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04 Feb 2008

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.)

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 04 Feb 2008

351 comments, Last at 09 Feb 2013, 1:02am by poussette-double


by RickD (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 3:31am

re: 300
This just in...some players in the NFL trash talk.

Stop the presses!

by RickD (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 3:39am

re: 231
Josh McDaniels appears to be a wee bit overrated.

I'm reminded of the situation in Minnesota when Billick ran the offense and they set a record for points scored. And then he went to Baltimore and could never make the offense work. Talent counts for a lot.

I didn't get the playcalling in the 4th quarter: only one rushing play! When they had 1st down at the 7, I was sure they would rush it in. Instead, the two incomplete passes burnt almost no time off the clock.

And the playcalling on the very last drive was horrible. After feasting on short passes the entire second half, suddenly they had to throw the ball 40 yards downfield and get all the yardage at once? Bad playcalling. Very bad.

by DoubleB (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 4:03am

A couple of notes that nobody will read:

1) 4th and 13 call--I'm going to preface this by saying I thought it was the wrong decision, but I disagree that it's indefensible. The analysis in post 252 is great if we're playing in a vacuum, but we're not. We have real players with real flaws.

The option to punt is poor. Hanson had punted 3 times up to that point in the game (1 of which didn't count because of the 12-men penalty). He had a 25-yard net because of poor hang time, a ball that took a great NE bounce (but was short), and a pooch punt that landed on the 18 (but again had an NE bounce and moved to the 14). He's not very good anyway and hasn't been all year. Unless you think he can get it inside the 10, I don't see the value there.

I thought NE should have kicked the FG, but Belichick knows Gostkowski better than anyone. He already had the terrible out of bounds kick. Maybe he thought the kid was nervous or he had some bad practices leading up to the game or whatever. He hadn't had to make an important kick all year. I don't think he believed the kid was going to make that kick in the that situation very often.

Going for it. NE had made two 3rd and 13s in the game already. They obviously have the offensive capability to make the play. Based on what I saw, it looked like an isolation to Gaffney for a hitch-and-go and they didn't get the coverage they wanted--although someone is wide open on the play to the trips side--I believe a defensive mistake in coverage (10 guys playing man and 1 wasn't).

2) I have completely underestimated how good Welker is. I was extremely impressed by his play. He's very good at maximizing yardage on a play and although he's not fast, he's extremely quick in the hips. His block on the 3rd and 13 rocket screen on NE's last drive of the 1st half was fantastic. He's certainly helped by the presence of Moss and Brady, but he'd be valuable just about anywhere. He was the best Patriot on the field by a longshot.

3) The worst Patriot on the field was Brady--Kyle Brady. Good god, he was terrible. He mostly missed guys and when he didn't he didn't get any push off the line. Unless I missed something later in the game, he was useless.

4) MVP: It should have gone to a Giant defensive lineman. I think you could make a great case for any of the 3 (Strahan, Tuck, or Umenyiora) or even all of them. They all made plays throughout the game. Eli played well, but did ANYBODY think NE would have 275 yards of offense and 14 points? Me neither.

5) It was a great game, but I still think Super Bowl XXV was better. I thought that game was played at a higher level. It's remembered for the ending, but it was such a well-played game by both sides for its entirety.

by Joe D (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 4:21am

The Broncos/Packers SB was a bigger upset by point spread as was the Jets/Colts.

I agree with those saying the only reason this is considered such a big upset is because people overrated the Pats and underrated the Giants. They lost by a month ago, as another poster said.

12 points upsets happen all the time in football. It was obvious this wasn't as big a mismatch as some thought, the point spread dropped to 12, and the money line was low (4:1) for a 12-14 point line anyway, indicating they thought something was up. By game time the money line dropped to 7:2. I guess the public knows more than the pundits sometimes.

Anyway, this game was nothing close to the biggest upset in NFL (let alone sports) history.

by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 5:09am

#294: I didn't miss a single snap of the game. But you're right about it being a great one :-)

#301: Trash-talking when only up by 3 in the final minutes of the Super Bowl is just asking for it. Amazing how the Pats' collective arrogance was apparently in full force until the bitter end. Bitter for them, that is :-)

by Herm? (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 9:46am

Well then congratulations, DOLFAN, on the NEW YORK GIANTS winning the superbowl...I suppose if you root for 31 teams, you have to win one once in awhile. :-)
And wait a few weeks before you chime in about arrogance...I don't think you've been formally introduced to your new Director of Football Operations. You're going to learn to love press conferences.

Actually, the reason I came to post was to see if there's any local news in Washington about Spagnuolo. It'd be a shame to see that staff broken up before it had a chance to establish longevity.

by Jets Fan (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 12:48pm

OK, my biggest question/issue was not going for it on 4th and 13 (believe it or not). I still want more info on leaving Burress wide open in the end zone when you know he is the guy you have to double-team in this situation. I think I would have considered putting Randy Moss on him with a DB to double team him with some height. But not only did they not double team him, they let him get behind the DB .. Inexplicable! So please give me some info. Were the Pats burned on a blitz -and is that what left them exposed ? I want to know more about this play... I'm still perplexed. What happened to let Plaxico get so wide open on such an obvious pass play?

by goathead (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 1:51pm

On the Burress TD, Hobbs bit on the slant fake. The pats were in a tough situation. 40 seconds left 1st down at the 13. The Giants could pick up a 1st short of the TD, so they had to defend a lot of field. They decided to gamble and blitz, likely thinking their best chance of winning was a sack.

BUT, Hobbs bit hard and fast on the Burress fake, clearly afraid to get behind Burress going to the inside. Burress didn't wait for Hobbs to bite to go outside, just a quick 2 step fake followed by a sprint to the end zone. The moment Hobbs bought the fake, Eli threw the pass. TD.

Frankly, at that point the pats were in a world of trouble though.

by Gerry (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 1:58pm

307-"Were the Pats burned on a blitz -and is that what left them exposed ?"

The Giants lined up in the shotgun, trips right, Burress split out left, single back (I think it was Hedgecock, but the video I have is not clear being a Youtube).

The Pats had four on the line, three in three point stances, the left defensive end standing. They had four other defenders in the box as the Giants came to the line, and then all crowded the line, with the LILB over the innermost triplet and the LOLB on the middle triplet, signaling primarily man coverage. The left CB was lined up over the far outside triplet, about 8 yards deep. There was a single safety on the left (from the defensive standpoint) hashmark, behind the LILB and LOLB, suggesting strongly that at least one of those backers would be blitzing.

If you count, that means that Hobbs was on an island with no help anywhere on his side of the field.

Prior to the snap, all four linebackers came up suggesting a complete jailbreak blitz.

At the snap, the only one of those 8 in the box that did not come was the LOLB, who stayed with the secondmost outside receiver. The innermost triplet was in position to block the LILB, but that wasn't his assignment; instead he let him go and tailed off into the right flat, completely uncovered.

One of the most interesting things about the play, to my eyes, is what Hedgecock did. Before the snap, he was to Manning's left. The Pats, as mentioned, had 8 defenders all threatening to rush, and while they were slightly skewed to the right side (where the trips were), they weren't overly so. However, it is clear from Hedgecock's moves at the snap that the Giants had anticipated the blitz. Before the LILB had even crossed the line of scrimmage, before there was any indication of which lineman might need some help, Hedgecock started to the right--- clearly he knew that since the innermost wideout was going to be the 'hot', and since the defender was right over him on the line and if blitzing would be unaccounted, that was his responsibility. He got in position, squared himself, and sealed off the right side of a nice pocket for Manning.

The Pats did have 7 rushers going against only 6 Giant defenders, but it took a second for one to break free, coming up the middle. He was still about 4 yards away when Manning started his throw and 3 yards away when the ball left his hand. It was a perfect call to go against the Pats blitz choice there-- whoever the inner triplet was was wide open in the flat five yards deep, and Burress was in single coverage with no chance of safety help. Manning's reads on the play would have been remarkably simple-- if he thought Burress had it, throw it there, if not go to the right flat. The Giants offensive line just had to make sure that the extra defender couldn't shoot the gap unimpeded-- slowing him just a step would be sufficient, and they did this.

The Pats were doomed, IMO, right at the snap. The previews here had said that Manning had been struggling against the big blitz in the playoffs, so it might have been the right idea. However, with the protections set up the way it was, the Giants were completely ready for it. They honestly could not have scripted that last play any better.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 2:00pm

Jetsfan, it appeared to me that the Pats blitzed heavily (again, with the Super Bowl socializing going on, I couldn't watch the line of scrimmage as closely as I normally do), and as often happens in that situation, the db tried to jump a short route, in anticipation that pressure will prevent a successful double move, and when the blitz was completely blocked, the db was screwed. If someone is going to be faulted, I'd place most of the blame on the pass rushers, or on the defensive playcaller.

Thanks to the folks above who provided the scheme breakdowns. Maybe it is the case that the Pats worst packages, in terms of the quality of the personnel, are max protect schemes, if Brady was as bad as some have stated. I still have it on my dvr, so maybe I will go back and see how dedicated the tight ends were to chipping effectively on the edge rushers, and how dedicated Faulk was to giving help on the interior, or whether they had these guys pretty much getting into patterns. I just remember, from the classic Gibb era, that when Gibbs thought two of his receivers had real mismatches, even against double coverage, he would have eight guys in front of the qb, without any other duties except providing pass protection. Of course, classic Gibbs also entails a heavy commitment to rushing attempts, which helps keeps the safeties closer to the line of scrimmage. The pats certainly seemed to abandon any substantial attempt to run.

Given how easily Moss was running through the Giants' coverage schemes, only to have Brady unable to deliver the ball, I'd be interested to see if the Pats' max protect schemes are as single-minded as the Readskins were in their glory years, or if the Redskins in their glory years were just a lot better at max protect. Then again, there were days that the Redskins just couldn't get Lawrence Taylor blocked, no matter what they tried.

by Fred (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 2:04pm

#301: NE was supposed to be the team that "played the right way" and let their play on the field do the talking. Trash talking is not "the Patriot way."

by Gerry (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 2:18pm

Looking at it again, Manning's read was probably even simpler than I stated it. If the blitz came, either 7 or 8, then the right flat would be open but the passing lane would likely not be there. His choice was made as soon as the defenders took their first step-- Burress all the way. Get the shotgun step, one step back, throw the fade.

Touchdown, Giants.

by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 2:51pm

302: I've always been a little surprised that McDaniels was considered for so many head coaching vacancies. He always seemed a bit green to me (he's a year older than his quarterback), and it almost seemed like he panicked re: the running game and the Madden-style deep throws at the end. Hopefully he'll learn.

312: I'm surprised you would have to look at it again. I'd have thought you'd have watched it so many times that it would be on a continuous loop in your brain by now. :)

by Gerry (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 2:57pm

Hey Patsgirl, since you are checking here, someone on one of the other threads found in the NFL rulebook that it is legal to grab, hold, etc. when the ball is on the ground in an attempt to either get or prevent someone else from getting a loose ball.

So on the gameday thread when I said I thought that a flag could have been called on the batting play for a hold against the Pats, I was completely in error. You had it right.

by Gerry (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 3:04pm

313-"I’m surprised you would have to look at it again. I’d have thought you’d have watched it so many times that it would be on a continuous loop in your brain by now. :)"

I have to pry myself away from The Backbreaker (my preferred term for the Tyree catch). :-)

by Jets Fan (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 3:34pm

awesome, thank you. for the life of me I couldn't figure out how a Belicik coached team could leave the #1 wide receiver wide open. I think I have to give more credit to Burress' fake to the inside, if that is what gave him most of the separation from Hobbs.
I will always remember that play.

Good for Burress. I think I read somewhere that Burress beat Tom Brady in college after making a similar "prediction".

Good stuff, thanks for all of that great info.

by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 3:55pm

314: Thanks, his clarification was really helpful. I need to go over the rulebook one of these days.

And 315: Maybe I'll be able to watch it more closely one day.

Then again, given that I winced when I saw the Desmond Howard play from the 96/97 SB in an NFL Films presentation last week, maybe not.

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 5:10pm

Re: #311

That's a media creation. The Pats do and have always trash talked on the field as much as any other team. They do trash talk significantly less than many other teams before the game, though.

by Loyatulla (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 6:14pm

RE serenity: worth exploring a bit more. It did hurt. "Wasn't supposed to turn out like this." but day 3 & the worst of the pain has passed. Some reasons:
1) After the Philadelphia game, I think many of us Pats fans started waiting for the other shoe to drop. Lots of three point squeakers against (supposedly) mediocre teams. And the playoff run wasn't anything to sing about either.
2) The fairness of the Giant's victory. I'd have been chewing nails for weeks if the 'what ifs' had come into play. "Woulda won if Brady hadn't been knocked outta the game ... if those stupid refs and their 4th quarter interference calls ... if etcetera." But no, your Giants played with more intensity, blew up our offensive line and took the victory. Nothing really to say (or feel) but "Good game, Champs."
3) "The Play" gave me, at least, 95 seconds warning that the Football Gods weren't interested in a 19-0 season. No doubt sounds superstitious, but some part of me figured right then that what I hoped for wasn't going to be in the cards.

A note on 'The Name': I've gotten some laughs with 'Three Hands and a Helmet,' but seriously, what's needed is a pithy phrase that encompasses both ends of the pass. Either 'The Escape' or 'The Catch II' taken alone would be showing up on ESPN for years, but taken together - wow. Whatever it's finally called I think has to apply to the whole sequence, not just half of it.

by terry (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 10:46pm

pats arragance or ignorance: 2:55 left 1st & goal at the 6 used only 13 seconds maroney had scored 2x in first meeting at least make giants use timeout or 2

by thestar5 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 11:04pm

245 Dolfan,
Thank you very much sir.

Yes thank goodness!

Yeah but thats just another reason why people hate the pats. We have to hear it all the time. Its kinda like how the phrase "America's Team" gets on people's nerves. It doesn't matter if its real or not.

I don't think it was either. I think that they already had so much trouble throughout the game scoring TD's, that just getting one was more important than worrying about the clock. They wanted three chances to pass it in, and most like ly one woulld be successful. Its not like the running game really worked at all for them, it probably would have just wasted a down. I do see your point that it would have been good to take more time off the clock but that would be my best guess at their thinking. Also their defense had been pretty good so they were probably confident they could get a stop no matter how much time was left. The most important thing was to get the TD.

by David (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 12:48am

Anyone else see the similarity to the '01 NE-STL SB in that the losing team seemed DETERMINED to win in a pre-determined way...ignoring what was happening.
I'm convinced STL wins if Martz just runs M. Faulk at a NE defense all jacked up to stop the pass.
I'm convinced NE wins Sunday if it just stops the foolishness of trying to run deep patterns when it's OBVIOUS the O-line can't block.
Either use the strategy that worked against SD (run Maroney with 3 TEs) or use the short passes to Welker & Faulk. The 2 TD drives used that strategy.
BB's predetermined effort to win "pretty" cost himself and the team immortality.
He deserves the criticism he's getting in this thread.

As a Pats fan, I just want to say most of us accept our team was clearly & fairly beaten. Of course, we are disappointed at lost immortality for our team. But make fun of NE at your own risk, they'll be back. Sooner than you will like. And in a way, we all lost out on a chance to see history. I understand with BB, NE is not that likeable anymore. But I always root for history as a sports fan. If NE wasn't 18-0 going in, it wouldn't be as big a deal for me.

Other than those in Miami and NY, I think most of you will be sorry that Sunday gave Mercury Morris more of a shelf life. Grumpy Old Men IV starring the '72 Dolphins.

Still, Congrats to NYG on a GREAT WIN.

by thestar5 (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 1:25am


Yeah, but when it comes down to it, I'd much rather hear it from Mercury Morris (one guy who I don't really care about) than the Pats and their fans (which is like, millions of people, including ESPN, who I would have to here gloat about it forever). Which is why as I said earlier its probably the happiest I've ever been about a sporting event that I wasn't playing in.

I usually root for history too, but not for a team that I can't stand. And despite the Pats fans defending of their team (which is normal), I sincerely doubt they would feel any differently than most of the rest of us if another team were in the Pats place this year.

Yeah I really hope the Pats aren't back soon, but it would be stupid to deny their obvious talent. They should be near the top of the league for at least the next few years. As a Cowboy fan though (with their team being in the NFC), I guess it really doesn't matter how good the Pats are as long as they don't make the superbowl. Here's to that! ;)

by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 10:36am

309- Good call, manning is good ( not great) at his presnap reads and that is one of the reasons why he isn't sacked very often. I would assume that he would get "better" at reading defenses with practice ( and he has at least in this last 5 game stretch).

If he were running say the Redskins offense, I wouldn't neccesarily think the he would improve because he would just be walking up to the line and running the play. He was given a lot of responsibility in this offense and seeing improvement is logical.

Josh Mcdaniels was the obvious goat of the game. He played the 2001 Mike Martz role very well.

The media in the last couple days seems to be loving that sound bite where Brady was laughing at Plax's prediction that the mighty Pats would only score 17 points.

by RickD (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 11:25am

I just figured out why Belichick didn't go for a FG on the notorious 4th and 13.

People who try to understand his thinking have to examine his own recent personal history. For example, with all the hubbub this year about "running up the score", everybody ignored the fact that the Pats blew a huge lead to Indy in last year's AFC Championship game.

So why did the Pats not go for a 48-yard FG? Well, I looked through the box score of the Pats/Chargers game and noticed that the Pats didn't even attempt a FG then. So, we have to go back to the Jaguars game...

There it is. Gostkowski missed his first FG attempt in that game, from a mere 35 yards. While he later hit a 35-yarder, it seems likely that, esp. after the botched kickoff, that BB had no confidence in Gostkowski's ability to hit a long FG. We'll need to keep the missed 35-yard FG in mind when criticizing the coaching.

Should Belichick have had more confidence in his kicker? Given the long odds on the 4th-and-13 play, perhaps. But thinking back to the missed 35-yarder, it is easier to understand.

by RickD (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 11:27am

re: 322
I agree with the criticism, but keep in mind that BB doesn't run the offense, McDaniels does. During the 2nd quarter, while the offense was stalling, Belichick wasn't even watching them play. He was busy working on the defensive scheming.

If you think BB is focused on "winning pretty", you don't know him very well.

by Nicky P (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 1:07pm

I'm not sure if this is the right place to post this, but I couldn't think of a better place on the site.

Are the Patriots better off without Moss? By not signing him, that would free up more money to re-sign Samuel and Colvin (who will most certainly need to take a pay cut to remain in NE). Despite the poor offensive showing in the SB, the defense is what needs more reinforcements.

Any team willing to jam Moss at the line effectively took him out of games. What team wouldn't try this next year? Sure, if Moss beats the jam there's a chance he'll beat you for a big play. But if you give him room to roam around without putting a hand on him, the defense basically has NO chance.

Moss has not shown a willingness or ability to beat the jam. So basically the Pats would be spending about $8mil (if they franchise him) for a decoy.

One more point - without Moss, Brady would be forced to spread the ball around in those crucial situations, rather than locking in on Moss and letting it fly.

Does anyone have a take on this?

by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 1:34pm


Thanks for the expert breakdown on the TD throw. I think you're exactly right--once Burress was single covered by Hobbs on an island, it was fade or nothing. But it just as easily could have been a slant or (less likely) an out. Hobbs gambled and tried to jump the short route (which he shouldn't have done since he should have known it was a blitz), which allowed Burress to get behind him, but even if he hadn't and had played good coverage, I figure Burress still has at least about a 40% chance of catching a fade over Hobbs' head given the difference in their size and the lack of help Hobbs had.

The Patriots rolled the dice there with a jailhouse blitz. It burned them. In hindsight, wouldn't it have made sense in that situation for the defense to drop the defensive end on the offensive left into coverage, and keep the CB (Hobbs) over the top? You still get the defensive overload blitz on the offensive right and middle, you take away the short routes from Burress and make Hobbs job a lot easier (he just has to not get beaten behind him, and immediately tackle Burress if its a short out), you leave the LT blocking no-one, and the only problem is that you leave yourself open to run behind left tackle--but the chance of the Giants audibling to that is relatively slim, since there's no indication that the DE will drop...

Of course, we all know that the real reason why the Patriots lost had nothing to do with all these schemes. It's because Belichick wore a RED hoodie instead of a grey one... :-)

by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 1:37pm


The Pats couldn't adopt their 3-TE strategy from the San Diego game against the Giants, because they only had two TE's active. Their third TE was one of their inactives in the game. Yes, they maybe could have used Britt or O'Callaghan, or even Vrabel, as the third TE (which they have done from time to time when in 3-TE sets), but it's not as effective. My guess is that, because you can't activate everyone, they decided the 3-TE set wouldn't work as well something else required different personnell against the Giants. Maybe theey were wrong, but we'll never know.

by Herm? (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 1:51pm

What's kind of funny about the Plaxico TD (or at least I find it funny in a sad way) is the NFL Films rendition of the week 17 game, where the Giants are deep in the red zone, and the defensive call has Hobbs (I think) on Burress. AND there's an extra dback on the field, but he has no one to cover, so he's shaded at an OLB spot, guessing that he's adjusted and is responsible for an outside contain.
Belichick then starts sprinting up the sideline (in his GRAY hoodie) toward the play & starts screaming at Hobbs and dback #2 to shade out and cover Burress. ("17!...1-7!") Then Hobbs tightens up and dback number 2 shades over.
Sure enough, Eli throws to the corner and the play was broken up.

My point being that this was in their tendencies, and the Patriots knew it, and yet they were burned by it anyways.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 1:58pm

Nicky, Moss has not scored the tds he has because nobody figured out until now to jam him at the line. Jacksonville and San Diego took Moss out of the game by playing 9 on 10 on the rest of the field,and the result was that Brady could have gone 28 for 28, absent a couple of drops against the Jaguars, and Maroney had a big day against the Chargers. Moss ran right through the Giants coverage several times, but the Patriots offensive line was getting whipped so badly by the Giants pass rushers that it didn't make any difference. Had Brady been given time to step into his throws in the manner he did most of the season, Moss would likely would have had at least 150 yards and s couple of tds. The Giants secondary did not stop Moss, the Giants pass rushers did.

Whether they should sign Moss depends on how much money he demands, of course, but people tend to underestimate how much easier it is to operate an offense, from running the ball to the short passing game, when a motivated Moss is forcing opposing defensive coordinators nearly always assign a safety to no other duties but helping a corner, or at least keep a safety well off the line of scrimmage. Even in the red zone it makes a huge difference; I saw many easy tds by guys like Watson or Gaffney when they ran to areas of the end zone made extremely empty by more than one guy gravitating towards Moss.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 2:09pm

David, I tend to agree that it was a real mistake for the Pats to not have a greater commitment to running the ball. It really tends to be a good thing to have when playing a team with two outstanding edge pass rushers. Who knows? Maybe it was pointless, given the game Tuck was having, but it is hard to say with certainty given the limited rushing attempts. Also, I don't know the Pats personnel well enough to tell for sure, but most back up o-lineman are significantly better run blockers than pass blockers, so after Neal left, some more running attempts may have been helpful.

by Nicky P (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 2:24pm


I know you're right. I think I'm just frustrated at what happened on Sunday. I cannot figure out why the Patriots coaching staff didn't make better adjustments.

They went to a double TE formation 15 times in the second half, but it still wasn't enough because they were still trying to get vertical, rather than using some quick strikes. They couldn't go to a three TE formation because they only had two active TEs in that game. Although I suppose they could have used another lineman or Vrabel.

Also, why they didn't go to the no huddle right away and stay there is curious. I understand the Giants opened up with a 10 minute possession and the Pats were likely resting their defense. They may not have wanted to get in a track meet. But by not allowing the Giants to substitute personnel, they would have worn down that DLine much quicker with a no huddle.

I understand not wanting to get into a track meet, but isn't their offense geared to do just that? In a shootout, I'll take the Pats every day.

One can only wonder what impact the Giants-Bills SB had on BB with regard to the no huddle.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 2:45pm

Well, there is nothing wrong with going vertical out of a two te set, with Faulk in the backfield, if you really assign the two tes, and Faulk, to pass protection, and assuming they block decently. If you can't get it blocked with eight guys, and Welker and Moss in patterns, I suppose you are screwed, so I'd have to go back and watch those plays again to see what they were doing out of the two te set. Again, however, this is where a commitment to run comes in handy; it keeps pass rushers back on their heels a little, and makes it more likely that a safety won't be giving Moss full attention. Gibbs won three Super Bowls, two of them easily, with such a mindset. Matt Light and Nick Kaczur probably don't compare to Joe Jacoby and Jim Lachey, however.

by Randy A (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 3:33pm

Gerry/MJK :

I caught the Peyton/Eli meeting in the lockeroom and you can hear them discussing this play. Peyton mentions that they were going primarily two man the whole way but then the brought seven and Eli goes 'they brought seven' and they both say at the same time " and he squatted" (meaning hobbs and his technique). It appears to me that they both discussed this scenario beforehand and what could be done in this situation. Unbelievable.

by DoubleB (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 10:34pm

Pats running the ball:

I don't think NE thought they could run the ball on New York. In the first game they had about 50 yards on 20 carries. After having a 2nd and 2 on their 2nd drive of the game and then having to punt, it became pretty apparent they weren't going to be do it in this game either (Kyle Brady was worthless). Maybe some more draws would have helped, but lining up and going right at them seemed futile.


What adjustments did you want them to make? They couldn't consistently block in the run game or protect in the pass game. When you get whipped up front you become pretty limited in what you can do.

by The Canadian (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 12:46am

Here's one I haven't heard discussed yet. The Giants had the ball on their own 40 with about 7:30 left in the 4th quarter, up 10-7, 4th down and less than one yard to go. They punted. Should they have gone for it? What assumption of probability of 4th down success is required to conclude you should go for it?

by Nicky P (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 12:47am

336 - in terms of adjustments, I'm referring to a shorter passing game - more slants and getting Faulk involved. I also would have liked to see them go more no huddle, taking away the Giants' ability to make substitutions and stay fresh.

It seems like they made these two adjustments, only they waited until their final scoring drive - which was way, way too late.

by DoubleB (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 2:29am

I think the Patriots last scoring drive had as much to do with the exhaustion of the Giant front four and Tuck missing some plays as much as anything else. They ran similar stuff on their last drive to the rest of the game. They just executed a lot better as the Giants wore down.

The one thing they DID do differently on their last scoring drive was incorporate some play action which got them 2 first downs and an open Moss in the end zone (Brady missed him).

by Nicky P (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 2:19pm

I just think that the Giants front four would have tired earlier in the game if the Pats had gone to the no huddle sooner, as they had most of the season.

We'll never know.

by David (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 4:02pm

Re; 323 answering 322

I don't see how you convince yourself that NE would be obnoxious about a "perfect" season when compared to Mercury Morris.

MM PROACTIVELY went after NE all year even though they NEVER talked about being undefeated. Only after winning 15 did they even address being 16-0, and only AFTER the AFC Championship did they discuss 19-0.

The history of NE's behaviour demonstrates that they would not have shoved it in anyone's face, beyond the understandable joy they'd have initially. Have you ever heard Brady or BB mention the 3 out of 4 SBs before?

If your beef is ESPN or Pats FANS, then OK. But could ESPN ignore the Pats run? And based on the Giant's fans reaction this week or the Colt's fans reaction last year, I don't see NE fans being any different.

Trust me, we'll now NEVER see the end of Morris' giant smirk EVERY YEAR when the last undefeated team loses. Or his "in my neighborhood" rants on TV. Maybe next time it will be YOUR team and you'll finally realize the extent of Morris' irrational bragging.

After all, they achieved "perfection" when NOBODY, including THEMSELVES cared. Shula even said after winning the SB the next year that the '73 team was superior to the "perfect" '72 team. They never faced the scrutiny NE faced. I think NE got tired of being angry. You can't be angry for 5 months. Camera controversies, protecting an undefeated record, being hated by everyone, etc. It's not easy. Maybe that explains the gradual decline in play.

Not that any of this changes the fact that the best team on Sunday won, fair and square. No excuses. And NE gave none afterward. Maybe Wade Phillips can learn an edicate lesson from the so-called "arrogant" Pats.

by David (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 4:31pm

RE: My 322 Post

I think going no huddle using dink & dunk passes and screen passes would have frustrated and tired out the NYG front four. Then after getting them gassed, the longer patterns would open up.

I'm convinced that NE was stubborn and just felt the O-line would fix the protection issues and allow Brady the protection he was used to all year.

The great adjustment coach had a terrible day, and I believe it was a case of being stubborn.

Big upsets usually require strategic error by the favorite. I think the NYG were awesome up front and we helped by a NE staff that refused to believe it would last all game......IT DID.

by DoubleB (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 6:36pm


I think that's where we differ. I don't see the big strategic error by the Patriots. I see some questionable decisions (eschewing the 4th and 13 FG being most notable), but more than anything I see a NY Giant team that really matches up well with this Patriot squad.

by Gerry (not verified) :: Sun, 02/10/2008 - 1:35pm

#309: Now that I can see the replay on big screed HD, it was not Hedgecock on the blitz pickup. It was Jacobs.

And watching the earlier portions of the game, he was doing a great job on that all game. I don't remember him being all that great in that role during the regular season, but he was fantastic at it during the Super Bowl. He was getting in position, getting square and low, and most of the time just blowing up his guy.

by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 02/10/2008 - 4:30pm

Josh Mcdaniels was the goat of the game or keep chopping wood or whatever name you want to give him. He was strategicly out manuevered and didn't adapt his game plan. Maybe he choked, maybe he was too bull headed, but I wouldn't blame Brady for failing to execute plays that were doomed from the start.

If the Patriots would have pulled it off, they would have barley beat the "worst SB team Giants" twice, Kyle Bollier and the Ravens had them, and AJ Feeley gave them a run for their money.

I think it proves the point that there is a difference between being the BEST team ever and the most consistant. The 72' Fins were the most consistant ever ( they won all their games). The best team ever is probably the 85' Bears.

by nat (not verified) :: Mon, 02/11/2008 - 11:35am

Defining a "best" team really comes down to definitions.

First, do you require a team to win all its games to be considered? If so, then you pick the 72 Dolphins.

Do treat the superbowl as the only game that matters, or are all games that the team has a reason to try to win count?

You could argue that one either way, of course. Superbowls are more important, but if you are simply comparing teams on how well they play, any meaningful game could be considered.

If Superbowls are paramount, then that would disqualify the 2007 Patriots. The 85 Bears are certainly in the mix, as are a few other teams.

If the Superbowl is "just another meaningful game", then the 2007 Patriots are certainly in the running. Like the 85 Bears, the Patriots had some close victories. The Bears were thoroughly beaten in one game. The Patriots lost one nail-biter. For all that the Giants defensive line dominated the game, the game as a whole was so close that it took the "Catch-42" to prevent the Patriots going 19-0.

It's probably best to let this one age for a few years before trying to look at it objectively. People have a lot of emotion tied up in Patriots hatred this year, so objectivity can't be expected. In 2009, we'll look at the statistics and the quality of the opponents, and things will likely be clearer.

by goathead (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 3:03pm

The pats lost a nailbiter in the SB, as their only loss. But recall that they lucked into a win (Baltimore) in which they were totally outplayed due to an amazing turn of events on the last drive. They squeaked out a win (San Diego) in which the opposing teams QB was too injured to walk, and the bone-headed coach was too stubborn to switch to the QB who led the winning drive the week before, and so conservative that he punted in opponent territory down 2 scores with 9 min left.

And yes, winning the Superbowl counts for a lot, a team deserving consideration for "best ever" honors really ought to be able to beat the worst team in SB history.

No, the pats will not be considered in discussions of best teams ever, except as a footnote.

by nat (not verified) :: Fri, 02/15/2008 - 3:31pm

Take your pick. If the Superbowl is paramount, don't consider the Patriots. I have no problem with that.

If it's just another meaningful game, that is, if we are assuming the teams are professionals that try to win each and every game, then the Patriots lost one game by 3 points. The 85 Bears lost one game in which they were utterly beaten.

Or are you suggesting the Bears meant to lose?

Both teams won all of their other games.

Whine all you want how the refs should have cancelled the Ravens' time out. The fact is that play never started. It was dead before the snap.

There are plenty of legit ways to compare the two teams. Whining about bad decisions by the Ravens' coach is not one of them.

by goathead (not verified) :: Sat, 02/16/2008 - 9:06pm

nat - I never "whined" about the refs not cancelling a timeout in the pats-ravens game. The refs made the right call (clearly, from replays), but the fact remains that the players ran the 4th down play not realizing a TO had been taken, and the pats got stuffed. The fact remains that am assistant coach for the Ravens choked under pressure, and took a timeout in a situation where it should have been clear that the D was ready for the play.

I don't believe the superbowl is the only game that matters, but I think its silly not to put more emphasis on every playoff game, since losing any of them ends your season. And without question, the pats playoff run this year was underwhelming, culminating in them losing a game in which they had a chance to make history.

Again, a footnote. A really great footnote, and one that ended in a game we can tell our grandkids about, but nothing to indicate a team that will be considered "best ever".

by Elliott (not verified) :: Sun, 03/02/2008 - 3:28am

Great points all. But Eli deserved that MVP; I would have agreed to give it to a defensive player (if I had to overlook the fact that you don't give it to an entire unit) had it not been for the last quarter and the *first* quarter where he burned up ten minutes with that first drive. I think what he did there was just as essential as what he did last. Clearly the Giants' defense was tiring at the end of the game, slipping just enough for Brady to pull off his usual Moss connection. From there on the game was in Manning's hands until that last touchdown, and he delivered, so I'm cool with him getting MVP.

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