NE the game is an ass.

* While I agreed with going for it on 4th and 13 from 32 (instead of the FG attempt or a punt), I wish that (given they didn't trust Gostkowski there) they had played for 4 downs and make a better 3rd down playcall.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Comments on the Audibles not on the game (which was the most fun I've had watching a super bowl in ages).

1. Hey FO, stop b*tching about the officiating already. It is beyond boring. You want to complain about Toomer's perhaps-OPI? How about the absolutley ridiculous spot Faulk got on that 2d down screen pass on the Pats 1 scoring drive in the first half? We rewound the DVR and his knee was down with the ball at least 1.5 yards short of the spot, for what would have been 3rd and 1 or 2. We can go on endlessly like this, but how is that interesting? Maybe you should link to another site: official-whining.com

2. And where do we put the 2007 Patriots in the sporting pantheon? Now it’s easy: Best team not to win the Super Bowl. I'll get t-shirts made up for the pats-loving FO writers.

3. How can there be not a single comment on Belichick walking off (and leading his team off) the field with time still left on the clock? The ref is clearly trying to stop him and tell him to go back, and Belichick pushes right past him. How is this not worth mentioning? Like I posted 2 weeks ago, I never gave any credence to complaints about Pats bias here, but the last month or so has made it impossible not to recognize some real bias (different than being a fan -- actual bias).

4. Why does so much of the talk about next year for the pats focus on how old the D is? The Pats lost this game with their O, not their D. You hold an opponent to 17 points, and your D has done its job (long opening drive or not).

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

A few observations:

* Why doesn't Belichick trust Gostkowski on long FGs? Those seemed like perfect kicking conditions last night, Gostkowski had put an earlier kickoff in the end zone, and I doubt he would have passed up the 49-yarder with the Vinatieri of old.

* 19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England's Unbeatable Patriots is currently the #16 book on Amazon (and has been for at least the last 8 hours). All those sales will be refunded, of course.

* I can't believe how well the majority of Patriot fans are taking this loss. Even Bill Simmons is gracious in defeat.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Hahaha! The pats are the biggest choke artist of our generation. Any Pats fan who says he still happy about the 18 wins is a liar. No Colts fan was happy about 14 wins. The pats made history. They choked harder than any team, ever.

Anyone who says the pats are the best team to not win the superbowl is pathetic. Just like the patriots pathetic choke job.

Did I say choke? Okay, just making sure.

Today is a great day for football fans. Flowers smell better, the sun is shining brighter, and pats fans are calling in sick, trying to hide their tears.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

#1 - Can someone restate what Rich Conley said about Matt Light and Nick Kazcur?

#2 - Everyone so far agrees that the Giants outplayed the Patriots, so in that sense the better team won. However, I don't think there is any way of "tweaking" DVOA to see this coming.

#3 - Is it possible that maybe the best predictor of the SB outcome is now playoff HFA-adjusted DVOA? I believe that from 2004 to 2007, this may be true. 2001 is the last year I can think of that the SB winner played markedly worse in the preceding playoff games than the SB loser. Is there any other historical data to support this hypothesis?

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I disagree that the Patriots were greatly outcoached last night. I think Belichick took necessary risks in his attempt to win the game. I liked the call to go for it on 4th and 13. For one, there is absolutely no gaurantee that they would pin the Giants with a punt. Second, Gostkowski hasn't even attempted a kick that long this year (as far as I know). Finally, they were in a grey area: close to the EZ, and had a shot at getting a TD against a pass rush that was absolutely abusing them to that point. I think if the converted and eventually scored, we'd be talking about Belichick's brilliance for risk management and a turning point in the game.

As for the lack of adjustments, I'm not sure what adjustments they can make. We've known that the Patriots' heel was the pass rush. You think that's because it takes the deep ball to moss out of the picture, but their entire offense is predicated on the deep ball, or the threat of the deep ball. If you're getting good pressure, you don't have a credible deep threat. If Moss were a better route runner, then you could give him some mid-routes to get favorable coverages, but he can't do that. Without a deep threat, Welker's stupid drag ad infinitum isn't nearly the threat that it is when you're scared of them taking it to the house. Their pass-catching RB was injured, and your other RB has terrible hands. What are they supposed to do? I guess more screens, but the Giants LBs had an excellent game, also. They tried running it and got something like 2 ypc. I understand Belichick's frustration, because not only did the defense identify the root of the Pats' offense and destroy it, the Giants' offense did the unthinkable and started, if the interviews are correct, making plays up in the middle of the game. If your opponent does that, I don't know what you're supposed to do, no matter how good a coach you are.

Just generally a fantastic game. I'm off to watch Tyree's catch over and over and over again.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

"Well, if it’s a penalty against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL, it should be here, I think. "

Maybe one year I'll stop having nightmares about that and playing what if games in my head. Maybe one year...

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Well, the officiating *was* wacky. It felt like there was a definite pro-Patriot slant early and a pro-Giant slant late. Except for the delay of game penalty, though, the officiating was pretty consistently hands-off and had minimal impact on the outcome of the game. Which, in the end, is about all that can be asked for.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

#3 When you allow an opening drive of 9+ minutes, you fail to stop the QB after it appears 3 players have a piece of him, you miss nearly all the interception opportunities and the entire defense looks tired for most of the 2nd half, it might not be completely wrong to suggest that there may be some work needed on the defense.

There seems to have been something of an over reaction to FO suggesting that the Pats would win. I don't see the bias and I'm reasonably convinced that had the Colts or Chargers had the season the Pats had, they would have been favoured over the Giants as well.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

First, congratulations to the Giants fans. I doubted your team had it in them, and they very nearly didn't thanks to some costly nearly lost fumbles and nearly caught interceptions, but your defense pulled it out. Justin Tuck should have been the MVP. In the end, 18-1 was hilarious.

Ringing in my mind right now is a comment Andy Reid made to Angelo Cataldi on 610WIP last year, the sports radio channel in Philly about wideouts and defensive ends. "A good pass rusher is more important than a good pass catcher." Cataldi was of course incredulous since he's been campaigning for a new #1 since Owens left town, but we saw it very clearly last night.

In the poker game of football, 4 Aces beats a Brady and a Moss. 4 Aces also makes Spagnuolo look like a genius, which makes me wonder just how bad the linebacking talent was that he was left to work with here.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

People have to remember that Audibles is fans watching a game, not statisticians watching a sample or journalists reporting an event. It does come off as homerish, but really it should.

Evil Bill Gates is a jerk.

And it was nice to see it mentioned that the T-Jack led Vikings are better than the World Champions. :)

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Gostkowski must have been hurt on the 4th and 13. Maybe he tweaked something on the opening kickoff; his other kickoff in the first half was awful. I don't care what the sideline reporter said, nobody on the Pats sideline is going to tell him the kicker is gimpy.

As for the game, I have the utmost respect for the Pats. They really gave it their very best effort, hung in there for four quarters and gave the Giants all they could handle. A very worthy opponent.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I think the comments about Coughlin were dead on. The guy realized he had to change because the way he was coaching wasn't working - and he was able to do it. That took guts, humility, and determination.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I think what Aaron meant to say is that what happened to the Patriots is referred to as "going full Kotite."

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Random thoughts:

Snide Snyder prediction: McDaniels will interview better and get along better with Cousin Vinne and will get the job over Spags.

’68 Colts – big difference between ’07 Pats and them was that Shula had a reputation for losing the big one already (27-0 in ’64 championship game; 13-10 in playoff w/Packers for conference champ, 34-10 in last game of ’67 that put LA in playoffs and knocked Colts out). He left Colts before they finally broke thru in ’70 and meanwhile suffered two more big game losses with the Dolphins. Not until ’72 did he shed the choker label – until that point he was the Marty Schottenheimer of his era. The ’70 Colts (with nice guy McCaffrey) winning it all was as if Norv had taken this year’s Chargers all the way, completing the Marty analogy.

Speaking of Marty, hmmm. Go for iffy 4th down instead of FG or punt. When you’ve won 3 SBs you get some slack. When you haven’t , you get fired.

When a player wrestles a ball away from a Charger, it demonstrates that your team has more heart, want-to, and football sense. When every fumble gets wrestled away from your team, did you suddenly lose those qualities?

Has any team ever beaten three better teams than Dallas/Green Bay/New England in the playoffs?) Best comp for Giants SB run IMO is ’69 Chiefs. Finished 2nd in division. Beat defending champ Jets (10-4) on the road, 13-7. Beat defending conference champs Raiders (12-1-1) on the road, 17-7. Beat NFL champ Vikings 23-7. Were 12 point underdogs in SB. Had dominant front 7 with 3 HoFers (Bell, Buchanan, Lanier) plus HoF CB (Emmitt Thomas). Their playoff opponents were great offensive teams (maybe not quite ’07 Pats) who averaged 26.4 pt/game as a group in the regular season but only scored 21 points TOTAL in three games against the Chiefs despite having HFA in two of the games.

If the game clock was the same as the clock Fox showed on screen, there were some serious problems with the time-keeping down the stretch.

I thought the Pats would win easily. I was wrong. Congratulations to the Giants and their fans.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

"Which Super Bowl was the greatest ever?" is now in the running for the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.

Friggin amazing game. Giants had just enough toughness, skill, intelligence, and luck to pull out the victory.

I'll be sad to see Spagnuolo go, especially to a division rival, but it looks like a near-certainty now. Has Gregg Williams signed with anybody yet? A DC switcheroo between NY & WAS would be an interesting subplot going into next season...

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

One other random note - I thought Fox did a nice job covering the game. The focus was almost always on the game - we didn't get 900 shots of Belichick or 500 of Coughlin, or a gazillion celebrity sightings. Buck and Aikman were fine. Just wanted to throw that in there.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

#6 -- What Rich Conley said was "I’m not convinced there is a lot of talent. Mankins and Neal are studs, but Light and Kaczur are replacement level, and Koppen is probably average.

Brady’s ability to know exactly when to step up makes the Tackles look a whole lot better than they are."

Click my name for the link to the discussion in context.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

One thing that would be interesting to see the charters look into is a breakdown of where blitzes come from. Most teams tend to blitz from the outside with OLB's or overload the blindside of the QB. In this game, it seemed that when the Giants blitzed they sent Kawika Mitchell up the middle or brought their safeties or other linebackers from the defensive left / offensive right, inside of Strahan. They brought the pressure right up to Tom Brady's face and it seemed to rattle him much more than other teams who brought pressure against him. Some of it may had to do with Brady knowing that Strahan and Uminyora were waiting for him if he went backwards or side to side, but I think something might be revealed if you compare Tom Brady's DVOA when facing pressure from outside rushers versus facing pressure from inside the Defensive Ends.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I'll repost my post from the superbowl preview, to laugh at myself and my loonyness

My truthiness tells me that the Giants will win. No i can’t back it up with all these fancy “stats” and “facts”. I know in my gut and thats better than whatever numbers you make up.

Peyton Manning is the one who alerted the authorities about spygate, its part of his plan to humilate Tom Brady, he set up the trade for Randy Moss so Brady would be tempted to throw the ball around and set all these records. But he knew Brady would be ready for him in playoffs this year, after he choked away his chance last year. So he ducked him like Ric Flair in his prime, because he knew the ultimate embarrassment was not another lost to Peyton Manning thats actually commendable, he’s a superbowl champ. But to go down in front of millions and millions to his plucky- try -hard little brother, there is no way he comes back from that. The dynasty will die-nasty.

Long live the sons of Manning the Elder

Giants win
Happily Ever After

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Re: 13

Gostkowski must have been hurt on the 4th and 13. Maybe he tweaked something on the opening kickoff; his other kickoff in the first half was awful.

But, his final kickoff (with 2:42 left) landed at the 1 and had enough hang time for the gunner to tackle Hixon at the 17.

It seems like a usage issue - the longest attempt he had all year was 48 yards.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

4: I can’t believe how well the majority of Patriot fans are taking this loss. Even Bill Simmons is gracious in defeat.

Comments like 13 help a lot, as the Giants fans on this site have been gracious in victory. Congratulations again on a well-earned win.

And 2: PatsFan, looks like we were right about the nailbiter part. I mentioned this in the game thread, but I really see that game yesterday as the flip side of the Pats' wins in 2003-04. The difference was that when NYG was put in an adverse situation (hello, David Tyree), they didn't make the crucial drop like Drew Bennett, or honk the kickoff out of bounds like Kasay.

On a superficial level, this game reminded me of the stunning Giants/Niners NFCCG in 1990. I haven't looked into it more closely, though.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Re #19 -

Gregg Williams interviewed in Dallas. They seem to be putting together an All Star Roster of former DC's and HC's.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Agreed. Steelers should have won the Super Bowl in their 15 win season, not the following season. We got a Super Bowl, but it just feels wrong that it had to come the next year, during the Did you know Jerome is from Detroit season.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

A few random thoughts:

1) I thought the officials did a decent job this year. They got off to a bit of a shaky start, but for the most part they "let the players play", which is what everyone seems to want. Also, the bad calls (or non-calls) pretty much evened out - e.g. the OPI non-call was followed by the questionable false start call.

2. I agree with everyone who thought the decision to go for it on 4th-and-13 was ridiculous. I'm generally a big fan of aggressive coaching, but there's a difference between aggressiveness and arrogance. Ironically, this move reminded me a lot of Schottenheimer's decison to go for it on 4th-and-11 last year vs. the Patriots.

3. I know that it was probably not going to matter by that point, but I found Brady/McDaniels' decison to start chucking one Hail Mary after another on the last drive a bit surprising. They still had approximately 30 seconds and all 3 timeouts. They had plenty of time to complete at least 4 or 5 passes, which could have easily gotten them into FG range. However, they acted as if they didn't even have time to complete 2 passes. It was "All or Nothing", an approach which actually seemed to plague Brady's decision-making and McDaniels' playcalling throughout the first half, but which appeared to have vanished during the previous go-ahead drive.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

One thing nobody seems to be mentioning here, so I'll throw it out. Did anyone else find it interesting that the Pats didn't try to run when they had 1st and Goal from the 7 with under 3 to play? They were already engineering a pretty solid clock-winding drive, and if they grind another 45 seconds off or force the Giants to take a timeout, they can reasonably assume they'll have the last real drive of the game. Instead, they throw two incompletions and a TD while running just 13 seconds off. Of course, that may just be because I have Maroney in FF, so his stock goes up if he finds the EZ twice in the game :)

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Travis - I know; my only guess is that he got some treatment at halftime or something. We'll never know for sure, but I can't believe "usage" would dictate going for it on 4th and 13, especially when the play was a desperation heave - it's not like they had some wonderful "gain 13 yards" play that they pulled out of their hat.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I've never been an Eli fan. I still don't think he's anything more than average-at-best talent wise. But that last last drive earned him my respect.

That ridiculous Tyree catch should go down as one of the greatest plays in NFL history. I have no idea what the nickname for that play will be (although it's already listed in wikipedia as "The Catch II" which is lame), but it should be right there alongside "The Music City Miracle", "The Catch", and "The Immaculate Reception". And that drive should be right up there with "The Drive".

That was possibly the more boring and anticlimactic first half I've ever seen, and easily the most exciting and entertaining second half I've ever seen. As a Philadelphia fan, I've been sick for the past two weeks thinking that I'd have to root for the Giants. But I (and the rest of my Eagles loving family) were genuinely excited and actively cheering for NY as opposed to against NE as I had expected. It was really an odd sensation. But I take solace in the fact that Jeremy Shockey may have gotten his ring, but had to watch the game from the stands. Boss' huge catch must have been particularly bitter.

Giants fans, tomorrow we'll be enemies again (as it should be), but for one night I was truly happy for you. Congratulations!

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Mcdaniels was the one who choaked. The Giants pass rush took away the deep ball because it didn't give Brady enough time to execute. Wes Welker had a lot of quick catches underneath but he needed more.

I'd hold off on the Spags is a genius talk. Last year he was the Eagles LB coach that people thought shouldn't have got the job.

I don't blame Bellicheck for being classelss ( honestly, leaving the field of play didn't do anything). Richard Seymour saying " go home" to the Giants offense in the final drive had a lot less class. I am sure if they won he would have at that humble pie.

In the first half Bellicheck had his back turned to the Patriots offense because he was franticly working with the defense. He did his job in holding the Gmen to 17 points. The young Josh Mcdaniels is the one who choaked with only 14 points worth of offense.

I felt this audibles at the line was unsatisfying. The Amani Toomer push off happened, but that sort of stuff always happens and isn't always called. The Pats didn't lose the game because of one call in the first half.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

4th & 13: well, if they had gained a few yards on 3rd down with an eye towards going for it on 4th, they would have been in comfortable FG range.

"19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England's Unbeatable Patriots": what i especially love is the link for the combo "Buy this book with New York Giants: 2008 Super Bowl Champions by Sports Publishing today!"

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I'll repost this from another thread, before the haters and homers storm in:

"Hey, last week, I stated that it was ridiculous to call the ‘07 Patriots the greatest team ever, because it was evident to me that they had not, were not going to, simply obliterate playoff opponents in the manner that some teams with 15-1, 14-2, or even 13-3 regular season records had done. That got me called a Patriots hater, not for the first time, so I certainly don’t mean to go easy on obnoxious Patriots fans. The obnoxious anti-Pats contingent has really been bad lately, however."

Now, regarding the game, I too was rooting for Tuck to get the MVP, not that I have a huge problem with Manning. The Giants defensive line won this game (and I love big games which are won by defensive lines) however, and I would have liked to see a Giants d-lineman recognized.

This was the 2nd game in a row where the Giants' opponent decided that it was pointless to make more that a cursory effort to run the ball. Maybe it was, given Tuck's play, but the best way to slow down pass rushing ends is to run the ball effectively. I would have preferred it if the Patriots had attempted to do so.

There is little reason at this point to think that Eli Manning's play over the past five or six weeks does not represent a fairly permanent improvement. If that is the case, unless Strahan gets old in a hurry, the Cowboys, Packers, and everyone else in the NFC will have their hands full next year. Steve Smith is likely going to be a productive receiver next year, and if nothing else, Shockey has good trade value. Coughlin's next hire for defensive coordinator will be critical, of course, since it seems pretty certain that Spagnuolo will parlay yesterday's game into a head coaching job.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I think one of the reasons that it's difficult to quantitatively predict the Giants is because they're exceptionally erratic. They have large "hit or miss" elements on both sides of the ball.

If you look at Eli's numbers in aggregate, you see a pretty bad QB. But he's not like the QBs that are in his statistical tier. He's capable of playing at an extremely high level. Not just good. Very very good. Obviously he's also capable of throwing up some massive stinkers. Over the long run that evened out to below average #s, but at any given time you don't know what you're going to get.

The defense also has a large variable element in the pass rush. When the DLs are winning battles, the Giants pass rush can be so good that it will make the rest of the defense almost irrelevant. The Giants DL won a bunch of games for them this year. BUT if the opponent manages to protect the QB, the Giants defense can be awful, as we saw in the regular season Dallas games.

Put it together and you've got a high ceiling/low floor team. The high variability of both units makes their performance very difficult to predict.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Jesus, you guys are really biased towards the Pats. On that Bradshaw fumble check back your tapes, Woods fell on the ball, but he had no possession. Bradshaw had his arm below Woods and could easily pull the ball out. Putting your fat belly on the ball is not possession.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

"Best team not to win the Super Bowl."
Now, now, at least my 1990 Bills got within field goal range. And kicked it.

re: that Stallworth escape on 3rd-and-13, did anyone see whether Welker had a crackback block on that play? It looked like it to me.

28(3): That confused me as well. 30 seconds and three timeouts is plenty of time to either hit Moss/Stallworth on the sidelines, Welker on intermediate crossing routes, or even Faulk on a ridiculous 60-yard screen. FG goes to overtime, switches the momentum, and clutch field goal drives are kind of Brady's thing ;)

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

-Congratulations to the Giants, who deserved to win. Clearly the MVP should not have been Eli, but rather the D-Line, who dominated and shut down the Pats' offense.

-Terrible job coaching by Josh McDaniels. For two weeks we hear that the Giants D-line is going to come with full pressure, and the Pats were completely unprepared to deal with it. Bizarre. The O-line of the Pats looked like a bunch of scrubs out there. It wasn't just the pressures and the sacks: take a look at how many rushing plays didn't even make it back to the line of scrimmage. Disgraceful.

-Even with that in mind, the Pats need to rejuvenate their defense much more than their offense. While the Giants were able to make the Pats' O-line look bad, a lot of mid-tier teams made the Pats' pass defense look bad in the last 8 games. And now their best pass defender is likely to leave via free agency? The Pats might be well advised to see if they can afford what it would take to keep Assante Samuel. The possibility that Ellis Hobbs will be their #1 CB next year is going to give Pats' fans nightmares.

-Whose idea was it to have Hobbs on Plaxico 1-on-1 at the goal line with the game on the line? That is the single worst coaching decision I've ever seen, with the exception of Grady Little leaving Pedro Martinez in one inning too many in 2003. Everybody with even a passing familiarity with the game knew Hobbs could not cover Plaxico 1-on-1! I know a lot of people are talking about the FG never attempted, but in my mind this coaching decision was much worse.

I don't think the Pats' run is over. They still have no real competition in the AFC East, and they have a great QB and a lot of good players on offense and on the defensive line. But they had gotten lucky down the stretch with a lot of their wins (esp. against the Ravens) and the luck was bound to turn against them eventually. All sorts of lucky bounces went the Giants' way, and it seemed that every controversial refereeing decision favored the Giants. But that's all part of football, and it doesn't change the fact that the line play, overall, favored the Giants by a lot, and it's damned hard to win a big game when you cede control of the line of scrimmage to the other team.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

#34 Will :
As a football analyst you're right on. To all the others from last week's steady stream of NYG minimizers : Hopefully you all will be changed forever by the Giants terrific season of 07/08 and be better analysts in the future--of all things in life. I'm sure the talk of the "mediocre" Giants is now buried. As I pointed out several times, which should have never needed to be pointed out to begin with, mediocre teams in football do not do what the Giants had done going into yesterday. Their run was not a "fluke" and I can only say that those of you who thought it was--have never played the game even at a high school level. Besides their unprecedented, record win streak on the road--you can add this to the list of achievement : They polished off the 3 highest scoring teams of the year in succession--all away from home. Sorry DVOA inventors, you have the best analysis system ever but it could not quantify the REALITY of the New York Giants. Past performance measurement can only give so much. Good luck to all of you in continuing to find an "edge" but there will never, ever be a time when you will know with any degree of certainty ahead of time what is going to happen.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

If Spagnuolo left, the favorite to replace him would probably be Ron Rivera, if only because he runs the same scheme.

Still, how ironic would it be if the next NY DC was Gregg Williams?

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

re: 21

After yesterday, I have to think Matt Light is the most overrated player on the Patriots. I've seen him schooled by Jason Taylor, schooled by Dwight Freeney and now schooled by Osi Umenyiora. At some point I have to stop thinking "well, he's good except for the very best DEs" and think that Pats need to start looking for a real franchise offensive lineman.

Koppen looked bad yesterday simply because he twice let the Giants blitz right up the middle without even thinking about blocking the guy.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I haven't had time to read all the comments yet, but here are a few random thoughts:

1) I thought the officials did a decent job this year. They got off to a bit of a shaky start, but for the most part they "let the players play", which is what everyone seems to want. Also, the bad calls (or non-calls) pretty much evened out - e.g. the OPI non-call was followed by the questionable false start call.

2) I agree with everyone who thought the decision to go for it on 4th-and-13 was ridiculous. I'm generally a big fan of aggressive coaching, but there's a difference between aggressiveness and arrogance. Ironically, this move reminded me a lot of Schottenheimer's decison to go for it on 4th-and-11 last year vs. the Patriots.

3) I know that it was probably not going to matter by that point, but I found Brady/McDaniels' decison to start chucking one Hail Mary after another on the last drive a bit surprising. They still had approximately 30 seconds and all 3 timeouts. They had plenty of time to complete at least 4 or 5 passes, which could have easily gotten them into FG range. However, they acted as if they didn't even have time to complete 2 passes. It was "All or Nothing", an approach which actually seemed to plague Brady's decision-making and McDaniels' playcalling throughout the first half, but which appeared to have vanished during the previous go-ahead drive.

Having said all that, congratulations to the Giants, who played a hell of a game.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Two things I haven't seen brought up yet:

1) Stephen Neal's injury was huge. The Giants abused Hochstein after Neal went out.

2) Randall Gay was awful. We may have to wait until the gamecharting is done to really appreciate how bad he was. At least three of Manning's third down conversions were at his expense.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I think there has to be a connection with Josh McDaniels calling his first SB and the Patriots struggling. Joe Buck or a sideline reporter commented that BB was spending all his time during the offensive series talking to the defense on the sidelines during the majority of the first two quarters. Couple that with a surprising lack of adjustments and it just doesn’t seem like the coaching staff was with it during the game.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Sorry for the double post (#28 & #42). Something's weird's going on with my computer, or with this site, or maybe both.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

i'm hoping this game indicates a new dynasty, and that next year brings us a manning showdown. what about the possibility of adding a different manning to the 'best quarterback of all time' argument? could we be seeing the birth of a new manning to dominate, or maybe two mannings to trade rings? i know that's all crazy/wishful thinking, but perhaps we'll look back to this super bowl as the moment everything changed. or not.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Some observations on the game from a Giants fan:

- It is easy to play MMQB and say the Patriots should have went with the short passing game earlier, but I think the Pats were probably trying to attack the Giants' safeties, especially James Butler. He has been toasted numerous times this season.

- I think the Giants' strong defensive performance simply comes down to the fact that their front four dominated their individual matchups against the Pats' O lineman. According to one article I read, Spagnuolo estimated he called blitzes 30-35% of the time. That doesn't strike me as a high percentage and I'd hold off on awarding him "genius" status.

- The Patriots never had possession on the fumbled exchange between Manning and Bradshaw.

- Bucky Brooks of SI.com gave the Giants receivers an A in the game. I thought they were poor through the first three quarters. However, David Tyree's catch on 3rd and 5 made up for all of the previous drops. (I think Russell Levine meant to compare Tyree's catch to Mark Ingram's catch-and-run in Superbowl XXV.)

- I guess the NFL decided that it's important to play the entire 60 minutes in the Super Bowl after two seconds were wiped off the clock after Vinatieri's FG in Super Bowl XXXVI.

- The win that ended SF's bid for a threepeat was sweet, but nothing will ever match this.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

re:43
Randall Gay was hurt at the start of the game, which is why many of us are not so critical of his performance. Also, he's just the nickel back, and he did have a crucial pass defense after his injury which resulted in him having to fall on his injured arm.

I don't have a problem with his play, though the thought of Gay and Hobbs being the Pats CBs next season scares the bejeezus out of me.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I think the story of this game was that the Giants defensive line just completely, utterly and in all other wise dominated the Patriots offensive line, to the point that there really was nothing Belichick or McDaniels could do about it. As far as I know, max protect isn't in the Patriots' playbook. Kazcur couldn't handle Strahan by himself, and Light couldn't handle Umenyiora by himself, and you can't give them both help at the same time, not while there's also still Justin Tuck to be addressed. It was just too much to block. The Patriots didn't have an answer, and if you played that game ten times over, I'm not sure that you'd find that there is any answer.

I've been watching Osi Umenyiora closely all through the playoffs, and I must say that if there's a more valuable defensive player in the league than Osi Umenyiora, I don't know who that might be. He dominated the game and should have been named MVP.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

re: 47
Bucky Brooks' grades suffer badly from "inflating the grades of the winning team". In grading the Giants' WRs, let's not forget that Steve Smith was the one responsible for the Hobbs pick, not Manning.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Looking through my Panthers' glasses, I kept waiting for all the Giants' wasted opportunities to come back and bite them in the behind. Congrats to the Giants for keeping with it and not letting it get to them.

Too bad it's Most Valuable Player - I think Spagnuolo deserves it.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

20. Buck and Aikman were fine. Just wanted to throw that in there.

Not on my set. I thought they were terrible. Buck needed a 90-second tape delay before he talked about the elephant in the room - a ball on the ground, a strategy element (like the long field goal eschewed), etc. And his smug nature is always present. As for Aikman, I'm just glad I wasn't playing the drinking game where you imbibe every time he says "I think" or "you know" or "I'm not so sure." I would have been Bonhamed about 8:30 p.m. Arizona time.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Re #2: Troy Brown played in Week 17 against the Giants. I think he caught at least one pass. And I am sure he muffed a return.

You call yourself a Pats Fan?

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

36: Woods had pretty clear possession. Yes, he fell on it with his belly, and then his belly and the ball stayed there for a while, sharing an intimate moment under the pile, and finally, Bradshaw came up with it. If that's not possession, I don't know what is.

*As for the 4th down, I'm all for going for it on shorter distances, and think teams this year have seen a lot of success doing this, but aren't the chances of Gostkowski kicking from that distance in Arizona a lot higher than making a 4th and 13? And doesn't this matter even more when the game is pretty much a field position struggle with very little scoring? Horrible call. That was hubris.

*As for Belichick walking off, the guy had a bad moment and did something wrong. It certainly wasn't Denny Green-level. I think everyone trying to make it into something more than frustration, into some comment by Belichick about the game, needs to calm down a little and maybe get some fresh air.

*When Brady was yelling at his receiver, I don't know if it was being mentally overwhelmed and tired or not. Aikman was saying that it looked like Brady was yelling at the receiver for running the wrong route. Probably never know.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Obviously I need to start posting under a new handle. How about 'Eliability'?

What an amazing game. The suprise for me is that the ice cold, Montana-esque QB was on the New York sideline. Several times through out the game, dating to New Englands 2nd drive, the cameras would zoom in on the New England QB as he surveyed the New York defense...and Brady had that deer-in-the-headlights look that Giants fans will remember so well from Kerry Collins in Super Bowl 35. Meanwhile, thoughout the game Eli looked as relaxed as if he was running drills in Spring mini-camp. So that to me is the story - the QB who is arguably the 'Greatest of All-Time' chokes on the pressure, forever tarnishing his legacy, while the QB nobody in New York seemed to want anymore, if they ever wanted him in the first place, finishes off one of the most clutch performances in NFL playoff history. And as Eli walked off the field last night, I even saw a little bit of...swagger.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

It's funny, but right as the Pats came out of the tunnel, I was immediately struck by how much the difference in the two teams' demeanor reminded me of the 1991 NFC Championship game, were the Niners came out like it was a day at the office and the Giants came out excited and energetic. We all know how that turned out.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

two other comments on stuff I haven't seen remarked on.

1. (I'm not trying to bash Brady here, honest) It seems like Brady goes down pretty easily when touched. On what I think was the second sack, he was moving away from the pressure when Strahan was quite literally flying/jumping past him reached out and shoved him in the back and Brady just crumpled to the ground. I remembered seeing something similar in the Jags game. It's been such a long season of oftentimes zero pressure on Brady that I don't really have much memory of him being able to shrug off the pass rush, but for a 6'4" 225lb'er, he seemed kinda wimpy on some of those sacks (obviously I don't mean the ones where someone came up the middle and crushed him).

2. The clock stopped with 8:24 left to go in the game... for no reason at all! Finally the officials noticed it, but all they did was restart the clock. We rewound the DVR and about 1:05 should have run off the clock. Argue away about who this ended up favoring more, but it sure is strange that they didn't just get the correct timing.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Re the Hobbs- Toomer offensive PI non-call. If Hobbs wasn't such a grabby little smurf he'd have got the call but its hardto call PI on a receiver when the defender is trying to grab him too.

Great game, not a great season for the NFL as a whole (spygate, Vick, lots of terrible teams, now spygate 2 uuurgh horrible year for the NFL)

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

54:

was that the route in which Wes Welker uses his 48" vertical leap to catch a ball far over his head? or the one in which he pulls a Mr. Fantastic to catch a ball 10 yards out-of-bounds?

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

54 (Basilicus):

Woods had pretty clear possession. Yes, he fell on it with his belly, and then his belly and the ball stayed there for a while, sharing an intimate moment under the pile, and finally, Bradshaw came up with it. If that’s not possession, I don’t know what is.

I'm not so sure about that. At first, I remember wondering how Bradshaw got it away from the Patriots defender (Woods, apparently). However, when they showed the replay, when Woods falls on the ball, Bradshaw is shoving his arm underneath him. There is at least the question of whether or not Woods ever had sole possession, so I think a Patriots challenge would have been futile.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

#54: Basilicus, my DVR strongly disputes your interpretation of the botched handoff that Bradshaw recovered. The refs got it right, Woods never brought the ball into his body before Bradshaw yanked it away (there can't be many guys in the NFL who are stronger pound-for-pound than Ahmad Bradshaw).

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Naturally, as a Cowboys fan, I have never cheered for the Giants anywhere near as hard as I did last night. Usually, I want them to lose every game they play (except against the Packers a couple weeks ago. Once the Cowboys got knocked out my only remaining goal was a Patriots loss, and I thought the Giants offered a better chance of that). The celebratory 'Yes!' as I saw the open Burress (a player I normally dislike) pull in the touchdown stands out in particular. And that Tyree catch is one of the greatest plays of all time. For most of the game I though Tuck should have been the MVP (I didn't like the news when I heard he signed an extension, and that feeling only got worse last night), but what Manning did on that last drive certainly put him into consideration for the MVP.

For the Giants fans: Your team did a good job, and I never get tired of watching Brady get pounded into the ground.

For the Patriots fans: You guys seem to be taking this very well. If only your coach could lose (or even win) with that much grace.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

1) Most classless move in a SB ever, Belicheat.

2) Not going for FG on 4th and 13th was the height of arrogance, Kot...I mean Belicheat.

3) Justin Tuck is MVP.

4) Tom Brady is merely an above-average NFL QB when he doesn't have 7 seconds to throw in the pocket.

5) The INT the Pats got was insanely lucky, if anyone wants to talk about 'breaks.'

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Just out of curiosity and alternate universing, if the Pats had won (say because they stopped Jacobs on that 4th-and-1, or because they didn't miss the Manning sack and the Giants weren't able to convert the resulting 4th-and-20 or so), who do you think the SB MVP would/should have been?

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

"Sorry DVOA inventors, you have the best analysis system ever but it could not quantify the REALITY of the New York Giants. Past performance measurement can only give so much. Good luck to all of you in continuing to find an “edge” but there will never, ever be a time when you will know with any degree of certainty ahead of time what is going to happen."

You know, this is going to sound ridiculous, but it's really easy to say that after the games actually happen. Do people not understand that predictive statistics like DVOA are meant to give a PROBABILITY of success?

Patroits' DVOA being higher than the Giants' doesn't mean the Patriots will always beat the Giants. Some days the ball bounces funny, some days a middling receiver makes one of the all-time great catches in football history, and some days a blind squirrel finds a wide open receiver in the end zone with 30 seconds left.

That doesn't mean that the system is worthless - just that the words prediction and guarantee are two different things.

Incidentally, winning by a combined total of 10 points over the last three games is a fluke, whether you like the word or not. The probability of winning three straight 3-point games has got to be tiny.

People use things like "heart", "determination" and "guts" to retroactively find reasons for teams winning. I say all professional athletes have those things, or they wouldn't be professional athletes. Either that, or you believe that Eli Manning magically developed a heart sometime between the Minnesota debacle and last night. Sometimes, you call the right play and it fails; or you call the wrong play and it works. These guys aren't superheroes. Someone has to win, someone has to lose.

As a final aside, I will say that - as a Jets fan and a Boston hater - I've never been so happy with the result of a football game. I love this game.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

The Fox clock was off all night. It would stop inexplicably, and then appear correct after a commercial break. It was a TV glitch, not a game time keeping glitch.
(Where have we heard that before?)

One bright spot of the Pats losing this game is that now we can all join in the fun of intelligent and rational discussion of who's the best QB, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady for at least another year!

No?
No takers?
Nobody?
(crickets chirping, readers vomiting)

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

As far as I know, max protect isn’t in the Patriots’ playbook.

They did have that play in Week 1 where they left 8 or 9 in to block and Moss beat triple-coverage, but I don't think it was a regular part of the offense.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

#55 - I said this in defense of Peyton Manning, and I'll say this in defense of Brady: there's a world of difference between choking, and just being beaten. It's not easy to throw the ball downfield while getting knocked around like a pinata, yet he still put together a long, clock-eating drive for the lead in the 4th quarter. This was a tough, hard-fought game, and there would have been no shame for either side were the outcomes were reversed.

One of the most impressive things about the Giants' performance was the quality of the opposition, and I've no less respect for Brady or the Pats now than I did at the game's start. Don't minimize the achievement of the Giants' by resorting to the 'choking' cliche.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

The Fox clock was off all night.

perhaps, but the clock stoppage at 8:24 was the game clock, not the fox clock. The officials ran about 8 seconds off it.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I think the Eli-Tyree play should go down in history as either "The Escape" or "The Helmet". Two truly astonishing individual efforts on a single play. Would have been a footnote if not for a G-Men win, but with the victory we have a new play on the all time SB highlight reel.

Re: MVP Eli - I have no problem with him getting it. Two go-ahead 4th qtr drives against the team with the all time best regular season record? Wow. Just Wow.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

46 A Manning v. Manning superbowl would make Bill Simmons head explode. I'm all for it.

Admittedly, it would me much less exciting now than if it had happened two years back, when neither of them could "win the big game."

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I do love how all the sportswriters are now saying "why didn't they give him help on Osi Umenyiora?"

Yeah, Eagles fans have heard that one before. It's because the Giants front four is so ridiculously good that you need help everywhere you've got an average or below-average player. So you have to pick your poison. And, as Aaron has said before, "even if you pick your poison, it's still poison."

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Add me to the group who thinks it was impossible to tell whether Woods had full control of the Bradshaw fumble. I don't think Tom Brady was "off". He looked like any QB that gets hit a ton... they start making bad throws and bad decisions. He was thrown to the ground on the FIRST NE play of the game by Barry Cofield. Garcia did it in the first game against the Giants. Romo did it late in the game against the Giants. Favre did it, well, because he's Brett Favre.

Regarding the judgement of the 2007 NY Giants, I think people underestimate the team based on DVOA that I think is overly affected by bad weather games.

In 7 games against top 5 DVOA teams, the Giants really only trailed at the half in the last 2 games. By most standards, the Giants were outplaying the Packers and Pats at the half in those games. The previous 5 games had halftime scores of 3 ties and 2 Giants' leads. Yes, I realize the game has 2 halves and score isn't indicative of how a team is playing. However, wouldn't one think that top 5 teams (NE, DAL, GB) would have a substantial lead on the Giants at least once in those 7 matchups? IMO, the Giants had ample opportunities to win EACH of those games. Perhaps, the 2007 NFL Champion Giants are the same team with less mistakes or more luck.

BTW, can we stop mentioning the Giants' loss to Minnesota? It seems fairly obvious the game was a fluke, unless it's not surprising that the Vikings beat them worse than the Pats, Cowboys, and Packers did.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

The thread is still suprisingly sane. I'm impressed.

As for the game, it's far and away the best SuperBowl I've seen, both as a contest and for excitement. It was made better by the good work of Dick Stockton and Sterling Sharpe. Why can't we get that every week?

I'm still trying to understand why you don't kick the FG on 4th & 13, or, if you're committing to going for it, why the 3rd down play isn't more appropriate.

For the Giants, the D line was awesome, and if anything, the open-field tackling by the LB's and the secondary was even better. The Pats not running a play for more than 19 yards is staggering.

Finally, if I live to be 100, I don't think I see a better play than the Manning-to-Tyree catch on that last drive.

Congratulations to the Giants, who out-coached and out-played on of the finest teams in NFL history.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Just an arguement for Eli being the MVP. Of course the Dline and Tuck were great. However, if Eli doesn't put together that last drive and WIN the game. The story is "Giant's D is good, but not good enough, Brady wins it late"

Eli was 9-14 2 TDs. He was the MVP of a great team win.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

As far as this team, nothing that has happened for the past month changes the fact that the Giants were mediocre during the regular season. The indicators just weren't there. This team gave up 44 points to Tarvaris Jackson and the Minnesota Vikings less than two months ago.

Well, it was 41 points - and 21 of them came via defensive touchdowns. Not that Jackson's 129 yards passing or Minnesota's 251 yards of total offense didn't collectively take our breath away. Admittedly, it's hard to do much on offense when your pesky defense keeps scoring.

Aaron's final piece in this article is how all Patriots fans *should* feel, at least those old enough to view the entire run. Well said. They're not my words, but the theme is very parallel to the one that's running in my world today. If you have to lose, let it be the way this one unfolded. I don't feel cheated at all.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

#64:

Welker would have gotten it, I think.

#65:

"Incidentally, winning by a combined total of 10 points over the last three games is a fluke, whether you like the word or not. The probability of winning three straight 3-point games has got to be tiny."

Honestly, it seems to me that by and large the Packers and Pats were lucky to keep it to three points- the Giants genuinely outplayed (and outplayed by a siginifcant margin) all of their playoff opponents. That doesn't mean that DVOA or any other rational analysis should have predicted this run, it has been unexpected and unprecedented (sorry 2005 Steelers, this was far bigger).

"Either that, or you believe that Eli Manning magically developed a heart sometime between the Minnesota debacle and last night."

I prefer to credit the absence of one J. Shockey.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

55 - With all due respect, it's incredibly foolish to suggest that Brady choked. After getting knocked around all game, he gave his team the lead with three minutes left! Is it now a "choke" to fail to go 50 yards in 30 seconds? Brady won the game, and then Manning (and Tyree) won it back.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

"I said this in defense of Peyton Manning, and I’ll say this in defense of Brady: there’s a world of difference between choking, and just being beaten. It’s not easy to throw the ball downfield while getting knocked around like a pinata, yet he still put together a long, clock-eating drive for the lead in the 4th quarter. This was a tough, hard-fought game, and there would have been no shame for either side were the outcomes were reversed."

Agreed. Brady put it together when it mattered. It's not his fault that Eli and the Giants then did the same.

#71

"The Great Escape" works for me.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

57 On Brady's easiness going down (ugh, i'll leave that alone)

if his ankle was really injured, that can make it pretty difficult to fight through a tackle, particularly on the side of the injury--you've got nothing to push off of.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

The biggest winners yesterday? Not Spagnuolo. Not Giants fans. Not even those who put money down on "Pats win first half/NYG wins the game".

No, the biggest winners yesterday were the Minnesota Vikings. Tarvaris Jackson is the uncrowned Super Bowl MVP ... which means that Will owes a bunch of people some fine scotch, if my logic is correct. And we all know that it totally is.

Hey, when your quarterback is Tarvaris Jackson, you take what you can get. Minnesota sports fans don't get much to cheer about.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I'd like a breakdown of how many blockers were employed by the Patriots on each pass play. I had some Super Bowl socializing distract me somewhat, so I couldn't rewatch several plays as I normally do. It occurred to me that the Pats should try to go max protect more frequently, especially if they wanted to go downfield to Moss, and Moss certainly had a step on a few occasions, with Brady being unable to deliver the ball.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Living in NYC, there's nothing worse than Eli haters who suddenly love him. Nothing worse than Pats fans who would've gone 19-0, that is.

Congrats to the Giants. The D deserved the MVP though.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

> There is at least the question of whether or not Woods ever had sole possession, so I think a Patriots challenge would have been futile.

Not to mention that in common practice, a player must recover a fumble and hold it for a reasonable period (and if there's a pile where the official can't completely see what's going on, that period may not even be reasonable and the ball may just flat be stolen away, which really wasn't the case here though). Coming away with the ball is almost paramount and Bradshaw did that. Before that it was not clear to me that either player had established obvious possession, so the player who wrestles the ball away from the other is the winner.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

71 One of the post-game talking-heads referred to it as a "Houdini" play. That's got to get some consideration too.

Anybody else reminded of Calvin Johnson's catch in '06 (NCAA)? Closest play I can think of, even if it was the OTHER guy's helmet he pinned the ball to...

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

It was also great watching that game and seeing the Giants front four do some of the things I've been saying for the past several weeks. Targeted pressure up the middle, and then shift to the outside when they start to have the guards help out inside.

I do have to agree with Rich Conley now regarding the Patriots offensive line. I think most of the credit I was giving to the tackles was purely a result of the guards being very, very good. Force the guards to start paying attention inside with blitzes and a DE playing at DT, and the tackles struggle.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Incidentally, winning by a combined total of 10 points over the last three games is a fluke, whether you like the word or not. The probability of winning three straight 3-point games has got to be tiny.

Well, I thought the Pats legitimately deserved to win their first three Super Bowls.

Oh, the Giants. I put less stock in margin of victory than probably anyone else here. To steal James' rhetorical device, if I live to 100 nobody will evr convince me that it was a complete concidence that the team that won so many games at the very end - Redskins, Bears, Lions, Eagles - had a bit more left in the tank at the end of the last three playoff games. I certainly hope that the people who told us the Pats were pouring it on early in the season to condition Brady et al to play 60 minutes are not going to now turn around and argue it's pure chance that the Giants finished their last three games so well.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I think the Eli-Tyree play should go down in history as either “The Escape” or “The Helmet”.

I nominate "The Unpossible Completion." The "Completion" gets at both the ridiculous escape and ridiculous catch.

The incorrect Unpossible gets at how ridiculous it is that a WR as previously ungodly awful as David Tyree managed to hang on to that pass, despite how high it was, despite a great defender actually getting a hand on the ball and in between the receivers' hands, despite having one hand come off the ball, and despite crashing on the ground from up high. The ball never even hit the ground. That's unpossible! Plus, you get the Unstoppable word play just for kicks.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Bill Walsh always maintained that the fourth quarter pass rush was the most important element to winning close games in the NFL, and I found it interesting how true that proved to be yesterday. The Patriots were only able to put together their second td drive after the Giants pass rusher got gassed deep into the fourth quarter, and then failure of the Patriots to finish off a pass rush led to the critical play, followed by the Giants pass rushers getting re-energized on the Pats' final possession.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Even if Eli Manning hadn't done a successful Ben Roethlisberger impression and uncorked the Tyree Miracle and the Patriots had hung on, Osi Umenyiora was still my MVP.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

NM: To go further, their scoring differential through eight games was 331-127. The second half of the year, it was 258-147. We explained it away, naturally enough, as bad weather or the weight of the undefeated season, but I suspect that these Pats were not as good as we thought they were. Of course, I have free access to write whatever I want and never had the balls to write this until after they were upset in the Super Bowl. Still, hindsight is 20/20, and the Pats were definitively not dominant in the second half of the season.

Ned, I hope next year you trust those instincts and gut feelings and share them when the time is right. I know there's risk in that - float this sort of opinion and be wrong and it will make you an easy target for the hatchet squad. But I promise you, I don't be one of those guys who rants, raves, and plays gotcha if and when you stick your neck out and it's not validated. I think you have an excellent read on the game, and I know you'll be ahead of the curve on themes like this fairly often - trust yourself when you're feeling the next one come about.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I have no problem with Eli being named MVP, because the 2 TD passes late in the game, and the Tyree highlight will be replayed for years to come...but I agree with giving it to a part of the defense that was responsible for holding a team that averaged 35+ points per game to only 14.

I made some in-game comments in the preview thread, no need to repeat them here, but I am still amazed. What a great game.

There were some plays & breaks & no-calls for both teams. Pretty well summed up above by the staff.

I'm mostly curious over what their down-distance-field position chart said about their probabilities to:
convert the 4th and 13

vs

miss the 4th and 13,

vs.

making a field goal and surrendering field position & points on the ensuing kickoff

vs.

missing a field goal and surrendering
points on the ensuing drive

In that argument, it always takes into account
"skipping 3 points risk-reward and not surrendering extra field position and points on the ensuing drive"
but does not take into account
"needing those 3 points at a future time". And they did need those points.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Two thoughts: The Giants’ Defense was superhuman—like the little old grandmother who picks up the car to save her pinned grandchild—adrenalin turning her into supergramps. That was the Giants D.
Please, Giants, give David Tyree a real shot at receiver next year. He’s not the tallest or the fastest but he finds holes in the defense and when you throw it to him he’ll do anything to bring it in.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Just to register some thoughts:

1) Brady going down quickly on the "flying" sack: when Brady chose to drop to the ground, instead of stepping up and trying to fight through it, my first reaction was, "He's hurt, or worried about his ankle." Trust me, I am a die-hard Peyton fan, but even I would not suggest Brady's dive there was a normal thing for him. Perhaps he thought someone else was coming in from behind.

2) No problem with Eli as MVP. Yes, the Giants D-line was great, but Eli joins Montana as the only two QB's to throw 2 TD's in the 4th quarter to win a SB. That's heady stuff.

3) BB did not surprise me at all with walking off the field. As I have argued all along, he's two guys: the brilliant X's and O's football coach, and the petulant child in all areas of social behavior.

4) I was impressed by Brady. Told friends at the half who were NE fans, that if Brady threw 2 or 3 TD's in the second half to win, after the beating he took in the first half, I would have to grudgingly call him "great" -- again, remember this is through the lens of a Peyton fan, so that would be a HUGE statement. Though Brady didn't get the second TD or the win, you can't say he choked.

5) On NE's last TD drive: you can't run the ball to take time off the clock there. The Colts tried this against SD three weeks ago, running it twice to take time off, then never getting the TD. You need to take the points when you can get them.

6) Thought the refs were as good as we've had in big games over the last 5 years. Yes, a bad no-call on OPI, but the Giants did not score, and it wasn't really a crucial time in the game.

7) For me, the best SB I have ever seen. Watched it with Giants and NE fans, and both were stunned.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Here are a few more thoughts about the game.

- Saying the Pats choked is unfair, but it is also unfair to say the Giants got all the breaks. Chase Blackburn didn't get off the field on a 4th and 3. On a 3rd down before the Pats go ahead drive, Manning scrambled and missed a wide open Burress. Both teams got breaks. New England just couldn't block the Giants well enough.

- The Fox clock was prone to errors throughout the game, but the officials did appear to screw up the clock with 8:24 left. The ref went over to Coughlin to explain something at that point, and the clock adjustment after that discussion did not make sense.

- There's been some talk about DVOA "missing" something in regard to the Giants. DVOA is a numerical representation of a team's quality throughout the season. It's a great tool, but it can't capture everything. For example, Peyton Manning didn't play the whole game against the Titans in Week 17. When evaluating the Titans defensive DVOA for that game, you must take that into account. As kevinNYC wrote, the Giants played a few games in bad weather this season. That element was missing from their DVOA.

The final numbers are still open to interpretation.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

The worst MVP comment I heard today was from someone who wanted to split it between four D linemen. It's the same thing with the Colts' RBs last year. Sure you can argue that two players combined had a bigger impact than one player did. You certainly could argue that four players combined were way more important than Eli. The question is was any one single player in isolation more valuable than the winner. Eli did what several QBs (including his brother) couldn't do this year. He lead the Giants on two TD drives in the 4th quarter. Team came close to beating the Pats all year, but the one common factor was the Pats D closing things down late. Eli made them look old and slow. I thought he was the right choice as the single most valuable player.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I've just finished watching the game, and I was struck by how similar the Giants played against NE and GB in the NFC championship. Taking away the yards after catch, pressure up the middle, enough running offense to keep the opposition safeties from gambling. Since I doubt that Belichick neglected to study the NFCCG tapes, the only solution is ... the Giants' d-line is a beast.

My question to those who watch New York on a more regular basis: we saw a hint of what this D could do against the Eagles in week 3. It really came together in the playoffs. What happened the rest of the regular season?

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Forget the Vikings-Giants game. Those 4 picks & 3 defensive TDs do seem pretty flukish in retrospect, especially considering the Vikes more or less collapsed after that week and the Giants, uh, went on to win the Super Bowl (I still don't believe this happened).

Seriously, are any Redskins fans wondering how this happened? The Todd Collins-led Redskins went into the Meadowlands and thumped the Giants not six weeks ago. It wasn't a fluke, since it came in the middle of the G-men's impressive second-half run, and the Skins themselves went on to beat MN and Dallas the next two weeks. Despite the ultra-windy conditions, we controlled their D-line (only 2 sacks, Portis with 125 yds on 25 carries) and were in command of the game for all four quarters.

Any other Redskins fans think that if Tampa and Seattle had switched seeds, the Skins might have gone on a kooky playoff run and the Giants knocked out in the first round? I'd sure like to have seen us get a chance at the G-Men in the playoffs. Just sayin'.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I must be in the wrong place... can anybody direct me to the Irrational Peylisha Manning/Manning thread? I understand that at the next family holiday that will battle to the death using their MVP trophies as weapons.

Or next season, 35 year-old Cooper Manning, his genetically narrowed spinal column magically repaired, will crash somebody's training camp and unexpectedly lead his team to a SB win, so Manning pere gets 3 SB MVP trophies to hang from the Christmas tree....

How'd you like to grow up as a kid in the next generation of that family? While there are all sorts of cool perks, there's also a little thing called PRESSURE! "Son, it's fine if you don't want to play football. But if you think being ranked #3 in the state chess tourney is impressing me, my little kindergartner, you got another think coming. When Uncle Eli was your age he was throwing frozen ropes through brick walls and Uncle Coops was catching them with his eyes closed. Me? That was about when invented oxygen...."

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I don't have a big problem with Manning as MVP, but let's not go overboard. Manning threw two fairly bad passes on the Giants last drive, that easily could have led to a lot of rhetoric being posted today about the Pats' clutchness. The line between hindsight attributions of heroism and and the same for goathood, is very, very, very, thin. Think back to a dropped int just prior to Montana throwing the winning pass to John Taylor against the Bengals.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Re: 91, "The Unpossible Completion". I agree, for the reasons you stated. But let me point out that Tyree didn't just crash to the gound, he was bent bass-ackwards over Harrison's body on the way to crashing into the ground, and STILL held onto the ball.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

#102

Like it Bobman! Surely though Mini-Mannings' greatest adversary will be Baby Brady. Because Baby Brady will surely win the Chess tourney with a clutch sacrifice in the endgame against the #1 rated player in the state...

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Has anyone heard an answer to this question: When Belichick challenged the 12 men on the field on the punt, was the Pats coaching staff aware of the possible penalty before Joe Buck mentioned it on the broadcast?

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I also like Troy Aikman as a broadcaster, though I think he'd be much better without Joe Buck. Aikman can offer insights into defensive formations and details of the passing game that a lot of broadcasters don't bother with, and I think he did particularly well yesterday (extra spotters, camera angles, etc., probably helped).

67:

"People use things like “heart”, “determination” and “guts” to retroactively find reasons for teams winning. I say all professional athletes have those things, or they wouldn’t be professional athletes."

Yes, certainly, and those emotional/psychological factors don't belong in a statistical metric. However, the emotions of players and teams do fluctuate: sometimes a team comes out with more energy and "clear-headedness" than other times. It's not stupid to talk about the impact emotion and psychology have on a game: it would only be stupid to try and quantify it.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

#102

Like it Bobman! Surely though Mini-Mannings\' greatest adversary will be Baby Brady. Because Baby Brady will surely win the Chess tourney with a clutch sacrifice in the endgame against the #1 rated player in the state.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Congratulations to Football Outsiders on another year of great articles and conversation! What a Super Bowl, that was a good game. I feel so bad for you Pats fans, losing by 3...... Hmmmm a team winning a football game by 3 points..... or a Super Bowl by 3 points..... that's gotta be called... what.. lucky? coin flip? coulda gone either way?

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

One quick comment to add:

All the Giants and Pats fans on the discussion board during the game handled themselves with tremendous class and dignity. They didn't hold back their enthusiasm, but they were very courteous and avoided any bickering-prone barbs that we've all seen. It was an enjoyable thread, and those fans deserve a note of commendation.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

101: The G-men didn't have an "impressive second-half run". They squeaked past the Bears and Lions (and Dolphins), and got soundly beaten by the Vikes, Washington and Dallas.

Statistically speaking, the Giants road to the Superbowl was probably even more shocking than the result of the big game itself.

- They're just the second 10-win team to earn a ring; don't let's forget, they had the same number of regular season wins as Cleveland.

- The best team they beat in the regular season was 9-7 Washington, in week three, ie well before Washington caught fire. They didn't beat another opponent with a winning record, and their victims went a combined 61-99, or .381, or "the San Francisco 49ers".

- They played their three most recent postseason opponents in the regular season, and went 0-4 (including 0-3 at home). In the postseason, of course, they went 3-0, all on the road.

That just screams "Something changed". We'll probably never know what. But I don't think we can expect DVOA to 'predict' something that doesn't add up, however you look at it.

(I guess if there's one thing to re-examine, it would be the relative importance of weighted DVOA in the postseason, vis-à-vis regular DVOA. In the past, I recall Aaron has said the whole-season model is more predictive of postseason success, but the sample size must have been small, and perhaps could be looked at again, in the light of the Steelers', Panthers' and Giants' upsets.)

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Anybody know the rule on wide receiver screenS?

The Vikings used to run some for Moss and would get called for offensive PI REPEATEDLY because C Carter would be blocking before the pass was caught.

The Patriots wide receiver screens have blocking happening at the snap, making them more effective.

The two biggest letdowns in NFL history have both had Randy Moss on the wrong end. I think Moss is phenomenal, but he's got to be aging with the Falcons loss and now this.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

wow - congrats to the Giants - this Pats fan is shaken to the core, but the Giants were the better team.

Strangely, in spite of being outplayed, the Pats had 4 plays on the Giants final drive that were within a mere inch of ending the game. A few almost interceptions, a near fumble, near sack, etc. But you knew when the Giants made "the play" that fate was intervening.

I can't imagine how great Giants fans feel today. I disagree mildly with Simmons - this was *greater* than the 2001 Pats upset. The Pats were underdogs, to be sure - but they weren't playing a team with a perfect records and all the dimensions that the Pats had. Just an unbelievable win.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

111 (ammek):
You make some excellent points. You don't really think about how the Giants had an identical record as the Browns this season.
However, at the start of the playoffs, the Giants' weighted DVOA, was, IIRC, lower than their full-season DVOA. If not, it was roughly the same, so not even weighted DVOA gave a good indication that the Giants had changed (and I do believe something changed).

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I can’t imagine how great Giants fans feel today.

JohnR - Speaking just for myself, the three stages I went through last night:

1. Holy ***, holy ***, holy ******* ****.

2. Simmons' five year grace period is doubled for this, at least.

3. A slight tinge of wistfulness. Giant fandom peaked last night - it will never get better than this. Now what?

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

#112 - What about the 41-0 NFCCG loss to the giants? Maybe not on the historic level as the other two, but that's also got to hurt.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

116: 3. A slight tinge of wistfulness. Giant fandom peaked last night - it will never get better than this. Now what?

Ah, I remember that feeling in February 2002.

If it's any consolation, little did I know at the time that yes, it could get better. That win over Carolina in 2004 still gives me chills.

[Watch out - the "little Giants that could" may turn out to be the next behemoth, and in 7 years everyone will be bitching about their dominance and hoping that they lose. You never know. :)]

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

112: I'd add the Niners' "threepeat" letdown against the Giants in the NFCCG to the list, too. I was more shocked by that result than last night, actually. (Of course, I was 12 at the time, so I may not have been the most insightful observer.)

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Patriotsgirl - I doubt it. With all due respect, the Rams were not 18-0 and Martz - again, no offense - is not Belichick.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

111

I don't know -- I think you CAN say the Giants mostly stepped it up after the Vikings game, with the sole exception of their loss to Washington.

They won tough games on the road against Chicago and DVOA-fancied Philadelphia, then (after the Skins game) they spanked a decent Bills team. After that, of course, was the epic Week 17 game against New England, followed by the miraculous playoff run.

Clearly, their playoff wins were qualitatively better than anything they achieved in the regular season. But if you look at their run of games from Week 13 on, the biggest outlier is not the SB win but the decisive loss to the Redskins. Or, at least, that's how this Skins fans sees things.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

"Saying the Pats choked is unfair, but it is also unfair to say the Giants got all the breaks. Chase Blackburn didn’t get off the field on a 4th and 3. On a 3rd down before the Pats go ahead drive, Manning scrambled and missed a wide open Burress. Both teams got breaks. New England just couldn’t block the Giants well enough."

This. Other breaks the Pats were getting were a number of dropped passes by the Giants (including one that became a pick), the fumble on the handoff to Bradshaw in the first place, and the delay of game penalty (against both the Cowboys and Packers, there were a number of plays where the clock was at zero and the refs didn't throw the flag until about one-thousand-one after it hit zero). And while there was unquestionably OPI on Toomer on that play, there was the time where the Patriot player smacked a Giant in the head with the ref looking right at it, without a flag. There were a number of holds on both teams that went uncalled. Overall, I felt the breaks basically were close enough to even that in the grand scheme of things it didn't matter.

Besides, in the end, it wasn't the breaks that decided the game. It was an absolutely inconceivable play, where Eli channeled his inner Roethlisburger and Tyree became Cris Carter that did it.

I have watched that play at least 100 times already, and there are so many parts to it that are unbelievable that it is breathtaking.

The Pats rushed four, and every Giants lineman except for McKenzie got beaten and beaten badly. Snee didn't block anyone, looking like he wanted to help out O'Hara, but by the time he had decided to the defender had already blown past him. He just stood there doing nothing for the rest of the play. Diehl got beat on a speed move to the outside, but kept at it as best as he could, steering the defensive end around Manning, who was forced to step up-- right into the arms of Green, who had run right through Seubert, and Seymour, who had run right through O'Hara.

And then... what the! Manning manages to break free from the jersey-grasping, helped tremendously by the fact that Seubert, despite being beaten, had not given up and had continued to fight, keeping Green from being able to gain leverage to bring down Manning and pushing him into Seymour, pretty much doing the same to him. When Manning squirted out the back, O'Hara, Diehl, and Seubert were squared up quickly to provide a wall of blockers. O'Hara pretty much whiffed, but Diehl and Seubert sealed off the Patriots' rush at that point.

And Eli... felt the pressure coming from the left side of the offensive line. Stepped up, which was his only option, even though it put him in dire straits. Protected the ball, which is not something he has always done. Showed great balance and strength, and wrestled free-- and immediately acted like he had just taken the snap and did a five step drop, getting his balance, squaring his hips, planting his feet while looking downfield, made the instantaneous decision about where he was going with the ball, and stepped into the throw.

Not perfect, but amazing under the chaos that the play had been to that point.

You can't see all of the receivers on the play from the TV replay, but you can see a few. Smith was covered in the short middle. Jacobs, who isn't the best of hands anyway, is covered in the right flat. By the looks of the break off the line, Plaxico was covered. When the ball left Manning's hand, Tyree was standing in a hole in the coverage. It was the right decision on where to throw, which is astounding. That was great by Manning to be able to orient himself to what was happening downfield and to process what he saw quickly.

The throw wasn't perfect-- as often is the case with Manning, it sailed on him a bit. But one thing you can say about Eli, is that he can put some mustard on the throw. It might not have been the most accurate dart, but it was still a dart and it was close enough to allow Tyree to make a play on it. If that ball floats, it is easily broken up or intercepted.

And while Tyree did not get the ball at its highest point (a physical impossibility), he timed his jump so perfectly that he did get the ball at HIS highest point. Harrison's arm gets into the ball and pretty much smacks him in the face in the process, Harrison's knee in his back, flailing at the ball and bending Tyree backwards to the ground over his leg-- his leg pretty much keeping Tyree, and the ball, from hitting the ground (which would almost certainly have resulted in the ball popping loose). Tyree losing his right hand off the ball, pinning it to his helmet with his left as he desperately reaches his right arm back up to get both hands on it, somehow keeping the ball from ever touching the ground.

Inconceivable.

Tyree running off to high-five Jared Lorenzen. Brady shaking his head in disbelief. He wasn't the only one. What a play. What a play.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Will great point in 103, one I think people really gloss over a lot. So many games teams split the amount of "deservingness to win" 53%-47%. And in the post game analysis it sounds like it was 90-10. Same thing with individual performance. I didn't think his Brady was so different from every other Brady I have seen over the years, and you know if Samuel makes that catch it would have been cited as a "greatest QB ever triumphs in the face of adversity", instead of a "Bad Game".

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Regarding 2 game-ending plays (Comment 2)

1.Samuel was out of bounds, so even if he had caught the ball, it wouldn't have mattered.

2.Had Manning been sacked, it would have been 4th and about 10, so not quite a game-ending play (although it would certainly have made it much more likely).

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I hate the patriots. A LOT. And even I could see that Toomer had unquestionable OPI, and the patriots unquestionably recovered the fumble. Anyone who says the FO staff are biased for saying so should consider watching a different sport becuase you obviously dont know shit about this one.

moving on to happier things. The patriots win 3 superbowls in 4 years, on the verge of 4 in 6 years along with what would go down as the greatest season of all time. Creating what will become known as a great football dynasty never to be forgotten. Now they wont ever be forgotten, but they will be known as CHOKERS and CHEATERS. I hope their superbowls get stripped and all involved get fired. It wont be long before this can of worms comes open and the Patriots go down in history much like the blacksox in baseball.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I keep reading post #35, and for some reason the words "Eli Manning" and "Giants" keep registering as "Jake Delhomme" and "Panthers" in my mind.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

"My question to those who watch New York on a more regular basis: we saw a hint of what this D could do against the Eagles in week 3. It really came together in the playoffs. What happened the rest of the regular season?"

My answer is that our linebacking play was not good for much of the season. Part of this was Mathias Kiwanuka-- he's a talent but OLB is not his natural position and there were a lot of growing pains until he got injured. We were extremely vulnerable to screens and to tight end/running back passes until they started playing better as a unit. We also were very vulnerable to patient running backs who would exploit the tendency the Giants' LBs had to over-pursue.

When the linebacking play solidified, there were much fewer options for stopping the pass rush.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Great description, Gerry, of an incredible play. It reminds me a bit of the McNair play, the 2nd to last play I think, in the Rams-Titans Superbowl.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

126 - Other than Manning being the #1 overall pick in the draft, and Delhomme going undrafted, I'd say they were virtual clones.

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

120: And, with respect, these Giants aren't the old Patriots. Before February 2002, I had seriously convinced myself that I'd never see any Super Bowl win in my lifetime. The franchise was that pathetic. The fact that they won their first Super Bowl against one of the greatest offenses ever (and make no mistake, those Rams were a great team that would have been on many all-time lists if they'd won) - it was the icing on the cake.

Whereas the Giants - they did have some good games in the 1991 postseason, as I recall. Including beating a legendary team trying for a historical threepeat and an awesome Bills offense along the way. And there was the 1986 season.

(To be clear - I'm not diminishing what the Giants fans are feeling AT ALL - just trying to explain my comment why I thought it may be similar to 2002. We can agree to disagree, though, because it's so freaking subjective.)

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Re: Brady going down easy. On the one sack it looked to me like he thought he thought he was going to get hammered and became more concerned with protecting the ball than escaping.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

pg - there are definitely some similarities between the 02 pats and these Giants. I just have a hard time imagining that a win in a few years over Jacksonville or Cleveland or some other nondescript team could compare to taking down the dynastic, 18-0 Evil Empire. (again, no offense!)

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

You guys keep up witht the Giants are/were a mediocre team. When will you admit that, while DVOA is a nice tool it does not and will never capture everything about a football team. A team is a collection of human beings. And over a short period of time, humans are notoriously inconsistent. The problem with DVOA in evaluating the Giants regular season is twofold. First and foremost is that the Giants have had a maddening tendency to do stupid things and shhot themselves in the foot. For example, they led the league in dropped passes. Does this mean that all the GIants have hands of stone and will never start holding on to those balls. NO! What is means is that they had a problem with lack of concentration. The Giants are a team with about a similar amount physical talent as the teams they beat in the playoffs. They just stopped beating themselves. They are the 3rd youngest team in football. May, they finally got it, whatever it is and didn't have to think about what they were doing and could judt do it. Maybe the coaches simplified things so they didn't have to think as much. Clearly something happened to Corey Webster from the first 2 games, where he was awful (couldn't cover or tackle) and was benched, to the end of the season where came off the bench because of injuries and played lights out. Whatever IT is, they stopped making the mistakes that killed them and lo and behold, the physical talent took over and won games. There is no way for DVOA to predict this sort of mental/psychological turn-around to a team. Perhaps it took most of the year for the players performance to truly respond to the changes in the way Coughlin was handling the team. Who knows... The second issue, and I think less of a factor, is injuries. Despite his early season success, clearly Buress was struggling with his injuries most of the year. He was getting healthier toward the playoff run and was practicing. Amani Toomer had reconstructive knee surgery and did not look like himself most of the season. He looked like a guy who had lost a step that he could not afford. He has admitted that his knee improved as the season went along. It is not typical that players end a season heathier than when they started, and this can throw DVOA off. Perhaps you should look at the Giants DVOA numbers in the post season, and consider them against the rest of the league and see where that would place them. Perhaps then you might begin to see the true nature of the Giants...

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

@117 -

As a Viking fan, the 41-0 loss in the NFCG didn't really hurt too badly, especially up against the '98 loss. The team that got slaughtered just flat out wasn't very good -- once they got strafed in back-to-back-to-back weeks by Favre/Manning/Warner (in some order), it was pretty obvious that this team didn't have enough on defense to be a really viable contender. The beating sucked, but it wasn't like '98.

That '98 team was just something else. The defense sucked, but the offense was SO ridiculously good that it usually didn't matter. People forget that they never scored fewer than 24 points in a game (in the loss @TB where the Bucs never punted) and that Cunningham could've set a bunch of records had he started the whole season. All this year I've been asking myself if the '98 Vikings or the '07 Patriots had the best offense I've ever seen. After the last couple of weeks, I'd give the edge to the Vikes, but I'm a homer on that one too.

Really, how amazing is Moss? The guy is a force of nature. That's the type of guy you bust your cap for.

Anyways, those last couple of paragraphs are a long way of saying that the loss to Atlanta in the NFCG is the worst experience I've had as a sports fan. Those Vikings are the best team I ever rooted for, and I will have an irrational hatred of Gary Anderson until the day I die for missing that field goal. He could've at least been shaky at some point during the year -- we really didn't need those 6 FGs in the beatdown of the Jags.

Okay, I'll stop whining now.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

133: Ah, got it. I misunderstood what you were saying.

(And given that you guys have what, 3 SBs now?, I can see your point. Bet you never thought the 1990-91 season would be topped, huh?)

And while I'm at it, I want to second hooper's comment in 110. Seriously, one of the things that made the result more palatable was how classy and respectful the Giants fans were in the thread.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

To echo the sentiments of some other folks, I wanted to say that I was almost as (pleasantly) surprised by the civil and sportsmanlike discussion about the game as I was about the outcome itself.

Now, for something different: does anybody else here think that BOTH quarterbacks are getting a little too much credit for their late-game play? Eli threw the one obvious near-pick, but that wasn't the only dicey play on his part. He deserves kudos for having great pocket presence -- he knew when to tuck and run -- but his throw on the "Umpossible" play seemed like terrible decision-making. I loved seeing the play, and I don't want to take anything away from his escape, but it seemed like that could have easily been one of those boneheaded plays he makes. Brady, meanwhile, had a mostly solid drive for the go-ahead TD, but people are neglecting to note that he missed a very open Moss on first-and-goal; his touchdown throw wasn't exactly a great play on his part, since the DB slipped and fell.

I'm not saying that they're bad players; I definitely think Brady is one of the top 2 QBs, and that Eli is average-to-above-average. But they really didn't impress me last night.

Finally, the "Umpossible" play reminded me a little of McNair's crazy scramble against the Rams: they were in similar situations, and I expected the final outcome to be the same. The main difference is that there was a superhuman effort on the receiver's end last night.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Watch out - the “little Giants that could” may turn out to be the next behemoth, and in 7 years everyone will be bitching about their dominance and hoping that they lose. You never know.

I doubt it, actually. Everyone agrees the Giants won that game because of the strength of their front four - and while Strahan leaving won't be that much of a loss (since they're ridiculously deep) it still will be a loss. They'll still be a very strong defensive line, but I don't think they'll be able to take over a game for 60 minutes like they did yesterday.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Seriously, one of the things that made the result more palatable was how classy and respectful the Giants fans were in the thread.

Which was very refreshing in comparison to the thread when the Colts lost, and Patriots fans came in taunting.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

If Bradshaw continues playing as he has, Eli gets a little better over the offseason, and the receivers get a little better, they could be a very very dominant team.

Most teams are pretty far away from dominant. Some teams are closer than others. Having my QB young, my RB's young, a young TE which has been outstanding...

I'd rather be sitting there, than with an aging QB, again RB, etc.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

"Dallas/Green Bay/New England in the playoffs" Oddly another 18-1 team did. A team that almost everyone forgets. The 1984 49ners beat the Bears, Giants, Dolphins. The 1984 Dolphins everyone remembers and like this Pats team featured a soon to fall apart old defense, The Bears would win the next super bowl in famous fashion and the Giants the next one after that. Yet some how that's the forgotten 49ner team. I really have to throw out props to Coughlin a guy everyone had fired. I feel great for all the Dolfans that had to endure a livin' hell on their message boards from the insane Pats fan. I feel bad for Aaron and the gang here. I always find Football Outsiders pretty fair in it's evaluation of the AFC east. A few insane fans can ruin an image of a fan base. This has to suck for those guys.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

re: 89

"It was also great watching that game and seeing the Giants front four do some of the things I’ve been saying for the past several weeks. Targeted pressure up the middle, and then shift to the outside when they start to have the guards help out inside.

I do have to agree with Rich Conley now regarding the Patriots offensive line. I think most of the credit I was giving to the tackles was purely a result of the guards being very, very good. Force the guards to start paying attention inside with blitzes and a DE playing at DT, and the tackles struggle.

:: Pat — 2/4/2008 @ 4:27 pm"

the impression i was getting last night is that the pressure the ends were getting was forcing the pats to widen their line splits, which opened up the A-gaps for those LB blitzes~

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

the concept remains the same tho, which is that you need to pressure brady up the middle so that he's constantly shifting his launch point

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

On 113, regarding which is a greater upset, now or Pats-Rams, personally I expected this game to be close, but the Pats Rams game surprised me.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

Pat, the Giants are a young team, including a young qb. What we have seen over the past 6 weeks could be closer to their new norm than what many expect. No, I'm not predicting 4 world championships, but if they get some trade value for Shockey, depending on cap details, and draft as well over the next couple years as they did this year, I think the rest of the NFC could have their hands full. Especially if Strahan has a couple years left in the tank; the Giants really should consider giving him a very light training camp work schedule for the rest of his career.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

the impression i was getting last night is that the pressure the ends were getting was forcing the pats to widen their line splits, which opened up the A-gaps for those LB blitzes~

You're talking about the successful gap rushes which is obviously going to be the opposite of the pressure points (unless the offensive line really, really sucks). We're saying exactly the same thing. The ends were having success because the guards couldn't help out.

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

#28 (and 42): I don't understand the idea that refs should "let the players play." If the refs don't call penalties they should call then they're deciding the game just as much as if they call penalties they shouldn't. At any rate, thanks to FO for another great year of football insight. Even if you started the year wrong (leading to FF suckitude on my part and others) and ended the year wrong, you still provided more interesting and entertaining analysis than all the other experts (who were also wrong).

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

There was a play (3rdQ I think) where Mankins shoved Tuck right out of the play, just blew Tuck up, and went looking for another guy to block. Tuck recovered his balance, got back up to speed, and got a hit on Brady with Mankins desperately trying to get into position to re-establish the block.

That play was emblematic of the Giants D-line all game. They were so freaking good. They never gave up. They made great play after great play. If it hadn't been against my team, I would have loved every second of it. As it was, I and my Pats fans friends were yelling/crying about the Pats blocking for all four hours and when I woke up this morning I started again.

Great game. Congratulations, Giants.

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLII

I know it's a different era, but try this for a comparison - the 1934 NFL Championship (known as the 'Sneakers Game') featured the NY Giants at an unimpressive 8-5 (equivalent to 10-6 in a 16 game schedule) against the perfect 13-0 Chicago Bears. The Giants won 30-13.