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06 Feb 2012

Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLVI

compiled by Rivers McCown

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Sunday, February 5th

New York Giants 21 at New England Patriots 17

Tom Gower: The pregame shows are over, and it's still 2012!

Sean McCormick: Eli Manning's ball placement on the first drive has been absolutely stellar. He's hit two tightly-covered receivers by putting the ball where only his man could catch it. If the Giants can complete passes when the Pats actually have good coverage, look out.

Rivers McCown: Didn't look like there was much Julian Edelman on that first Giants drive. Instead it's ex-Texans injured reservesman Antwaun Molden.

Tom Gower: Concur with Sean. That pass to Hakeem Nicks absolutely should not have worked -- Molden had outside position and Nicks had to make an out cut into him. Excellent placement by Eli, and Nicks did a great job of being physical. Then, of course, the two sacks. It looked like Eli had Jake Ballard on the first one but didn't pull the trigger for some reason, while the second one was just a bad job of blocking by D.J. Ware and David Diehl.

Ben Muth: It's tough for an offensive tackle when you underset a guy, expecting a chip, and the back whiffs. I'd put that sack more on Ware than Diehl.

Aaron Schatz: I thought Eli had guys open in the zone when he got sacked on first down. Then the Giants ran on second down for a loss. I believe I said in the Super Bowl preview that the Giants were one of the only teams that ran a higher percentage of the time on second down than on first down. They do this all the time -- first down fails, go to the run on second down. That's going to be a win for the Pats every time. Of course, usually the Pats just allow the third-down conversion anyway, but this time they got another sack.

Rivers McCown: Never thought I'd live long enough to see Echo and the Bunnymen in a car commercial.

Sean McCormick: That was a completely obvious call, but I'm stunned that the officials threw the flag on intentional grounding on the opening safety.

Aaron Schatz: Well, I guess I should say that I don't know why Tom Brady threw the ball nowhere near any receivers, but I've never seen intentional grounding called on a throw downfield. Only on throws to the sideline. Does anyone remember ever seeing that before?

Sean McCormick: Usually the refs give the offense the benefit of the doubt that there was a miscommunication.

Tom Gower: Yes, more than once, in that kind of situation. Again I concur with Sean -- that's an obvious flag, but the benefit of the doubt given to veteran quarterbacks is ridiculous. The problem there for the Pats is that the receivers seemed to have already made their cuts when Brady threw the ball. If somebody runs a dig and cuts after the ball is thrown, the refs seem to assume there's a miscommunication and the quarterback thought the receiver should've run a post, so no grounding.

Aaron Schatz: The Pats are making huge mental errors early. First the grounding, now the 12 men on the field penalty that cancels out a fumble recovery. What a mess. If the Giants were overconfident before, well, they can be confident with reason now.

Tom Gower: Add Jerod Mayo's play on the Victor Cruz touchdown to that list. James Harrison had that kind of underneath coverage on Kurt Warner's slant right before the half of Super Bowl XLIII and ended up with a pick-six. This time, Cruz gets the score.

Aaron Schatz: Were those Aaron Ross' best two tackles of the year, on the first run of the Pats second drive, then on the end around? I never remember Ross tackling that well in the open field.

Ben Muth: I was just thinking the same thing about Ross. That guy has seemed allergic to contact at times, and out of the blue he makes two real good tackles on the same drive.

Mike Tanier: Greetings from the auxiliary press booth. It is high in the Patriots corner of the end zone, with no televisions to catch the replays. The stadium replays are mostly close-ups of the quarterbacks' eyes as they hand off. I am trying to do strategy blogging. These are not ideal conditions for that.

But holy cow! I am at the Super Bowl!

Aaron Schatz: At some point, the Giants have to play action off the second-down handoff, right? I mean, they're seriously predictable, if the first-down play goes nowhere, they run on second down.

Sean McCormick: That's an NFL trope at this point.

Rivers McCown: Boy, those replays they showed of Rob Gronkowski were basically in slow motion. Doesn't look like he'll be a factor today.

Aaron Schatz: I have no idea how the Patriots are going into halftime with the lead. Just stunning. They've been totally outplayed, made mental mistakes, can't figure out how to throw a pass above Jason Pierre-Paul's hands, and yet here we are, 10-9, and they get the ball first in the second half.

By the way, there was pretty obvious holding against Brian Waters on the touchdown pass to Danny Woodhead. As a Pats fan, I'll take it, but if Giants fans want to complain they have every right. Of course, they've barely called holding against anyone all postseason.

Vince Verhei: I was just coming on here to say what Aaron said. How on earth does New York only have one touchdown in four real drives (throwing out the end-of-half kneeldown)? And it's not because New England's best defender is doing anything -- Vince Wilfork has been neutralized.

The other call that Giants fans can complain about is the holding flag that turned a third-and-1 conversion into a third-and-11 incompletion. There was barely a grab at all there. That goes uncalled all the time.

Rivers McCown: With you on this Vince -- that was a game-changing call.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, given the way they've been not calling holding all postseason, it's actually a bit of a surprise that holding has been called twice, period (once on each team).

Tom Gower: The Pats started having the ball and finding Michael Boley in coverage. On Wes Welker and on Aaron Hernandez, and both those guys have been beating him, which comes as not much of a surprise. I didn't expect Woodhead to play much of a role, but he's been out there. Rushing three, like the Giants did on Woodhead's touchdown, doesn't seem to make a ton of sense, especially when you line up Pierre-Paul at defensive end and he's not one of the three men rushing. Overall, if I'm Belichick, I'm very happy to be up 10-9 at half and looking to receive the kickoff given how the game began.

Rivers McCown: Boley on Hernandez is going to keep causing problems for New York until they make a change.

Mike Tanier: Watching the lights go down for halftime is rather magical. And watching them erect this stage is also quite cool. It is like a giant Tetris game.

The Giants have to take a long look at what they do once they cross midfield. They are taking shots downfield on early downs then checking down to Ahmad Bradshaw on third down. They need to reverse that.

My brain is melting. Halftime ... well this isn't those Black Eyed Peabrains.

Rivers McCown: I don't think the FO writer demographic matches up very well with the halftime demographic. I would have commented on that show had I, at any point, understood what was happening.

Aaron Schatz: OK, we're going to have to see about this, but I have a theory. What about the possibility that the Patriots would not give Gronk a painkiller before the game so he would look somewhat hobbled, then give him the shot at halftime when the Giants are adjusting their coverages to pay less attention to him? Is there any possibility of a painkiller given before the game wearing off before the game ended, especially during the long halftime? Because that would give more support to my theory.

Clint Eastwood ad for Chrysler/Dodge gave me the chills. Never thought I'd feel all patriotic about a car ad.

Rivers McCown: For the record, I felt more patriotic when the Dodge Challenger that took out the British.

Vince Verhei: Actually, somebody in the pregame circus (Tony Dungy maybe?) did say that it looked like Gronkowski hadn't had a shot yet. They were suggesting that he'd get it right before kickoff, not wait till the second half. Then Hines Ward started talking about playing with a bad knee in the Super Bowl against Arizona, where he played well in the first half but then his shot wore off in the second half and he disappeared. You may well be onto something there.

Aaron Schatz: Giants look like they're now leaving in a sixth man to block most of the time, even against just four. They seem worried about the Pats pass rush.

Vince Verhei: Did Al Michaels just say that the Patriots' trainers were "fondling some beads" after the sack that shook Brady up?

Tom Gower: Three-man rushes work better when both offensive tackles get destroyed one-on one, like the Giants did before they kicked the field goal to make it 17-15.

Aaron Schatz: The Giants did finally run the play-action on second down, though. The Patriots are definitely in "bend but don't break" mode today, keeping every play in front of the safeties and forcing field goals. They need to score a bit more themselves though, or the next field goal is going to put them down 18-17.

The announcers were talking about how surprising it was that a linebacker was able to cover Gronkowski one-on-one on the deep Brady interception, but it wasn't Gronk's fault that the ball hung a bit too much in the air.

New York is winning the fumble luck battle today, by the way ... but the Patriots are winning the referee luck battle. Sterling Moore just committed defensive pass interference by grabbing Mario Manningham's shoulder on third-and-10 and got away with it. I think the Pats got away with an inadvertent face mask earlier in the drive as well.

Tom Gower: That was a killer sequence for the Giants, burning a timeout on third down, then the false start on Kevin Boothe that turns third-and-5 into third-and-10, and then the no-call. Even with the no-call, if Boothe doesn't false start, they might go for it there.

Aaron Schatz: Then a killer sequence for the Pats with 4:00 left, as Brady slightly overthrows Welker and then throws behind Deion Branch and neither can hold on to the ball. That gives the Giants the ball back with 3:53 left and needing just a field goal. Sigh. This game's over, Giants will win.

Vince Verhei: Both teams have played remarkably conservatively today. A 15-yard gain feels like something spectacular. It's been death by a thousand cuts for both offenses.

Aaron Schatz: The Pats should have just let the Giants score with 2:00 left. This is over. They just have to lose in the most heart-wrenching way possible, don't they?

Tom Gower: I don't think Belichick would've really minded if Nicks had broken that tackle for 6 at the two-minute warning. I'm surprised the Pats tried at all on the first-and-goal play, and then Bradshaw's momentum seems to carry him into the end zone on second-and-goal.

J.J. Cooper: Give Belichick credit. It's an obvious play to most any Madden player, but there are a whole lot of NFL coaches who wouldn't let the other team score like New England just did on the parting of the Red Sea for Bradshaw. It may not work for New England, but it gives them a much better chance than they would have had otherwise.

Vince Verhei: Aaron called it. When the Giants had the first down completion at the two-minute warning, whichever cornerback was in coverage on the play should have just let the receiver go. They should have let the Giants score on each of the next three or four snaps instead of wasting all that time.

What a weird Super Bowl. So many mental mistakes by New England. Tons of big hits by the New England secondary. A bunch of great throws by Eli Manning and the Giants receivers that somehow rarely led to the end zone. Penalties that ended drives or erased turnovers. Dropped passes. Offensive mistakes a go-go, by both teams. A defense that seemed determined to play keep away from its own offense. And a game- winning touchdown that the defense wanted to give up, that the offense scored literally on accident.

Ben Muth: I'm not sure how I feel about this game. It was a close game. It wasn't exceptionally well-played, but it wasnt sloppy to the point of being offputting either. The only two plays I'll remember in July are a long catch that got the ball to midfield, and a redundant touchdown run. The Giants win and they deserved to, but I feel like if you played the 2012 playoffs 10 times they would win once. I guess it was kind of a let down to me after a really exciting few rounds in a row.

Danny Tuccitto: Everyone's going to remember the Manningham catch at the end, but the play that will stick in my mind was Blackburn's interception in coverage on Gronkowski. You have your all-world tight end being covered by a middle linebacker, and, even though Gronkowski's slowed by the high ankle sprain, he beats his man by almost three full yards, only to see Brady underthrow him by five to 10 yards.

Sean McCormick: In a way though, it served to re-affirm the importance of the regular season, because the final results were heavily determined by specific matchups. If New Orleans played at home, I have no doubt they would have won the Super Bowl, but they had to go on the road and play a tough match up in a venue that didn't accentuate their strengths. The Giants caught Green Bay on a good day, but otherwise had great matchups throughout the playoffs. Pittsburgh could have knocked New England out early, but they had a gimpy Ben Roethlisberger and went into a tough place to play.

Rivers McCown: So, Justin Tuck for MVP? I mean, after they award it to Manning because he's a quarterback. (Not that he wasn't also awesome.)

Sean McCormick: It should go to Manning. He made multiple fantastic throws, and he very much powered the offense.

Vince Verhei: I nominate Steve Weatherford for MVP. He punted four times, one touchback, and three downed deep in Patriots territory.

Mike Tanier: My brain is pudding right now. Being in a quasi-fan section was great. We could hear the crowd and feel the energy, unlike in the press box, where it is often very hushed.

There was no clear-cut MVP in this game, so Eli will get it. This was a clear team effort though, especially when you think of the contributions by players like Chase Blackburn, the tight ends, and so on.

Tom Gower: Eli was outstanding, and showcased consistently great ball placement. I have no problems with him winning MVP, especially without a single other player having, in my mind, a particularly standout performance.

J.J. Cooper: It's hard to complain in any way about a Super Bowl that features a game-winning touchdown in the final minute and a final play that actually had drama. I wouldn't say it was the best Super Bowl ever, but I'll happily watch that game replayed again and again.

Sean McCormick: I do think this complicates the Patriots' legacy quite a bit. They just lost their second Super Bowl to an inferior team (that was even more inferior than last time), and this time around I'm not remotely surprised. What does that say?

Vince Verhei: I refuse -- refuse -- to consider a season that ends with a Super Bowl loss as a black mark on a team's/player's legacy.

Aaron Schatz: When it comes to the Patriots, you are very clearly in the minority.

Sean McCormick: No, I'm not suggesting anyone should. It's just interesting.

J.J. Cooper: I don't want to offend the Pats fans by saying this, but to me it's very hard to say the Giants were inferior this time. They beat the Pats twice this year. I felt the fact that the Patriots were ahead in the final two minutes was a testament to an amazing coaching job and gameplan.

I mean this with all kinds of respect, but is it fair to ask how good this Patriots team was? New England has an all-time great quarterback, an all-time great coach and a couple of great tight ends. But they also lacked a signature win -- they finished the season with one win against a winning team and a 1-3 record in games against teams with winning records. They were good enough to beat everyone on the schedule they should have beaten, but in the end, the Ravens' game is the only time they managed to pull out a win against one of this season's elite teams. Admittedly they didn't have many chances with their schedule.

It's amazing how the Patriots' coaching staff pieced together a competitive defense from a random assemblage of spare parts. But when the game was on the line, the Giants were able to hit play after play against an outmatched secondary.

Tom Gower: This isn't 2007. The Giants weren't great, but they don't feel like a crappy team like they were for the first 15 games of 2007. Eli's been outstanding all year, and the problem was the defense swooned in the second half of the season. When the defense (defensive line in particular) started playing really well, they were clear Super Bowl contenders, and everybody who was paying attention at all realized it. Meanwhile, nobody thinks these Pats are the 2007 Pats, because they weren't. The defense sucked all year, and the offense, while great, didn't have the vertical threat of Randy Moss like they did in 2007.

Sean McCormick: Agreed on all counts. Plus, the Giants clearly matched up well with this team, particularly once Gronkowski was hobbled.

Aaron Schatz: Well, a lot of it comes down to the question we just don't seem to be able to answer. Why is it that the Giants every year collapse on defense in the second half of the season, and how on earth did they manage to stop that collapse and turn things around in 2007 and 2011 and not in, say, 2008? It's strange that the two worst regular-season teams to ever win a Super Bowl are both a Giants team with the same coach, quarterback, and a lot of the same players. I think it is fair to say that this means those teams are better than their regular season records, but it doesn't answer the question of why their regular season records were like that.

Vince Verhei: Yeah, it's totally fair to question how good the 2011 New England Patriots were. Had they won today, they probably would have been considered one of the weaker Super Bowl champions. As for the Giants, they're certainly not an all-time great team, but I tend to agree with Tom's viewpoint: In hindsight, most of their in-season struggles can be chalked up to some key injuries along the defensive line, and when they got those guys back, they had as good a chance as anyone.

And part of that is that there were no dominant teams this year. Green Bay, New England, and New Orleans had defensive issues. San Francisco and Baltimore had offensive questions. I thought the best team going into the playoffs was Pittsburgh, and they crashed and burned worse than anyone. New York wasn't so much the best of the best as they were the last team standing.

Danny Tuccitto: My view is that probably a good part of the answer is right in front of our faces. We all know how much luck plays into the outcome of a single game, and -- with all due respect to New York's performances over the past month -- they got incredibly lucky over and over and over to win games. At Green Bay, Cruz fumbles in his own end so clearly that everyone in America can see it, but Bill Leavy somehow comes back with the call standing as down-by-contact. They score on a Hail Mary to completely take control of the game. Then, at SF, they won -- and I'll take this to my grave -- because of two ridiculous fumbles by the opponent that they did recover, and another of their own that, although the other team recovered already in field goal range to win the game, was called as forward-progress stopped. That's a 17-point swing in a three-point game. Finally, in the Super Bowl, they find themselves once again on the positive end of fumble recovery luck, yet again have another one of their own lost fumbles nullified, and yet again have another wide receiver make the catch of his life.

Not to mention coming back against the Jets to get in the playoffs in the first place thanks to a 99-yard broken-tackle-assisted touchdown.

All of this is just to say that when a mediocre-to-good team gets lucky every week for a month, and that month-long string of good luck coincides with the tail end of the season, you end up with said team winning a Super Bowl. It just so happens that it's been the same team twice in four years. I mean, all year long, we sat there explaining away Tim Tebow's success as an incredible string of luck. We felt comfortable doing so because Tebow is not a good quarterback, and Denver is not a good team. We have to remember that good teams and good players get lucky too. When we see completed Hail Marys, 99-yard scoring plays, two fumbled punts by the same player in the same fourth quarter/overtime of the same game, nullified lost fumbles, and opponent fumbles bouncing into the hands of defenders, we shouldn't be reluctant to call a lucky duck a lucky duck.

I'm not saying that the Giants should have some kind of asterisk as champs, or that they didn't play well enough to win a lot of the games during their recent runs. Homer bias aside (honestly), the only game where I thought they got outplayed was against the 49ers. I'm just pointing out that, if we're going to acknowledge that luck plays a big role in the short run, and five weeks is a short run, then it stands to reason that luck can produce a Giants-esque anomaly.

Tom Gower: Two other notes: officiating is not a storyline coming out of the Super Bowl. Given that it ended a one-score game, I'm very happy about that. There were a couple calls that could've gone one way or the other, notably the non-call on Moore, but they didn't decide the game. Also, the announcers have not been a storyline either. Michaels and Collinsworth were professionals, occasionally adding things to the broadcast and never, in my mind, detracting from it.

Sean McCormick: The Belichick Patriots have now played in five Super Bowls. Their point differential? Plus-2.

That contrasts with the dynasty-era 49ers putting up a point differential of plus-109. It's worth looking at simply because of the way the results structured the resulting New England dynasty narrative.

J.J. Cooper: Rodney Harrison emphasizes again he'd rather have Eli in the fourth quarter than Brady. I don't think he's staying on the Brady's Christmas Card list, but I'll give him credit for not being the normal post-playing career jock who won't criticize ex-teammates.

Rivers McCown: I was really hoping we'd get a shot of Tiquan Underwood in Giants paraphernalia in the stands, tenting his fingers and saying "Good, good."

Robert Weintraub: I go back to something Belichick said a couple days ago after a practice, words to the effect of "our concepts are solid, we feel good about what we are going to do, but there are a few places where we are just a little bit off, either physically or mentally." I feel that pretty much summed up what happened. They clearly had a good gameplan, especially on defense, but either due to mental mistakes or simply being out-athleted by the Giants they came up just short.

I have to say I'm surprised the Giants won only because it defies the "when everyone likes one result, go the other way" construct. I was pretty sure the Pats would win for that reason alone.

I suppose the main lesson from this season (and the Giants run in general) I take is that my Bengals should draft another pass rusher, even though the defensive line is already pretty good. Adding Pierre-Paul to replace Michael Strahan put Big Blue over the top.

Sean McCormick: Yes, as a Jets fan, I can't help but notice that the Giants' strengths and weaknesses are essentially the inverse of the Jets. And they keep beating New England while we keep losing. I hope Rex Ryan is taking notes somewhere.

Vince Verhei: "Pass rush uber alles" is certainly not a bad philosophy, it seems.

Sean McCormick: Have a vertical game, a receiver set that runs three deep and provides a mismatch in the slot, either thanks to a receiver or a tight end, and have a pass rush.

It certainly explains recent and not-so-recent NFL draft trends.

Tom Gower: Looking at the box score, both teams ended up with not many possessions: Eight for the Giants, not counting the knee at the end of the first half, and nine for the Patriots, including the final drive. The Pats had terrible field position all night -- their best start was their own 29. The Giants didn't have great field position, but it was better, and the two third-quarter field goal drives both had good field position.

Rivers McCown: Congrats Giants fans!

Aaron Schatz: New England ended up with the higher VOA thanks to fumble luck. With opponent adjustments, since the Patriots were better than New York this year, the two teams ended up equal at 13%. Agonizing.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 06 Feb 2012

470 comments, Last at 29 Feb 2012, 9:51pm by rich31689


by steveNC (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 8:29am

>That means we aren't going to cover every game

I'm glad you covered the NY-NE game this week. It was pretty exciting at the end there.

by Ryan D. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 8:34am

How can they continue the horrible decline in the halftime show? To continue on the No-One-Relevant-Since-The-80's-Theme, can they just drag up a dressed-up corpse to sit on a temporary stage during next year's halftime, and just pump Michael Jackson music over the PA? Does the corpse really need to lip-sync and dance in a light show?

by andrew :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 9:23am

Remember the days of Up with People?.... here, in case you forgot, Take a look."?

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 9:28am

Halftime WAS horrifically bad, but not as bad as I expected - which only goes to show what a train wreck I expected it to be. The only good thing was the way the 3D effects on the field looked. And it was good to see Cee Lo Green make an appearance - you hardly ever see him on TV. And I guess it was nice for Indiana's gay community that Madonna's dance team doubled their population for the day.

by White Rose Duelist :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 9:31am

Yeah, Cee Lo couldn't possibly have been there to promote The Voice. I thought the halftime show was great for the unintentional comedy (and she certainly looks good for 53), but I spent a good part of the cheerleader song singing along:

W!? T!? F!? Madonna!?

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:50am

Heh, not even close. We have a vibrant gay population MUCH larger than that ;o)

by Ben Stuplisberger :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:28am

80's or not, Prince was simply awesome in 2007. I give them a 10 year pass for that.

by Theo :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:35am

He nailed it.
The halftime since you-know-what, is a race for the lets-not-offend-anyone award.

by horn :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:58pm

Prince was and is phenomenal live, every time.

by Temo :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:54am

I rather enjoyed the half time show.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:11am

I dunno. The thought that ran through my mind was "My, that grandmother doing the halftime show is in great shape!". To be fair, I only watched the first minute or two.

by Temo :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:24am

Yea, and it was enjoyable. I liked seeing older Madonna up there trying earnestly to connect with a world she'd left behind (at least to me, as I'm too young to have listened to her at her apex). It was endearing to me, like seeing people at an old age home playing video games or something.

Plus, big fan of MIA saying "I don't give a shit" and flipping the bird.

by Travis :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:27am

Plus, big fan of MIA saying "I don't give a shit" and flipping the bird.

The main problem with this is that will lead to an even longer Janet Jackson delay, which makes it harder to sync the TV with the radio or discuss the game in real-time with fans from less Puritan countries.

by Temo :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 8:19am

That is a problem.

by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:58am

I also enjoyed the show.

A person who doesn't like Madonna isn't going to enjoy the show. But I thought they did a good job presenting a high-value production.

I thought it was worlds better than the Black-Eyed Peas show, which basically had a few people standing on a stage. This one had costumes, choreography, etc. And no, Madonna isn't the dancer she was 20 years ago, but she wasn't embarrassing.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:56pm

I don't like Madonna, but I thoroughly enjoyed that. Give her her due, she knows how to put on a show.

by beargoggles :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 6:51pm


I thought the costumes were sweet and it was a solid production. The L-U-V song was pretty weak but the music otherwise was good, the costumes sweet and the overall production eye catching. I'd much rather see, say Bruce Springsteen, in an actual concert, but for a Super Bowl this works much better.

by Paul R :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:16pm

"...drag up a dressed-up corpse to sit on a temporary stage during next year's halftime, and just pump Michael Jackson music over the PA."

Heck, I'd pay to see that!

But, really, I thought this year's show was fine.

I just don't think it's fair to expect too much from the halftime show. For one thing, the people who run the NFL have the job of providing quality sports entertainment, and they do that job very, very well. But quality artistic entertainment is a whole different kettle of fish.
After all, who do you pick to entertain the halftime crowd at a sports event which is being broadcast to an incredibly diverse range of viewers? I can understand why "Up With People" was a no-brainer to the NFL. Especially back in the day when the money and the viewership was a little smaller than it is now. They sing and dance, they play a little rock and roll, but they are nice and clean and they wave the flag. Perfect! Get 'em on the phone!

As far as the performance itself goes, I think an artist who lip-syncs and dances with a whole lot of other dancers on stage is the good choice to make. For one thing, the emphasis is on the visual, not the audio. If you have a rock band, you're visually stuck with four or five guys standing there playing their guitars. maybe you run a bunch of audience members out there to wave colored lights, but that's about all you can do.
Also, in an arena that size, it is almost impossible to get the sound to work if you have guys on stage who are actually trying to play their instruments. Yes, you can do it if you take a day to rig up a sound system specifically for it. But then, what happens if Keith Richards breaks a guitar string or hits a wrong chord?
Most important, the halftime show is organized right down to the second. I kid you not. When you have advertisers who are paying $100,000 a second, you don't mess around and take a chance that the drummer might play a little slow and throw the whole thing off by a million dollars.

Given these factors, a person like Madonna is a perfect choice. Everybody on the planet knows her name, she's good with pre-recorded tracks. It's dance music, so you can have a lot of visually-exciting choreography on stage, and she's old enough and wise enough to not try and buck the system by doing anything too edgy.
The riskiest moment I saw was when she tried to balance on one foot while holding the other over her head. I was afraid she'd fall over and break a hip.

Anyway, I don't get too worked up over the halftime show. The game is the important thing. At halftime, you get to watch a zillion dollars worth of special effects set to some music. It's good enough for me. I do like the corpse idea, though. Maybe they can call Yale and get Skull and Bones involved. Also some puppeteers.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, the Tostitos Halftime Show is proud to present General George Patton groovin' to the music of the Village People!"

by Theo :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:11pm


by tuluse :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:11pm

I just want to see Homer's idea.

Launch an alligator into space already NFL.

by tunesmith :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:59pm

They honestly might be able to solve a lot of problems if they just went with Cirque du S'oleil every year, or blue man group, or something like that. Forget the whole illusion of the pop singer singing songs they're not really singing. If they're looking for spectacle, just go for the groups that actually do spectacle.

Either that, or bring in Bjork.

by tuluse :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 3:25pm

[quote]If they're looking for spectacle, just go for the groups that actually do spectacle.[/quote]

Isn't that what they did this year? When's the last time Madonna's had a real hit?

by TB (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 8:08pm

I am not a Madonna fan, but it is wrong to say that Madonna is washed up or irrelevant. She has charted a hit in almost every year of the last ten years. She has won two grammy awards in that time and been nominated for many others. She is in her 50's but is still attractive.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 8:25pm

The problem is there aren't many relevant since the 80's. U2 already did it. Nirvana died with Kurt Cobain. Pearl Jam would complain about ticket sales. Smashing Pumpkins and STP still have important members with drug problems. C&C Music Factory was a studio band like the Archies. REM broke up. (I don't think Dave Matthews or Radiohead have the number of top 10 hits you'd want.) That leaves Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, Snoop Dog, and Green Day. Probably the best acts who have yet to do the SB still date from the 80's; Will Smith, Beastie Boys, and Sting. Maybe they could do a boy band revival with Boys II Men, Backstreet Boys, Hanson, New Kids on the Block, O-Town, and NSync. An added bonus would be to bring back New Edition just to see how messed upBobby Brown looks these days.

by tuluse :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 8:33pm

Kanye and/or Jay-Z could probably put on quite a show.

by Eggwasp (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 9:33am

Sting? Its hard enough staying awake in the UK, without that. At least Madonna woke me up (which allowed me to rewind and watch most of the 2nd quarter).

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 5:58am

They should book Guns n' Roses and set up a load of cameras around Axl's dressing room. The sight of NFL officials frantically trying to get him to come out of the shower/stop watching TV/withdraw from some groupie/knock off whatever it is he does that makes him incapable of going on stage within two hours of his scheduled start time would be can't miss car crash reality TV.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 8:38am

"you can tell a lot about who these fans are rooting for by the jerseys theyre wearing" --joey sunshine, just before kickoff

why the intl sat broadcast subjected me, and the rest of the english speaking world, to joe friggen theisman, i will never understand. i actually pined for phil simms.


by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:33am

I was sitting with a 5 year-old when the game started. When he asked which team was which, I described the Giants as the team wearing White, red, and blue, and the Patriots as the team wearing Blue, white, and red. Given that, I'm not sure how much a stadium survey for colors really helps tell the fan-bases apart.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 9:18pm

Noticeably different shades of blue, no?

by Pied :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:00am

I mean..GOD NO.
I mean..ARGH Theismann!

by deep64blue :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 7:09am

We're obviously Advanced in the UK we got the real commentary, and it was on the BBC so no ads as well, awesome!!

by Tim R :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 12:47pm

Having Mike Carlson and Danny Ammendola was also a massive improvement over Kevin Cadle and Cecil Martin

by Andrew Potter :: Fri, 02/10/2012 - 5:47pm

Two silent sock puppets would be an improvement over Kevin Cadle and Cecil Martin.

Though yes, Danny Amendola was enjoyable and Mike Carlson always is. Even the presenter, clearly utterly clueless, didn't get in the way of that being the best studio team I've seen since Colin Murray and Mike Carlson on Five.

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 02/11/2012 - 3:00pm

One complaint: clueless presenter did have a bit of a tendency to ask big picture questions of Amendola and nuances of football questions of Amendola. "Where does Tom Brady stand in the all-time quarterback rankings?" is a question which Carlson will have something intelligent to say about, and Amendola actively can't (in the interests of his own ongoing career, if nothing else).

by Andrew Potter :: Sat, 02/11/2012 - 5:24pm

When the standard is Kevin Cadle, that's still a massive improvement.

by Mr Shush :: Sun, 02/12/2012 - 12:59am

Eesh, proofing issues above.

But yes, Carlson is superior and Cadle is fail.

And worst of all, were one of us to wheedle our way into the NFL's power structure, it would make no odds. We'd still be fucked - and not by early-mid 90s Alicia Silverstone, the hottest (mortal, non-Audrey Hepburn, the unreasonably stunning alien bitch) - what can one do, with such unwarrantable horness?

by armchair journe... :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 9:48pm

jealous. watched in china at an expat aussie bar, some asia-pacific sat sports network had the nfl-network feed, but its own commercials. the same four ones, every break. a few beers in, and the aussies were cheering the characters in the commercials. this was about 9am on monday.

the super bowl is the only time i actually want to see the us commercials, so i feel like we missed out. that and joe theismann was abominable. otherwise, a great morning.

by Michael LaRocca (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 8:38am

It takes a village to flip a coin.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:59am

Yeah, but we got free pizza* from that coin flip.

*also known as "pizza-like substance" in areas that make actual pizza

by t.d. :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 9:09am

Four reasons 'the Giants do this':
No home field advantage (a stadium that has crappy, windy weatherlate in the year)
Defense is more variable and involves the blending of more moving parts.
They play in a brutal division, and tough scheduling may have a cumulative affect (dallas, also, fades regularly in the second half the last few years)
Their offensive coordinator stinks (the predictability being commentedupon in this article)

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 9:25am

Brutal division? How is the NFC East any tougher than the AFC East, AFC North or NFC North where in each different teams have played in their respective conference championship game almost every year?

That is the one point you list that seems dubious to me.

by t.d. :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 9:52am

I'm really thinking of ownership and their willingness to commit resources beyond mere payroll parity. For example, Buffalo is both poorly managed and cheap. The Lions have been until the past two years as well, and Chicago, for a big market, has also been cheap. Cleveland and Cincinnati are usually in disarray. On the other hand, the East has hadthree annual contenders plus a massive spending incompetent who has a habit of hiring HoF credentialed head coaches

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:11am

I understand what you are writing, but when you slice it different ways to determine competitiveness I don't see the NFC East having markers that makes it that much tougher than other divisions.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:35am

The Lions are many things, but cheap is not one of them.

I will say this, though, in the last decade or so, really only NFC East continuously featured three competitive teams. For all the AFC North's difficulty, they had more years of Cincinnati being an albatross than not.

by Ben Stuplisberger :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:35pm

I think the level of difficulty in the AFC North stems from the twice (sometimes thrice) yearly wars of attrition between the Ravens and Steelers. I normally despise military analogies in sports, but the level of violence and casualties (to extend the analogy) further in these games is truly astounding. Seeing teams other than the Steelers in the playoffs really helps me gain an appreciation for the specially destructive nature of the Steelers and Ravens. However, it seems like the rule changes have toned these battles down a little bit, no?

by SFC B (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 5:32pm

Since its inception the AFC South has featured two highly competitive teams with one of the remaining two not being a pushover. I think they're also the only division since the current alignment to not have a season without a team being under .500.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 6:51pm

Nope, all the teams went 0.500 or better in 2007 (13-3, 11-5, 10-6, 8-8).

by Independent George :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 12:16am

Isn't having a season without a team under 500 an extreme rarity? When it happened in the NFC East in consecutive years (2007-8), I remember reading about how rare it was to even happen once.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 1:35pm

I wouldn't say "extreme rarity" - the NFC East has had it happen twice, the AFC East once, the NFC South once, the AFC South once, and the AFC West once. So that's 6 times in 10 years. But yeah, it's pretty rare, and it hasn't happened in the NFC West (shock!), or the NFC North (big surprise considering the Lions just had their first non-losing season since realignment), or the AFC North.

It's a pretty good indicator of a solid division, though, and I think those divisions that have had it happen once are the ones that I would consider the strongest, because all 4 teams have regularly been at least average.

by Independent George :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:04pm

Wow, that's a lot more frequent than I would have thought.

2008: NFC East, NFC South
2007: NFC East, AFC South
2002: AFC East, AFC West

What's really interesting to me is 1999, before the re-alignment, when a 5-team AFC East finished as follows:

IND: 13-3
BUF: 11-5
MIA: 9-7
NYJ: 8-8
NE: 8-8

That was the year Vinnie Testaverde tore his Achilles, Rob Johnson replaced Doug Flutie in the AFC Wild Card Game and lost on the Music City Miracle, Peyton Manning went to his first Pro Bowl, and Dan Marino played his last NFL game.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 5:45pm

NFC East, since realignment:
Redskins 6.5-9.5, Cowboys 8.6-7.4, Giants 8.8-7.2, Eagles 10-6
AFC North, since realignment:
Browns 5.6-10.4, Bengals 7.2-8.8, Ravens 9.4-6.6, Steelers 10.5-5.5

It's pretty clear that the NFC East is more tightly packed than the AFC North. Their weakest team is almost a full win better, on average (plus as a whole, they average 8.5 wins, whereas the AFC North averages 8.2 wins).

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 5:32pm

How is the NFC East tougher?

They're all rich. The NFC East is the highest-valued division in football, by a not-particularly-close amount. By Forbes's valuations, The Cowboys are #1, the Redskins are #2, the Giants are #4, and the Eagles are #7. By operating income they're also by far the highest. What does this mean in the land of a salary cap? The NFC East has the most disposable cash to spend on coaches, analysts, scouts, training facilities, and equipment. They also have the some of the nicest stadiums to entice free agents.

None of the teams in the NFC East are ever going to be continually horrible for long stretches, like the Bills, Browns, Bengals, or Lions, for instance. I mean, to be honest, it's fairly amazing the Redskins have been average-to-below average for a while now.

A commenter down below said "The Lions are many things, but cheap is not one of them" - and OK, spending $220M/year might not seem cheap. But in the NFC East the "cheapest" team (the Eagles) spends $25M more than that. That's more than 10% more. And the team that spends the most spends almost $70M more than them.

It's a brutal division because there are never gimme wins. Ever. No team stays bad for very long, because if they're bad, they start firing people and hiring the best in the business. Since realignment in 2002 (when the NFC East shed their weakest member) the NFC East has never had a team win fewer than 4 games. No other division can say this. Since realignment they've only had 6 teams win fewer than 6 games.

Division | Fewer than 4 wins | Fewer than 6 wins
NFC East | 0 | 6
NFC North | 5 | 10
NFC South | 3 | 7
NFC West | 5 | 14
AFC East | 1 | 6
AFC North | 1 | 11
AFC South | 2 | 9
AFC West | 2 | 12

You might think this is cherry-picking the data, but if you would continue it forward, you'd see that the NFC East is pretty tightly grouped around 8-win seasons - because the division's never easy. Only 2 teams have won 13 or more games (the only other divisions like that are the NFC West - for, uh, different reasons - and the AFC North).

by PatsFan :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 9:11am

As I said in the open game discussion, congrats to the Giants. When it was crunch time, they made the plays they needed to make, while the Patriots bleeped up the plays they needed to make.

by Travis :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 9:13am

At Green Bay, Cruz fumbles in his own end so clearly that everyone in America can see it, but Bill Leavy somehow comes back with the call standing as down-by-contact.

Unless I'm missing something, this was a Packers fumble by Greg Jennings. Cruz had 3 catches in the first half, going out-of-bounds on 2 and down at the Packer 31 on the other.

by Adam (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 9:56am

Yeah- and given that Danny is trying to use that fumble as further reason to bash the Giants, it's a pretty significant mistake in his analysis. Without significant help from the refs, the Packers probably only score 7 points in that game. I can completely understand being pissed about luck during the 49ers game, but let's not bash the Giants for the way they completely took apart the Packers.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:09pm

My bad. You're right on that. My memory's sometimes not-so-good, and I don't really sit back and fact-check these things in real time.

OK, so GB win was a little less lucky. Still caught a Hail Mary, though (not to mention seemingly 50 wide-open GB drops).

p.s. I don't see why implicating luck in NYG wins = "bashing" NYG. The 49ers got lucky in their fumble-recovery-aided win at PHI. Did I just "bash" my own favorite team? No, just stating reality. Luck happens, to both bad teams and good teams. Sometimes a string of good luck gets a bad team an AFC West title and OT playoff win. Other times, it gets a good team a Super Bowl ring. That was the point I was trying to make.

by thendcomes :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 8:53pm

The Hail Mary was not a typical one. Since there were 5 seconds left on the clock, there was still a threat to hit a quick out and kick a field goal. The Packers couldn't devote more defenders to the endzone because they still had to cover the underneath stuff. Still lucky, but not typical Hail Mary lucky.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:41am

This. The Giants receivers actually outnumbered the Packers DBs in the end zone because of this. Seeing how the Packers played it (which wasn't a total mistake), I actually told my dad when Eli threw it that I think it has a good chance of being caught.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 2:56am

You guys are actually parsing the luckiness of a Hail Mary reception?

by rich316 :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:55am

Well, yeah. The GB defensive backs were clearly expecting a 15-yard sideline route to set up a field goal. The Hail Mary at the end of the super bowl, for instance, would have been a far luckier completion because there were 5 giants in the immediate area, and the catch was directly contested by 3 of them. The only possible play was an endzone throw, so they knew exactly what to do. The Packers didn't know what to do, so there were only two defenders around Nicks, and really only Woodson was contesting. The situations were different.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 4:24am

I agree situations were different. Just mean to say that we're talking about a difference between something like a 5% proposition and a 10% situation-advantageous proposition. In the end, it's still lucky as hell to convert on a Hail Mary, regardless of the specifics of the situation. I mean, (I hope) no one can argue with a straight face that NYG was even 25% likely to convert there.

by GlennW :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 11:44am

So what? You can assign this kind of probability to a hell of a lot of plays. You could assign it to Manningham's catch in the Super Bowl. The fact is, a great skill play was made, however improbable. This was not a tipped ball bouncing off someone's helmet or something. It's not the kind of play I can just write off to pure "luck". Credit it where it's due. (Disclaimer: I am not a Giants fan, and was rooting for the 49ers in the NFCCG.)

by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:15pm

Sorry, I think Danny's commentary crosses the line into bitterness, and I'm a Giants fan who fully recognizes how lucky (in the small-sample statistical sense) they've been both this post-season and in 2007. As stated here (and recognized by Danny), luck had absolutely nothing to do with beating Green Bay, other than keeping the game closer than it should have been. Yes, they got the 2 big breaks in the 49ers game, but I'd like to know how fumble recoveries break down on punt returns -- I'd guess that the punting team recovers more frequently than the defense does on a fumble from a 'regular' play; ie, I'm not so sure fumble recoveries on punts fall are random (though again I have no evidence either way). V. Pats, yes, 3 potentially game-changing fumbles (especially the Bradshaw one) resulted in 0 turnovers, but 2 potentially game-changing calls (holding on Boothe, PI on Moore) did not go their way. Seems like the post-season 2011 Giants enjoyed abnormally good luck on fumbles and abnormally bad luck on referees' calls.

by GlennW :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:42pm

Yes, overall I think the Giants played as well as anybody else this postseason. As such, "luck" only entered into the equation as it has in every other close postseason competition, and not especially so just because the Giants were a 9-7 team that was outscored in the regular season. Because of those latter facts there might be an inclination to look for some other statistical explanation, but sometimes in the NFL team health and team execution just comes together at the right time (more and more so in recent seasons, actually). There doesn't have to be a better answer than that. The entire season is an exercise in relatively small-sample statistical analysis anyway, if you absolutely have to look at the picture mathematically.

by E :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:37pm

1- This seems exactly right to me. Bjorn describes the "luck" that went both ways pretty accurately. (And how far should we go with this anyway? Did the Niners get lucky that it was raining, which clearly slowed the Giants WRs? Were the Giants lucky that the Super Bowl was in Indy with a pro-Giants crowd?)

2- Danny's commentary is embarrassing and below the level of discourse normally associated with Audibles. I know this is the forum for the FO writers to vent in a more fan-like manner, but if someone I knew went on like this after the Super Bowl ... I'd just walk away.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 8:04pm

That bitterness is remarkably wide and deep in the Bay Area. I haven't seen anything like it in sports -- I've lived in 18 states and 5 countries. I think it has to do with the fact the 49ers sucked so badly for the past ten years, it's hard to believe at a gut level that they'll be good again next year, which makes for more bitterness about this year. Given how tough the 49er schedule is next year (looks as hard as the Giants' schedule this year), they'll probably have to go the 9-7-and-get-lucky route.

Also, the narrative in many, many places was that the 49ers were an inferior team to the Giants, and that they'd need turnover luck to win -- this was the story even at some very smart sites (I'm looking at you, advancednflstats.) That the story was basically the exact opposite -- the Giants were the inferior team that needed turnover luck to win -- makes things more embittering.

So...I guess my plea is to cut the guy some slack. Something unusual happened around here -- it's freaky how many people in the area just skipped the Super Bowl because it was making them too sick to watch, or how many articles there were along the lines of "Saw the Super Bowl -- we would have won. Argh." It's all sour grapes, but of a particularly wide-spread nature.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:41am

If you think that was embarrassing, you should have heard me venting 2 weeks ago.

All kidding aside, perhaps I should redirect you to the beginning of the final paragraph of my comment:

I'm not saying that the Giants should have some kind of asterisk as champs, or that they didn't play well enough to win a lot of the games during their recent runs.

Apparently, you think it's inherently impossible to objectively analyze a football phenomenon because I'm a fan of a certain team. I vehemently disagree, and (if you wish) I can link to plenty of contra-homerism evidence in my own personal history of writing about the 49ers. I can also cite the 9-year history of FO writing by people who are fans of certain teams, but whom nevertheless are perfectly capable of objective analysis. I'm perfectly capable of assessing NYG outside of my bitterness about their luck-aided win against SF. See, watch this: Did they outplay ATL? Yes. Did they outplay GB? Yes. Did they outplay NE? It's close, but I lean toward "Yes," especially in the first half.

The fact of the matter, and this is what I was trying to get at in my Audibles comment -- as inartful as perhaps it came out in real time -- was that they recovered 12 of 15 fumbles in their 5-game championship run this season. The binomial probability of that happening is .018. Add in a Hail Mary catch at GB, and a 99-yard TD vs. NYJ, and you have a crapload of luck working in their favor. Given that luck plays a huge role over a small sample of game outcomes, I don't think it's unreasonable in the slightest degree to cite luck as a factor in what transpired; especially when you consider that my embarrassing Audible was in response to the how-do-we-explain-this puzzler Aaron posed to the group.

Did Eli make a sickly good pass to Manningham at the end of the game? Yes. In comparison, did Brady fail to execute as well as Eli when he underthrew Gronkowski, overthrew + threw behind Welker, and threw behind Branch? Yes. In my commentary, I don't mean at all to undersell the importance of those comparative skill-based achievements/failures in the outcome of the game. But, in the world of advanced football metrics wherein we talk about luck all the time, to push the luck part of the equation aside in favor of a man-Eli-Coughlin-and-company-are-the-greatest-thing-since-sliced-bread-and-Brady-is-soooooo-overated conclusion would be far more embarrassing from an analytic perspective than anything I said in Audibles.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 6:34am

The Giants were also lucky that Schaub got hurt, as the result of a bizarre string of events involving a 2nd and 14 sneak in a blowout win, not to mention the whole Haynesworth saga. They may also have benefited from Cutler's injury, though whether that's down to luck or Martz is debatable.

Bitter, moi?

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 10:28am

I've seen the Texans at 16-1 for next year and the niners at 20-1...

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:15pm

Interesting - per the Houston Chronicle MGM grand has the Texans at 12-1 and the 49ers at 10-1.

Worth bearing in mind: Mario Williams, Mike Brisiel, Chris Myers and Joel Dreessen are all unrestricted free agents, Foster's an RFA and could be poison-pilled away by any team willing to give up a first round pick absent a major extension, and the Texans are hard up against the cap. Williams is as good as gone, and apart from him the defense was remarkably healthy in 2011 and will probably take a step back. The 2012 Texans will be a good team and the class of the AFC South, but they won't be as good as a healthy 2011 edition.

For the 49ers, I've heard the out-of-division schedule is murderous (which divisions do they face?) but they should still make the playoffs. The big question mark from my perspective is the quarterback situation: do they bring back Smith, do they make a run at Manning, and if they don't, do the Cardinals get him? At 20-1, though, I like them - and even better if that means they're 10-1 for the NFC title.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 2:23pm

There are so many things to like about Harbaugh as a coach that I am hesitant to be critical, but I really hope that he has the flexibility of a Parcells or a Belichik, and is willing to win in whatever way best presents itself. I haven't seen Smith in all his games, or, more importantly in practice, or, very importantly, his young backup, whose name I can't spell. I have no idea of how to assess Manning's chance of getting his arm strength back. However, from what I've seen, Smith's ceiling is pretty close to what was observed in this year's playoffs. Sure, at home, against a lousy defense, he'll look really good at times. Against a good defense, especially if they have to play that good defnse in the good defense's stadium, he'll very likely be completely overmatched.

I'd hate to see a defense, which could be even better than we saw this year, and a functional offensive line, miss a crack at the Super Bowl, because they can't get enough out of the qb position. I don't follow the AFC as closely, and the Ravens have driven me a little crazy for a long time, albeit less so with the decent Flacco, who I think may be ready to really break out. I don't think Smith is.

I'd love to see the Niners, if they can have some confidence in Manning's health, put their eggs in that basket, along with maybe bringing in Reggie Wayne for immediate offensive continuity. Then have Peyton call Crabtree, and say "Michael, this is the life preserver for your next contract. If you want it, this is where Wayne and I are working out for the next 6 weeks. You are invited."

This would be easier if Harbaugh liked what he saw in the backup this year. I have no idea if that is the case.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 02/09/2012 - 12:54pm

Kaepernick was pretty awful in pre-season against the Texans, not that that really helps much in answering the question at all.

by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Thu, 02/09/2012 - 2:12pm

Re "Apparently, you think it's inherently impossible to objectively analyze a football phenomenon because I'm a fan of a certain team" -- I most certainly do not, and have defended FO writers countless times from overly-emotional cries of bias against the Giants. However, IMHO comments like "they got incredibly lucky over and over and over to win games" is a very unfair statement. You cite several plays that were indeed keys to victory, many of which are clearly not luck in any sense. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks break tackles and take advantage of poor angles by DB's to break long TD's? Special team tackler tries to and succeeds in knocking the ball out of the returner's hands? Manningham makes "the catch of his life"? Yes, some of these required some complicity from the opponent, as did the Welker drop or Aaron Rodgers missing 2 open receivers. I contend that plays like this are not in the same category of "luck" as fumble recoveries - they are examples of good (and poor) execution, mostly skill in the moment even if the execution differs from what we'd expect (ie, give Aaron Rodgers that pass another 9 times and he'd make it 8 or 9). Even on fumble lucky, yes, the Giants are guilty as charged, but even there the Bradshaw non-fumble was the correct call and, like I said earlier, I doubt a fumbled punt return or muff is a 50-50 ball.

The larger point is: scrutinize every Super Bowl winner every year and you'll find many "lucky" plays like this, especially in close games, that without which they wouldn't have won. Doubly so if you don't equally scrutinize the similar plays/situations that went against the eventual winner -- I'd say the refereeing that went against the Giants (egregiously bad spots that cost them first down in Atlanta and GB games, inexplicable fumble overturn and awful roughness penalty v. Green Bay, phantom drive-killing holding call v. Pats) just about offsets any fumble luck.

That's not my thinking you must have a bias; that's my saying your comments are far below the level of objective analysis I expect from a FO writer or reader.

by E :: Thu, 02/09/2012 - 3:55pm

This is what I was trying to say. I understand the non-predictive nature of fumble recoveries (and that in general there is a certain amount of luck/randomness involved in any sporting event), but Danny's bitter comments were over the top and IMO takes too much away from what the Giants accomplished. For example:

- The Cruz 99 yard TD: yes there was some luck (I suppose) involved. But once he broke free I yelled out loud to my dad watching with me, "he's not getting caught". Cruz' speed turned that into a TD. He actually gained distance between himself and the DBs chasing him, which is very rare. Speed is an NFL skill and was required to make this play happen.

- The Nicks TD: pretty great catch in traffic. Yes, he escapes because 2 would-be tacklers hit him simultaneously. But isn't that partly what makes it such a great catch, which is skill?

- The Kyle Williams knee-scrape muff: Yes it took an odd bounce, but Williams was WAY too close to the bouncing ball. That's on the coaching staff (or maybe Williams mentally), but it's still a football mistake that put him in position to have something unlucky happen.

- The Kyle Williams fumbled punt: I was watching with many Giants fans who were arguing whether the Giants punt returner was correct in catching the ball and falling forward to the ground (or just calling fair catch) all game long, especially late. Williams could have done the same and not fumbled, but he chose to try long returns. Once it led to great field position and eventual TD. Another time ... that fumble. The recovery may have been luck, but again the play wasn't.

- The Welker drop: Brady made him turn his body around because of 3 defenders in the area. Maybe Welker could/should have caught the call, but again it was the Giants D that put the play in a position to end in a way that worked out to their advantage.

There's an old saying, "you make your own luck." I believe that's what the Giants (and many champions over the years) did.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 10:27am

2- Grow up, it's what someone said on a website with a massive disclaimer about fan-like posting in response to a question about what to make of a 9-7 team winning the superbowl.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 10:25am

You have to take into account that quite a few niners fans (and please don't assume I'm referring to Danny here) feel that they fumbled the Giants game away and that we were also screwed by the ultra-quick whistle on the Bradshaw non-fumble. (That one is bugging me more and more, it seems like the niners are getting punished for wrapping up and playing with leverage in the tackle). I was so gutted after the game that I barely looked at the NFL for nearly two weeks and only started to pay attention again when my football novice friends kept bugging me for betting tips.

by GlennW :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 11:53am

One of my best buddies is a 49ers fan and I thought he had a very good attitude about this game. I told him that the 49ers didn't get the breaks and his response was, yeah, but if our offense wasn't completely inept for most of the game (one completion to a WR for 3 yards all game, horrible 3rd-down conversion rate etc.), the one terrible punt muff doesn't even push us into OT. And he's right. This was not a game that the 49ers dominated and gave away (which has happened before). It was more of a coin-flip game that just went the other way. It's just as valid to ask, how far was the approach of "throw it up to Vernon Davis and pray" going to take you? Maybe all the way, but it's still a crapshoot.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:07pm

That's the way I've ended up seeing it, I put up quite a long post earlier in the year explaining my view that Superbowl wins often don't go to the 'best' team and that fortune plays a significant role most of the time. The niners could have removed the luck element by making some more plays, though healthier receivers would have helped. It doesn't mean that Champions can't be proud or celebrate but it also doesn't entirely prevent the furious rage/sullen despair/hysterical weeping that comes from fumbling away a Superbowl birth under your goalposts in overtime. As phlegmatic as I try to be, to be truly devoid of emotion and view the game as an utterly random exercise would remove some of the joy of being a fan.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:24pm

I will interject myself in this Ninerfan-centric grieving process, as one of the foremost authorities in painful NFL playoff losses, and say that my empathy runs deep. What seems to be so painful to me about this circumstance is that when your defensive front just crushes the opposing unit, making it practically noncompetitive, and a bizarre combination of having a backup punt returner having a historically bad day (it easily could have been three or four fumbles) and some bizarre dropped interceptions, results in an ot loss in the conference championship, it is really, really, hard to take.

Take it from me, however, that when July rolls around, with a great defense, and other elements that are reason to have hope (this is a roster that is just primed to make huge leaps with the addition of one or two players), you'll very likely to be extremely excited to see September on the horizon.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:03pm

Couldn't bring myself to watch the Super Bowl. I haven't missed one since '93, when I was living in Japan and sumo was my sport of choice.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 9:16am

Anyone else wonder at the time if the Giants 12-men penalty was intentional? Seemed like Buddy Ryan's "Polish Defense."

by White Rose Duelist :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 9:29am

I suppose it's possible. The risk of giving up a lot of yards on the free play is a lot lower when you have extra defenders.

I'm sure they could never prove such a thing, but if they did - could they add time to the clock as part of the penalty? I seem to recall an unsportsmanlike conduct rule that basically allows the referee to hand out whatever penalty seems just - such as the play (in college?) where someone came off the bench to tackle a returner getting a TD awarded because 15 yards wasn't remotely fair. If somehow the officiald decided that the Giants put the extra man on just to waste time, could they penalize 15 yards and reset the game clock to 0:17?

by mansteel (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:55am

I was half-jokingly (OK, 4/5ths jokingly) imploring to put 14 or so men on the field at the 0:09 mark, figuring that they'd be happy to give up five yards in return for running the time it took to complete the play off the clock.

by moore2112 (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 4:16pm

game cant end on a defensive penalty

by steveNC (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 6:19pm

But the clock can go from :09 to :01 or :02 on a defensive penalty.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:58am

The only recourse is the "Palpably Unfair Act" penalty, which is basically "whatever the referee wants to enforce" as far as penalty goes.

Note however, that at no point in the (vague) description of the criteria is there is an allowance for time to be put back onto the clock, absent an end-of-half penalty scenario, even for palpably unfair acts.

Note also that every example of this penalty in the rulebook is for a "pitch violation" by a player or member of team personnel, and it requires that they materially interfere with the play. So not only would it have to involve 12 men, that man would have to enter the field after the snap, and would have to have a materially adverse effect on the aggrieved team. This is basically a formalization of the Tommy Lewis Penalty.

I'm not sure this penalty has ever been enforced in the NFL. Cowher almost got it in that 23-21 loss to Jacksonville in 1997 where he almost kicked the ball after a block FG. Denver should have gotten it in the 1985 snowball game versus SF (but didn't).

Billy Cole would have gotten it in 1991 after shooting three defensive players on his way to a touchdown, but he shot himself at the end of the play, and NFL rules don't allow for penalizing a deceased player.

by Travis :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:08am

Billy Cole would have gotten it in 1991 after shooting three defensive players on his way to a touchdown, but he shot himself at the end of the play, and NFL rules don't allow for penalizing a deceased player.

The use of extraneous objects on the field is already covered under the unsportsmanlike conduct rule (12-3-1-f and 12-3-1-Note 6).

by Bots Meat Commission (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:30am

Also the NCAA should have been able to figure out that Lattimer was violating its rules against steroids after the smashed out that car window.

by Paul R :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:27pm

The only recourse is the "Palpably Unfair Act" penalty, which is basically "whatever the referee wants to enforce" as far as penalty goes...

...Billy Cole would have gotten it in 1991 after shooting three defensive players on his way to a touchdown,

In other words, it depends on the caliber of the offense.

by Blackamallow (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:08pm

Definitely not a blank statement.

by Whatev :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 4:39pm

That, at any rate, is the aim of the rule.

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 9:24am


by tuluse :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:03pm

I don't know if they can add time, but they could give untimed downs.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 5:53pm

Yeah, to be honest, if that penalty was intentional, coaches have to know that they can only do that once or twice every few years, because the solution is just easy, and if it's made obvious that it happens, they'll change it.

If the team with the ball is trailing, inside two minutes:
a procedural penalty on offense which stops the clock (like a false start, or delay of game) results in a 10-second runoff, plus the penalty
a procedural penalty on defense (offsides, 12 men on the field, etc.) results in an untimed down, plus the penalty.

Game already can't end on a defensive penalty so basically the rule's already there.

by Jeff M. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:40am

I actually think this strategy works better at midfield than on the goal line, where Ryan employed it. Half the distance to the goal moving from, say, the 7 to the 3 1/2, is probably more helpful to the offense than moving from the 50 to the 45, and you probably run more time off of the clock, since the offense will throw deep.

You'd think you'd want to put more than 12 guys on, though. The diagram from Ryan's playbook calls for 14 defenders on the goal line--I guess we could call it the "dollar defense" if you came out in a 4-1-9.

One question, however. If the offense sees an extra guy, completes the ball for 20-25 yards over the middle, and then declines the penalty, does the clock stop because of the flag or run because it was declined?

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:02am

I don't think that's necessarily the case, especially against certain offenses. If you struggle to run the ball inside the 5 (like, say, the Lions do), then moving the ball closer almost helps the defense: your secondary is packed into a smaller space.

I believe the clock would stop because there was a flag, and then when the penalty was declined, it would start on the ready-for-play signal.

by Kurt :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:45am

I thought the guy was late getting off the field (saw it happening before the snap). I don't think the 12th man actually played defense on that play.

by jsa (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:24am

That's right, Tuck was leaving the field but didn't get off in time.

The Pats had 12 men playing D on their penalty.

by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Thu, 02/09/2012 - 2:17pm

Not clear this is a good strategy because you risk giving the other team a free clock stoppage if they complete a pass in-bounds and you get flagged (Pats had no timeouts at the time).

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 9:22am

Congrats to the Giants.

There was nothing lucky about the Giants win against GB. GB dropped a ton of passes but the Giants pretty much made a play when they felt like it.

by radar (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 9:33am

You're going to hold out the Green Bay game as an example of how lucky the Giants were? They were called for one of the worst phantom roughing the passer calls in league history and had the Jennings fumble review go against them, but yeah, they were just lucky.

And if you want to play the whiny SF homer, tough shit - the Bradshaw forward progress call was made correctly. Look up the rule some time. Was it a quick whistle? Sure was, but that doesn't make it an incorrect call.

And if you want to gripe about the fumbles in the Super Bowl, then at least have the simply intellectual honesty to acknowledge how the Patriots got multiple big calls in their favor. The phantom holding call on Boothe killed what likely was a scoring drive for the Giants. The non-call on Moore for PI on third down killed another drive. The Patriots got away with blatant holding on their TD when Waters was pulling on Linval Joseph's arm.

Take your sour grapes and shove them up your ass. They got some breaks, but had plenty of other breaks go against them as well. You know, like pretty much ever other champion.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:50am

Why the discrimination against sweet grapes? Are they non-ass-shoving-worthy?

by Jerry :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 4:36am

I want to see this commercial during next year's game.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 4:45am

Perhaps I'll decide to prove my impartiality by making that next-year's SF equivalent of my (subsequently lost) under-or-else-tiger-suit prediction for CIN wins this season. Coming in September on FO: "If SF wins more than 9 games, I'll take my sweet grapes, and shove them up my ass during the SB XLVII halftime show."

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 6:39am

A Peyton Manning signing could make that look like a very questionable call indeed . . .

by Jerry :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 9:45pm

The actual act is less appealing to me than the idea of a spokesman (possibly you) smiling and saying "These sweet grapes are ass-shoving-worthy!"

by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Thu, 02/09/2012 - 2:46pm

This is the much more obnoxious version of my message above (460).

by PatsFan :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 9:41am

You mean the "phantom" call where Wilfork was grabbed and spun around?

And the "non-call" where Moore put his hand on the receiver's shoulder but didn't grab him?

by radar (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 9:44am

Moore went through Manningham's back to knock the ball away. Sorry, that's PI.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:54am

No he didn't. He lept up and over him with his hand on the WR's shoulders. Live it looked like it could have been flagged, but on the replay it was obviously simply a great play, the kind any high profile player would be lauded for.

by tuluse :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:04pm

He had his hand on the shoulder before the ball got there. That is illegal contact at a minimum.

by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:14pm

It really isn't PI. You're allowed to touch the receiver if you're not using force to grab and twist him. And Moore went over the back to knock the ball away. It's something Revis does all the time. Revis is constantly in contact with his receiver but it's not whistled as PI because it isn't PI.

by Jeff M. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:32am

You could literally hear both announcers jaws drop as they said live on they air "wait, there's no flag on that?"

Collinsworth then tried to walk it back with "remember, the officials have to make the call in real time at full-speed," but everyone watching saw Moore interfere. Only possible explanation is that the ref swallowed the whistle because he didn't want to "decide the game."

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:36am

Relative to how things have been called in the playoffs, not the regular season but the postseason, there was no penalty.

And frankly, that is how PI should be called, or not called depending on how you want to phrase it. The receiver had a chance. There was no arm bar or some such. Just contact.

Contact alone should not be cause for a flag associated with what many times can be significant yardage.

by Kurt :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:54am

I mostly agree with this. The contact wasn't of they type that *demanded* a flag.

On the other hand, the call could have gone either way. Just like a fumble rolling around on the ground could go either way.

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:00am

The best part about that was watching Coughlin go ballistic on the sideline. I enjoy reading coaches lips as they scream in slow motion. I think it was something like "[his hand] over the shoulder!" and "its the rule!" as well as the four letter expletive that came out as well.

I'll still never forget Coughlin's reaction to D. Jackson taking the punt to the house (in 2010?). Best part of that play is watching Coughlin throw his papers onto the field in disgust.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:02am

With the current rules, that is absolutely PI, and in general I am against calling essentially a different set of rules for the reg. season and playoffs. However, I agree with you on how it should be called. The receivers have enough advantages.

by Goathead (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:59am

In real time the announcers announced the DPI in a matter of fact way, that play is clearly called in the regular season.

The holding call on Boothe 3rd and 1 was a huge call, and has simply not been made throughout the post season. I didn't see any angle that showed a clear hold, If the Pats had won, that call would have been the turning point - A Giants 1st down there likely results in points, and possibly doesn't let the pats drive to end the half.

So, did luck have an impact? Yes. The Giants got lucky on fumble recoveries. The Patriots got some key lucky calls.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:21pm

The Sterling Moore DPI was probably a penalty, but easy for an official to miss; it's the hand not going for the ball that's causing the penalty, and it's around the other side toward the sideline. Should have been called.

The Boothe hold was not a penalty. Wilfork tripped, and turned around as much because his hands were on the defender as the inverse.

That said, the Giants got away with the Manningham catch (did he really have control when his feet tapped?). Also, I agree that the grounding call was a good call, but it would get let go 9 times out of 10.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:27pm

No, incidental contact is perfectly legal. Unless he was shoving or twisting the WR, or holding his arms down, it wasn't a penalty.

by Independent George :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:39pm

I agree with you on the DPI, but I thought the hold was legit. It's usually not called - and it wasn't called the rest of the night, against either team - but by the letter of the law, that was a hold.

I didn't think there was any question on the Manningham reception. It looked pretty clear to me that he had control when he dragged his toes.

by Goathead (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:41pm

I find it hard to say they "got away" with the Manningham catch. If you look at the replays, there is one where you can see him get control, but not tell if his feet hit, but from the other side, he feet clearly tap. I haven't seen anyone suggesting that being the wrong call.

I'm being charitable on Boothe's holding, it looked clean to me, and as I say, it was a huge momentum change.

The grounding surprised me to the point where I initially assumed (loudly and using profanity) they were calling Tuck for roughing. Yes it was the right call. But that call is almost never made. I've seen it plenty where the QB throws it away downfield while in the pocket, and it is ignored.

by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:50pm

"That is absolutely PI."

Using "absolutely" doesn't make the argument stronger. Really, you're allowed to make contact with a WR as long as you don't grab and pull, or grab and twist, or make some kind of contact that interferes with the WR's ability to catch the ball. In this case the DB reached over the WR and knocked the ball away. That's something that the top DBs do regularly without getting flagged. Watch Revis in action. He has his hands on WRs all the time. But he never gets flagged for PI.

by CoachDave :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:25pm

Nor making up whatever definition of PI you see fit to "invent" for your argument.

Here is the actual rule that applies to the play:

Article 2 Prohibited Acts by both teams while the ball is in the air. Acts that are pass interference include but are not limited to:

(b) "Playing through the back of an opponent in an attempt to make a play on the ball"

by John Doe :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:53pm

I would argue that he played "around the back of an opponent", not through. To me, through the back would be a significant impact to the receivers back/shoulders while attempting to reach around him. That play is probably PI in the regular season 50% of the time, it's borderline. I had no problem with the (non) call as long as they called it that way consistently.

I'm a Giants fan, so it's not bias coloring my opinion.

by rich316 :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:47pm

As a Giants fan, the "non-call" PI was a tough call to take, but if the shoe is on the other foot I think it's good defense. That's a good physical play by the defense, borderline, but let them play. The boothe hold was far more egregious. There was no evidence that boothe grabbed wilfork, it looked like he just had a great block on wilfork but wilfork tried to get into the hole, and failed.

by JetFanInMD (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:33am

A DB arriving into a receiver's back before the ball arrives has been called DPI for decades, going back to the '80s at least. It is not a newfangled PI call that we've been getting for the last decade or so.

by John (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:48am

Come now, as any Pats fan will tell you, DBs were able to do anything they wanted to before Polian changed all the rules. Where have you been?

by Purds :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:52am

I thought that was supposed to be Colts fans saying that.

by John (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 4:38pm

Colts fans recognize Polian pushed for the existing rules to be, y'know, enforced.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:16pm

I thought Polian just pushed people into walls

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 9:27am

I know he pushed somebody into a wall. I no understand why a duck.

by armchair journe... :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 9:41pm

(in case he heard me)

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:50am

Perhaps YouTube will show differently but I did not immediately react that this was an obvious PI nor did anyone around me though the Giants fans among us certainly wanted the call. But even they shrugged when it was not called.

I thought the refs did just fine and I think the NFL would do well to review these playoffs on how to instruct refs when to call offensive holding and defensive pass penalties such as holding and PI. There was no obvious call missed nor any ticky tack calls that helped sway the game.

And the 49ers still mauled the Giants qb despite Justin Smith being all but smashed with a crow bar as he collapsed the pocket.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:07pm

I didn't think the refs were bad, I just thought it was lucky for the Pats that most of the close calls went their way. The Giants got the Intentional Grounding call (it is the rule, but I haven't seen it called in that situation). But the Pats got a couple close DPI no-calls, the Boothe holding on 3rd-and-1 (questionable), and the holding no-call on the Wooodhead TD. None of them were egregiously bad, but they could have been called either way and came in huge spots that had a big impact on the outcome.

Granted, I am a Giants fan.

by CoachDave :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:31pm

I couldn't disagree more with the no-call on the Woodhead TD, but I do agree with your overall assessment, the refs were not bad.

On the Woodhead catch, the guy was in space, he had outside jersey grab with both hands at the snap and his left hand never let go and he clearly used that leverage to steer the oncoming rusher to the right.

That is as textbook offensive holding as it gets and when the play is in space and clearly affected the outcome of the play, you have to make that call every single time no matter playoffs/SB or not.

The DPI call was bang-bang, that's not an easy call to make IMO and both O-holding calls before that were in the line, it's tough to see when all those bodies and activity going on...and of course the Giants one was to "even it up"...I can understand how those went down, but the no-call on the Woodhead pass was IMO a terrible mistake that a SB crew shouldn't miss.

Heck, a HS ref making $50/game shouldn't miss that one.

by PatsLoseAgain (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:44pm

"I didn't think the refs were bad, I just thought it was lucky for the Pats that most of the close calls went their way".

Par for the course with the Pats the past decade. And of course the headlines today are mostly of the "Patriots Lose" variety rather than "Giants Win". I guess the Patriots never really get beat by anyone but themselves.

As an admittedly bitter midwesterner, I am beyond sick of hearing the endless uptight bitching from New England area sports fans. My objectivity on the matter pretty much died around 2004. Not that anyone gives a shit, but it's just a little bit sweeter for me when the Pats, Celtics or Red Sox fail.

Schatz always seems to be bitter when the final outcome of a game does not match his brilliantly conceived numbers. Choke on this loss, Schatz. Choke on it.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:50pm

Schatz picked the Giants to win.

by John Doe :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:56pm

He actually hedged his bet pretty well. He said the numbers pointed to the patriots but he picked the Giants.

I would bet he'd rather have DVOA be correct than his gut feeling though.

by tuluse :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 3:27pm

The numbers gave the Patriots like a 60% chance of winning. That's barely more than a coin flip.

by Goathead (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 4:12pm

Actually, it means the favorites have a 50% better chance of winning than the underdog. Hardly a coin flip.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:29am

Now two Super Bowls have ended with a final score of 21-17. In both of them, the winning team reached 21 points with two TDs, one PAT, two FGs, and a safety. What are the odds?

by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:51pm

"What are the odds?"

Apparently 1/1.

by DRohan :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:29pm

I thought the same thing.

by rich316 :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:50pm

Hilariously, Plax called the exact score, but for the wrong Pats/Giants Superbowl.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 4:05pm

Didn't Plax predict 23-17?

Canty did tweet the correct Patriots score (he said 28-17)

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:38am

We had a huge discussion after the Bradshaw TD on whether you would kneel at the 1-yard-line like he was thinking about doing. I saw one of the OL pointing to the ground like "man, go down"... but I'm not so sure I'd trust the special teams in that situation. Is the FG really a gimme?

How about the fact that the intentional grounding safety is the difference between Brady having to drive for a TD to win vs. driving for a FG to tie at the end as well (granted this twilight zone take is hypothetical given the nature of the game).

Yahoo sports has a column out called "Welker is the goat", for his drop, but that catch looked incredibly tough to make. Brady more of a goat in my mind... his interception it looked he just thought "I'm Tom Brady!" and threw it up there.

One of the best Super Bowls... although that list is growing. I have a hard time ranking any of the "down to the last play of the game" Bowls ahead of the others.

by Temo :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:57am

It's an extra point, which is about 99%

by BJR :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:23pm

But I think you have to assume it would be less given the situation.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:41pm

It's not just the kicker though is it?

Think back to 2002 playoffs Giants-49ers - bad snap. Or you could get a Romo-type hold. Or you might somehow get a penalty against the offense.

Or what about on your 1st&goal or 2nd&goal if you have a mishandled snap or exchange or just a plain strip or fumble?

There's a lot of things can go wrong with that strategy and it would be terrible to have lost a Super Bowl when you had the door wide open for the win.

I think the take-a-knee at the 1-yd line strategy is only a strategy to use when you're ahead ; and also depends on how much time is left on the clock and whether the opponent has enough to score then recover an onside kick.

by tuluse :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:13pm

It was only 2nd down. So you still get one more shot at the TD before a FG even comes into it.

by DGL :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:32pm

So you score the touchdown with :52 left instead of :57? Because if Bradshaw takes a knee, the Pats are calling time out immediately. I guess you make them burn the timeout, but 5 seconds and a timeout doesn't seem worth it to me - the only reason you take the knee is because you want to run the clock down to :15 and kick the field goal.

by Eddo :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 3:18pm

Five seconds and a timeout is certainly worth it, if you do score the touchdown.

Actually, if Bradshaw had been able to take a knee (with the Patriots immediately calling timeout), the following scenarios are possible (assuming the play takes five seconds, like you suggest):

1. Giants score a touchdown on the next play. Patriots get the ball, needing a touchdown, with 52 seconds left and no timeouts.

2. Giants don't score a touchdown on the next play, but wind up running the clock down to 12 seconds, calling timeout (or taking a delay of game penalty), and attempting a field goal.
2a. Field goal is good. Patriots get the ball, needing a field goal, with about 9 seconds left and no timeouts.
2b. Field goal is no good. Giants lose.

3. The Giants fumble on the play following the kneel. Giants lose.

What actually happened:
Patriots get the ball, needing a touchdown, with 57 seconds left and one timeout.

So, if you fumble or miss the field goal, you're screwed. So that's an argument in favor of Bradshaw just scoring.

But, if you don't royally screw up a great situation, by taking the knee at the one, you've guaranteed the Patriots have no timeouts left when they get the ball back, and you've taken somewhere between five and fifty seconds off the clock.

And if the Patriots didn't have that timeout last night, they wouldn't even have been able to throw a hail mary.

by DGL :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 5:15pm

Fair enough - I allow that making NE burn the extra TO is worth the miniscule chance that you'll fumble the snap on the next play (which will either be Eli walking into the end zone against the Patriots' Pro-Bowl-style defense, or Eli centering the ball and laying down to burn 40 seconds and set up the FG).

Come to think of it, the best play for the Giants would be for Bradshaw to take a knee, and on the next play, have Eli take the snap and just stand there with the ball tucked into his stomach and the OL and backs forming a wall around him. If the Pats are going to let the Giants score, they're not going to be fighting to get penetration for a few seconds until they realize what's happening - then you have the OL push into the end zone and Eli burrow behind them for the TD, but after running another 5-10 seconds off the clock...

by GlennW :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 3:06pm

Well, for our definitive answer let's consult with the great Bill Belichick, who performed all the necessary football calculus and came up with his answer: it's better for the Giants that they take a knee, because I want them to score immediately. It's just too bad that Belichick didn't perform this calculus a minute earlier, after calling timeout coming out of the 2-minute warning (the Giants had already moved to the 11-yard-line on that play, no appreciable difference from where they scored a minute later).

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 6:58am

I was shocked that Belichick didn't start using his timeouts to kill the clock before the two minute warning. By that time, if anything was going to stop the Giants it clearly wasn't going to be the clock, so leave yourself as much time as possible to come back if you have to. LTS was clearly the right call, but too late. Failure to take the timeouts earlier was a bad mistake.

by radar (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:02am

As a Giants fan, I wanted him in the end zone. Too much can go wrong on a field goal, as the Ravens kindly demonstrated for us two weeks ago. The TD meant that the Patriots had to go the length of the field for the TD with less than a minute and one TO. I'd rather see that than risk a field goal.

I really can't believe how much grief Welker is getting for that play instead of Brady. It was not a well thrown pass. Welker had to spin around and jump just to get his hands on it. If he hangs on, it would have been a sensational catch. It wasn't a straight-up drop like Hernandez's was on NE's last drive.

by DRohan :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:34pm

I think the game against the Ravens is a perfect example of how unlikely it is to miss the FG. Everyone was stunned by that miss. How many are stunned to the same level by a TD drive in the final minute?

by DGL :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:57pm

Plus, Cundiff's miss was with a running clock (Harbaugh apparently thinking each timeout he takes comes out of his salary, or something) from 32 yards, whereas Tynes would have been kicking a 18 or 19 yarder coming out of a timeout that the Giants would have called after running the clock down to :15. It's an easier kick than an extra point.

With the Giants, Tynes has attempted 180 XPs or FGs of less than 20 yards, and missed 2 (XPs). That's about a 1.1% failure rate. When you add in the "pressure" of it being a SB-winning kick (which I honestly think has virtually no impact on a professional kicker, but what the heck) and the miniscule chance of a miracle happening in the last 10 seconds of the game with the Pats down 1, the 98% chance of winning that Burke has been citing sounds pretty reasonable.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 4:05pm

It's hard to say. I can only think of three times in a Super Bowl where a kicker attempted a 4th-quarter FG to go from a deficit to a lead.

Gerela (1976, v DAL) and Bahr (1990, v BUF) made them. Both Bahr's (7:20 remaining) and Gerela's (8:41 remaining) attempts were not end-of-game situations, though. Norwood, famously, missed in that same 1990 game (0:04 remaining). No kicker has ever successfully converted an end-game FG to either win or lose the Super Bowl.

Viniateri and O'Brien have made FGs to go from a tie to a win as time expired.

Going back to the pre-Super Bowl era, only the 1945 game had a similar ending, where Washington's Joe Aguirre missed two FGs in the 4th in a game they lost 15-14. Those misses (which both hit the uprights), came with 6 minutes and 2:10 remaining, respectively.

So it's hard to say just how a professional kicker will respond with everything on the line for that last kick. There's only been two opportunities in NFL history, and kickers are 0-2.

by tuluse :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 4:15pm

You're forgetting extra points.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 4:08pm

Everyone would be stunned by a game winning TD drive in less than a minute. Hell, everyone went crazy about Rodgers leading a game winning field goal drive in under a minute.

Only twice has a team taken the lead with under a minute to play and still lost a playoff game. One was the Music City Miracle and the other was last years Colts-Jets game. It is extremely rare.

by Subrata Sircar :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 4:35pm

18-yard field goals are as close to gimmes as any NFL play gets - NFL teams get those at about 99%. Take off four percent for SB pressure (which is huge, btw - it's equivalent to the difference in adding 10 yards to the kick!) and it's still 95%.

If Bradshaw takes a knee and they call TO immediately, there would be about 57 seconds on the clock (that's what the clock read for the two-point try). That's NE's last timeout, and it's now 3rd and goal. The Giants can either run a real play (on which NE would make the same choice, right?) and score, or they can kneel to get the ball at the 1-yard line with a running clock. They can call TO at 25 seconds, then kick with 95% confidence(*). A squib gets Brady the ball at his own 30 with 15-20 seconds to go and no TOs. He has to move 40 yards to get even a 47-yard FG try when the Giants will defend the sidelines hard - and a 47-yard try is under 50% even for an NFL kicker in a dome.

Against that, Brady had 57 seconds (no time ran on the kickoff) and one TO to go 80 yards. Given those choices, I'd rather let my 2nd-ranked offense let by a HoF QB try for 40 extra yards with a lot more time and timeout.

* I just realized something else unusual. If the Giants miss, the game isn't over. The Patriots are at their own 1-yard line, and the Giants have a TO. The point differential is two points. The Patriots might not have the room to kneel out the game without getting a safety and a tie. If they don't have room to kneel, runs also risk a safety, and incompletes stop the clock. Not good odds, but much better than they usually are in this circumstance.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 5:53pm

The ball is spotted at the 20 on a missed FG.

by Subrata Sircar :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 9:08pm

True enough; I should have said turn it over e.g. they Romo the snap and don't make it into the end zone.

by 3.14159265 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 12:58am

I am going to give Coughlin a little credit here, as according to what I have read today he did not tell Bradshaw not to score. I am thinking Coughlin watched all those games that Brady and Viniatiari won only needing a field goal.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:02am

I think the top-2 are clearly "Wide Right" and "Dyson at the 1", because both games were decided by exactly 3 feet.

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:22am

It's hard for me to say that 3-feet didn't separate ARI-PIT, nor SF-CIN; as well as the fact that Gronkowski was 3-feet away from that Hail Mary. I have a feeling I'm missing a couple other games as well... the other NE games. IND-NO goes down a tier, but that was up there in the "wow this is close till nearly the end".

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:14am

Has anybody read any interviews with Bradshaw about whether he was told not to score? People are saying he just couldn't stop, but he appeared to realize what was going on about four yards from the end zone and if he had a clear directive to stop, I believe he could have. It looked to me like he just didn't wasn't sure what to do, even though there are reports his teammates were yelling at him to pull up short.

I'm glad everyone seems aware that Belichick's let-them-score strategy was executed too late. I have little doubt the Patriots would have scored if that extra minute would not have been wasted.

by Eddo :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:15am

Bradshaw did say that he tried to down the ball, but his momentum carried him in.

by Travis :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:23am

From Bradshaw himself:

"I was taking a handoff and Eli was saying, 'Don’t score, don’t score.' I tried to declare myself down and touch down with my hand. They didn’t call it and my momentum took me into the end zone."

"It was a strange situation to be in. At the Giants, we want touchdowns, that is what is always in your mind. It goes against your nature to not score, when you spend your whole life trying to score. Even though Eli was telling me, it only clicked when I was at the 1-yard line. Usually when you tap down, you can declare yourself down but they didn’t blow the whistle."

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:54am

So, it sounds from that like he wasn't exactly given a clear directive before the play--or maybe that's just the way he's phrasing it.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:41pm

Coughlin echoed that in his post-game interviews. He admitted to not specifically instructing the RBs to down the ball at the 1, and acknowledged that after the play he was hoping very strongly that failure wouldn't bite him in the ass.

by PhillyFred :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:02pm

If Eli, and presumably coaching staff did not want Bradshaw to score, why were they even running the ball at that point. Just center the ball and take a knee. It would have been about a 24 yard FG, leaving Brady about 10 - 20 seconds and no timeouts. Game over.

by Independent George :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:09pm

Because the optimal case would have been to stop at the 1, force NE to use its last time out, then score a TD. That would have left Brady with no timeouts and still needing a TD to win the game instead of a FG.

by PhillyFred :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:05pm

And run the risk of a fumble? With that little time and no timeouts, there's virtually no chance of getting into FG range w/o the benefit of a PI call.

by GlennW :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:47pm

I don't know if this is the optimal case, because while it burns that last timeout it only takes another 5 seconds off the clock. I think the optimal case is to take a knee twice which runs the clock down to about 10 seconds, then kick the FG. But I can see the argument for taking the guaranteed points and lead as opposed to incurring the small risk of a bad snap or a Romo of the hold, under pressure.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:22am

The Pats defenders clearly wanted Bradshaw to score. I have never seen NFL players punch the air in celebration on the field when allowing a TD until last night.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:22pm

Bradshaw weirdly seemed to be attempting to actually stop, when all he had to do was drag a knee and -then- fall in. Mental lapse that could have cost the Giants the game.

by Independent George :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:35pm

I don't think he's down if he drags a knee; he hadn't been touched by a defensive player.

by John Doe :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 8:22pm

If he took a knee at the 1 it would count as "giving himself up" which ends the play, if it didn't then he should be happy to wait there letting the clock run until someone touched him.

by BJR :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:31pm

Or maybe Stirling Moore was the goat for getting burned for 40 yards on the very first play of the Giants final drive?

Or maybe a bunch of stuff just happened in which players executed their roles slightly less than perfectly in an extreme pressure environment?

by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:52pm

Welker is the goat for not making a twisting catch of a pass thrown two feet behind him?

But Sterling Moore is let off the hook for being torched for a 38-yard reception by Mario Manningham?

Yahoo Sports has a lot of idiot writers.

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:54pm

Or heck, how about Deion Branch and, even more egregiously, Aaron Hernandez iron-thumbing balls on the final drive that should have advanced the ball and saved them the time out? It's like the national sports media all huddled together and decided to pile on Welker like no one else ever made mistakes.

by DRohan :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:38pm

Torched? The pass was dropped into a tiny window and the WR made an awesome catch along the sideline.

by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 5:31pm

"Torched" refers to the gap between the receiver and the defender, which was fairly large before Moore realized that Manningham had just blown past him.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 5:45pm

Ah, the irony of arguing about somebody being unfairly labeled the goat only to bestow the honor on somebody even less deserving. This is the second or third place I've seen the "torched" argument. It wasn't an incredible pass and catch because Manningham was open. How on earth could anybody give Welker the benefit of the doubt but then think Moore was out of that play? Bizarre.

by Whatev :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 4:50pm

People keep assuming that the only option is to go down or score the touchdown. But this is wrong because it's also possible to just stand a few inches from the goal line and force the defense to come shove you in. Combine the fact that nobody was actually pursuing him (because they were letting him score), the time to figure out what he's done, and blocking by his teammates, it could very easily be 5 seconds before they force him into the endzone--basically one whole play.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 5:11pm

To reiterate what was said above, he was not told not to score. Which is kind of crazy. I think, as noted, he very easily could have stopped, but what you saw was him weighing two completely opposed thoughts in his head as he headed toward the goal line. Negative capability is not really an asset on the football field; he should have been given a clear plan.

From the linked story:
"Coughlin said he did not instruct Bradshaw to stop short before the play, preferring to take the guaranteed points and not play for a last-second game-winning field goal when something — a bad snap, a shanked kick — could go wrong."

It's reasonable not to score, but the player should have an idea in mind. I just generally am amazed that coaches don't have a clear idea in mind of how to handle situations. Belichick should have let them score earlier. Very often, coaches seem to have no idea when the optimal time is to call timeouts at the ends of games, as though they wait to see the outcome before thinking it through, as opposed to having a contingency plan in place.

by Blotzphoto :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:41am

I thought that the deciding factor was the lack of a deep threat by the Pats. The I don't think a single completed pass by Brady went more than 20 yards in the air, save for the one that got picked. They need their own AJ Green in next years draft. I don't think the Giants safeties ever had to turn their heads towards their own goal line all game, that let them keep all of the Brady/Welker plays in front of them. No big plays at all.

by AnonymousBoob (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:53pm

I agree. Gronkowski's gimpy ankle took out a potential seam threat and the Pats WRs couldn't pick up the slack. It's clear that running out a tandem of Ochocinco and Branch on the perimeter is not enough to pressure any competent defense.

by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:58pm

That was the "deciding factor"? Not the fact that the Pats' defense couldn't keep Manning from making 10-15 yard completions at will?

The Pats went 13-3 without a "true deep threat." And it's really not fair to say that they didn't have one. Gronkowski was open, deep, and Brady badly underthrew him.

In Randy Moss's last season and a half with the Pats, Brady regularly underthrew him on deep passes. Yes, the Patriots would be a better team if they had the possibility of a Rodgers-Jennings connection. But they are two players short of that, not one. Brady does a lot of things very well, but throwing a deep pass is not one of them. And I wish he would realize that.

You might as well argue that the "deciding factor" was the lack of a running back who could consistently pick up 5.1 yards/rush. Or the "deciding factor" was the lack of a punt returner like Devin Hester. There are a myriad of ways that the Patriots could be a better team. I don't see why one of them should be singled out as the "deciding factor."

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:49pm

The "deciding factor" was clearly the Patriots ballboy who crisco'ed the footballs for the 4th quarter.


by Mr Shush :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 7:06am

AJ Greens don't make it outside the top 5 picks, and the Patriots don't have one of those.

What they'll get is a Brandon Lloyd in free agency, which will probably be good enough.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:44am

Folks who were bewildered by the Giants' late-season defensive turnaround simply were not paying attention. It's not at all complicated: they were banged up early, and got healthy in the nick of time. It's also what happened to the Packers team that won it all last year.

(Well, that and Aaron Ross started playing much better too, which is something of a puzzle...perhaps a result of Fewell simplifying the D?)

That said, I thought the Pats' O-Line won the battle against the vaunted Giants pass rush. A few coverage sacks (both sacks and the IG penalty that caused the safety were caused by the coverage), and some nice plays by JPP batting down a couple balls, and that's about all the impact the D-Line had. Give the Giants' front credit for sustaining effort, but Brady had lots of time to throw.

Awesome gameplan from Belichick, IMO. They doubled Cruz, took away the big play, and forced the Giants to dink and dunk, which is exactly the way to defend a big-play offense like NYG. The Giants' run game was only marginally effective, and they got decent pressure on Manning without blitzing (and sometimes, as noted, by rushing three). I thought that was an extremely well-coached defensive effort.

Eli played very, very well - even when they didn't score he moved the ball and turned over field position. he limited mistakes, and nailed the one huge play he absolutely had to. The Mannignham reception wasn't even a bad play by the defense - it was just a perfectly executed throw-and-catch against Cover-2. If the QB and WR can make that play, there's not much you can do to defend it.

The Giants' defensive gameplan was similar - which is usually a terrible mistake against Brady, because bleeding you to death underneath is his specialty. I thought Brady looked completely unstoppable on two drives (the two drives straddling the half), and was middling the rest of the game. The huge incompletion to Welker: IMO, it certainly was catchable, but that throw was high and a bit behind him - a very tough catch.

Gronkowski was obviously extremely limited, and it almost definitely changed the game. I can't even imagine what Pats fans might be feeling about Bernard Pollard.

Luck factor: Giants very fortunate to recover both fumbles. But yeah, most of the calls seemed to go the Pats' way. The holding (on 3rd-and-1 at midfield) and non-holding (on the Woodhead TD) were killers, and that PI on could definitely have been called on that play with Manningham. The 12-men at the end of the game was bizarre - definitely a situation where a defensive penalty helped the defensive effort. That said, it was pretty big longshot for the Pats at that point anyway.

Final note: I don't know why ANY team that wins the coin toss would choose to receive the ball at the beginning of the game. It just seems like such a big advantage to have the first possession of the second half.

by Subrata Sircar :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 4:54pm

Brady is a 1st-ballot, no-doubt HoF QB. I will be surprised if Eli is more than a fringe HoF candidate. Welker is likely to be in the same boat as a bunch of passing-explosion-era-WR when the HoF comes calling; Manningham won't get into the Hall unless he buys a ticket (although those TD catches at Michigan were sweet; he'll always have those first in my mind when I remember him).

And, yet, Brady's pass to Welker was just a bit too far outside and wide to let him make a circus catch, while Eli's to Manningham was damn near perfect - probably the best pass I've seen in a Super Bowl since Bradshaw to Stallworth against the Rams thirty-odd years ago.

Either the difference between NFL players on a single play just isn't as much as we might like to think, or Eli has served notice that he's arrived at the Peyton/Brady/Brees/Rodgers QB level. (Or both, of course; or possibly that Eli's line gave him a better pocket on that play than Brady's did on his play, or ...)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 5:01pm

You really are that confident with regard to your ability to predict Eli Manning's performance over the next five years?

by Subrata Sircar :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 9:17pm

Not really, but I am confident that most QB's with Eli's career to date don't make the Hall of Fame. It should be said he's got quite a bit going for him that other QB's don't, and that "fringe-HoF" is hardly a snub.

Mostly, I'm wondering how much the performance of a short-list-of-best-in-game QB and a top-ten QB overlap on any given day (and the best QB versus the 32nd-ranked QB on any given day, for that matter). Obviously the means are different, and I could look at DVOA or DYAR to get a rough measurement in a given year, but the standard deviation seems pretty wide. This is one reason that Rodgers' performance this year was amazing - he was so consistently elite (right up until he wasn't, of course) without any really bad games.

And even if the standard deviation is small, look back at those two passes. Brady's pass wasn't more than a matter of inches away from being hauled in, if that. On such small differences are Super Bowl victories made.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 7:12am

I can't readily think of another quarterback who at any point in their career was a good comparison for Eli Manning right now. He certainly has no business in Canton if he retires tomorrow, but four or five more seasons at his current level would make him a shoe-in, for me at least. He just seems to have peaked unusually late - the question is whether/for how long he can maintain it.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 9:37am

Oh, I agree if he were to retire today. I also think there is a pretty good chance that his next five years are are going to be extremely productive.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 5:56pm

Aaron Rodgers buzzed a nearly-clinching pass across the finger tips of a defender and in between two more to a WR who had dropped a critical 3rd-long pass just before.

Roethlisberger and Warner traded knockout passes two years before that. There have been some stellar single passes in recent years where guys just threaded infinitesimal needles.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:47am

He ended up losing, but Peyton's throw to Dallas Clark on the TD drive in the 3rd quarter was incredible. He arced it perfectly into Dallas's hands as he was surrounded by three Saints.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:50am

Two things I wondered that I haven't seen mentioned (I only did a page search because I don't have time to read the whole thing).

1. Wouldn't the Pats have been better served not using that last challenge they did and keeping that other timeout? It seemed obvious from even the first replay that he got his feet down, and because of lack of timeouts the Giants went from 2:00 to 1:15 with only one play.

2. What the heck was that two-point conversion attempt about? Did the Giants think it was a timed down? Otherwise the difference between 4 pts, 5pts, and 6 pts at that time in the game is worth absolutely nothing.

by Adam (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:00am

1) Bill Barnwell on Grantland does a good write-up of the use of the challenge. In real-time it was a bang-bang play, and the high reward of getting it over-turned (2nd and 10 back on the NYG 12) was worth the risk of being wrong. Remember, the Giants were rushing to the line, so it's not like there was a lot of time for the coaches to review it.

2) Collinsworth made a decent point about this. There's no difference being up 4 or 5, but if you get up 6 and the Pats score a TD (thus tying the game) there's at least a chance of a botched XP (miss, block, bad snap) that would take the game to OT.

by dbt :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 8:19pm

Collinsworth is wrong; it's far more likely for the Pats to get a fluke quick TD with enough time for you to kick a FG to tie than it is for the pats to get a TD at the gun and miss the XP.

by Temo :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:01am

1. Better served in the end, yes. But at the time it was challenged, it seemed like a good challenge. They didn't have time to see a replay (the Giants were scrambling to get another play off) and the catch was not at all obvious real-time. And the win probability swing was considerable.

2. Up 4 or 5 makes no difference, so don't kick the extra point. Up 6 makes the Pats have to kick a PAT, so might as well go for two.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 1:42pm

Yeah, I think it looks like a much better challenge when you consider the risk vs. reward. At that point, it wasn't clear that the Patriots would have any use for that timeout - if they stop the Giants on that drive, they're in run-out-the-clock mode. And if that catch had been overturned, their odds of stopping the Giants on that drive go way up.

Plus, the way calls have been made recently (cough cough Packers-Giants), if you don't care about losing the timeout or your ability to make future challenges, it's almost worth challenging anything that isn't 100% clear.

by White Rose Duelist :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:03am

Up by 6 still leaves the minute chance of a tie if the Patriots score a touchdown via a missed extra point.

by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:02pm

1. Belichick didn't have the luxury to consult with his man upstairs about the likelihood of the challenge being successful. And the play literally happened right in front of him. He knew it would be a close call, and he didn't want to find out later that he should have used the challenge when he could have (a la the Gronkowski catch that was wrongly ruled out of bounds a few weeks ago). So he threw the flag. The downside was one lost timeout.

2. There literally is no difference between a 4 point lead and a 5 point lead at that point. There is a difference between a 4 point lead and a 6 point lead. A six point lead could have resulted in a tie game and overtime if the Pats had gotten a TD but had missed the PAT.

by PhillyFred :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:14pm

With point 2, I agree - outside the minute possibility of a missed extra point on a NE TD, there's no value. I'd rather be up 5 than 4 with that little time left... if that Pats get a quick TD, say from a KO return, then you're down 2 with about 40 seconds left and 2 TO - much more valuable.

by DGL :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:39pm

Only one TO left - Eli had to burn two timeouts to save delay penalties.

Plus you have to expect that the Pats are saving clock and aren't running out anything that goes into the end zone, so the chance of a KO return TD are almost nil.

Trading off the chance of the Pats missing a field goal versus the chance of them driving 80 yards for a TD fast enough that you have to worry about whether the FG you'd try on the ensuing possession is to tie or win the game is, to me, approaching the planck length of probability differential...

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:52am

Re: Brady as goat
To expand upon this point. When the Patriots went up 17-9 I thought "wow, they could score 30 here". The way the Pats offense was driving, especially end of the half and first drive of 2nd half, looked like trouble. They were picking the Giants apart.

Then all of a sudden it stops. The Pats didn't score any more points the rest of the way. Even without pressure Brady's throws seemed off.

It did look like the Giants tightened up in their zone... early on in the game the Patriots receivers were catching and running, then at some point it was catch+tackle nearly instantaneously (one was even knocked out of the receivers hands). It was noticeable... but left them open for deeper throws (like to Welker on the seam).

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:27pm

I agree, and I think tight coverage was the way to go. Sans Randy Moss, I will let Brady chuck the ball downfield all day; he just is not accurate enough out past twenty yards for that to be a good percentage play. You have to make him hit Welker down the seam, because he'll always hit a curl.

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:56am

re: anonymous
Depends if the Pats make a quick strike. You never know...

by Boston Dan :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:59am

Somewhere around the midpoint of the season, the Giants and the Falcons were the only two teams in the NFC, with a top ten (DVOA) ranking in all three phases of the game.

i took note at that time.

in the AFC, it was Houston and Pittsburgh.

The Giants had their injuries, but got their guys back. I think they were better all season and your numbers showed it, than your writers are giving them credit for.

by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:04pm

Yes, after they beat the Pats the Giants were 6-2 and looked like the class of the NFC. Then they had injuries hit them exactly when they entered the hardest part of their schedule. And they did have the toughest schedule in the NFL this season.

The moral of the story is that you're better off facing top teams in the regular season, as long as you can get into the tournament, than you are skating in off a relatively weak schedule. A similar maxim applies to the NCAA hoop tournament.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 7:30am

"The moral of the story is that you're better off facing top teams in the regular season, as long as you can get into the tournament, than you are skating in off a relatively weak schedule."

What's your evidence for this? Plenty of teams (off the top of my head, the 1999 Rams and the 2009 Saints) have blown through weak schedules and gone on to win the Superbowl. The 2005 Seahawks probably should have done. The 2012 Patriots would have done, if Gronkowski hadn't got injured.

by SandyRiver :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 4:47pm

Didn't the 17-0 'Fins have one of the easiest schedules ever that year? (SSS, I know.)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:02am

I tell ya', if Eli Manning keeps working, he may one day close that substantial gap that exists, according to some folks, between he and Tom Brady.

I said last week that I thought the secondary with the better game would win. It turned out that the receivers who caught the ball better won the game.

This was a tie game. The Giants had the better fumble luck, the Pats, it seems to me had better luck with the officiating. The line of scrimmage was toss up, I think. The Giants caught the ball better. I'd give Manning a slight edge over Brady. I'd be happy if every Super Bowl was this interesting.

As far as the Giants success over the last few years, if anyone hasn't figured it out, pass rushers are what is most valuable after a team gets the qb position taken care of. This year, their pass rushers' health improved, and they became a better team. They were still lucky, however, to win the game in San Francisco, given how the Niners defensive line pummeled the Giants offensive line.

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:24pm

Good analysis as typical Will.

by jds (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 5:16pm

Whoa! Are you trying to start an irrational Brady vs Manning debate?

by Ben :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 6:19pm

Clearly Brady is a choker who can't win the big one!

Oh, and Coughlin has gotten inside his head.

by Independent George :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 6:28pm

The sad thing is that I fully expect to see a couple dozen article stating exactly that in the next few weeks. Of course, most of those will be from Skip Bayless, but still...

by Emptyeye (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 12:26am

I know I'm a terrible person for this, but I really, really want to see this happen (Having a not-rational hatred for the Pats, although even I'll admit that this one was mostly not on Brady), if only to make up for the endless "The Patriots OWN the Colts! Peyton Manning can't handle the defensive genius of Bill Belichick!" articles that popped up every time the two played (Up to and including when the Colts began to seize the momentum in the rivalry).

by bubqr :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:05am

Funny the comparison between:

- Asante's drop vs Welker's one
- Eli escaping pressure, unleashing the dragon, a non-name WR making an insane catch over a near HOFer vs Brady escaping the rush, unleashing the dragon, and a non-name LB picking the ball over a future HoFer (hyperbole and all).

Also had the same reaction than Tom on Cruz TD: Perfect call from the Pats, the slant to slot WR was a gift to Mayo, but he just did his best impersonation of a Madden glitch - Reading the WR instead of the QB was dumb, he had the best coverage possible called.

That was a very sad year for an Eagles fan.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:14am

Thing is, if you believe the Pats fans in the game discussion, that's more of a glitch in Belichick's coaching than in Mayo's play. He was out of phase, and as such was playing the man rather than the ball.

If you don't like the outcome, take it up with the hoodie.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:33pm

The Pats fan that said that clearly doesn't know what "out of phase" means. Mayo was covering a zone, not a receiver, so he had no reason to turn his back.

by bubqr :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:17pm

Agree, unless I missed something, it was the perfect call from hoodie boy.
It's the same call that Harrison got vs Cards, and that I also remember J.Trotter to miss during his 2nd return to the Eagles (I had some heated conversation with a fellow Eagles fan, I think on this site).

Defense lines up as if playing man on the 2 WRs side (which is an invitation to run a slant), but in fact plays zone - Slot CB is responsible for outside coverage of slot WR (Cruz) and inside of X receiver (Nicks ?), while the WLB/MLB is responsible for the under/XRobber (as we use to call it when I was playing IIRC) - He has to read the QB eyes, jump the slant or any drag route coming the opposite way.

by JMM* (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 5:53pm

Actually, the call Harrison got on the pick-6 was to blitz. His dropping back into a zone was freelancing.

Pick-6's get forgiven.

by rich316 :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:55pm

Manningham may be no-name to the general NFL fan, but to Giants fans he is no where near as unlikely a hero as Tyree. Tyree was a special teams player who did nothing before that game and didn't play another snap (famously). Manningham is probably the best #3 WR in the league, and will get a rich contract this offseason, unfortunately not with the Giants.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 10:40pm

Second this. Before the season, many were pegging Manningham for a huge campaign as a full-time starter (after nearly 1000 yards last year), and as potentially one of the best #2's (let alone #3). He was also a stud WR in college, so its not like he came out of nowhere. Tyree, not so much.


by bubqr :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:37pm

I was comparing Tyree's catch to Blackburn's TD, Manningham is clearly not a no-name as I expected him to be very good this season too.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 10:34am

Jordy Nelson might disagree.

by Kurt :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 11:49am

Because he thinks very highly of James Jones?

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 7:36am

No, he was hugely impressed by Robert Meachem's performance on opening day.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:06am

One other observation: Steve Weatherford was indeed great.

I would like to retroactively thank DEsean Jacksoon for that punt return against us last year, although it killed me at the time. If he doesn't run that back, maybe Coughlin sticks with Matt Dodge and the Giants are not SBXLVI champs.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:56pm

As an Eagles' fan, I didn't think there was any way for me to feel worse about this season. With that comment, you just found a way.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:04pm

Yeah...sorry, I had to rub it in a bit. That was just such a killer loss at the time.

Honestly, from a pure NYG fan perspective, I don't know if it's possible to have a more satisfying run. We got to directly stick it to the Jets and Cowboys, and win the championship in what should have been the Eagles' "dream season." Throw in another victory over the iconic Brady & Belichick, and a definitive end to Eli bashing (give up the ghost, folks, Team Eli just split the atom).

by rich316 :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:09am

I'm glad you're satisfied, but as a fellow NYG fan this run left me feeling a little cold ( I know, I know, a very callow thing to say if your team just won the SB). Don't get me wrong, it was awesome, but somehow the surreal, "is this really happening" quality of the whole thing makes me feel kind of weird. Simmons had a good analogy in his reaction column - it felt kind of like a bad Hollywood remake of 2007. Basically same cast, same plot, same NFC Champ game-winning FG, etc. And the bitterness and anxiety coming out of New England somehow fills me with pity instead of schadenfreude. It feels like NE needed this more than NY, somehow, even though that doesn't really make sense. Could be because NYG is basically a very typical, although unexpected, champ in today's NFL - hot QB, good weapons, got some breaks, rush the passer, yadda yadda. The mood from NE is now like a family who's son had another drug relapse - it was kind of expected, everybody is really depressed/angry and doesn't know what to do, and the parents (Brady and Belichick) are now being criticized for everything they ever did. The Patriots were probably in my top 3 for sports hate, but I feel like they didn't deserve this.

Still, it was pretty cool.

by RoyFlip (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:43pm

Great analogy about the drug relapse.
Lifelong Giants fan. I felt the same way. I can feel the schadenfreude for people like Vick, Stubbleface, McNabb and so on, but the picture of Brady walking off the field is just...haunted. I know he will be OK and never be hungry or homeless, but jeez, that had to hurt. Bad enough to not get something you really wanted; worse yet to have it in your hands and then lose it.
The whole surreal is-this-really-happening comes from two things: You never expected them to get this far in the first place and over the years, multiple painful and unexpected losses get you thinking that this will turn out the same way. It didn't and now you don't know what to feel.

by Independent George :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:01pm

I don't feel the slightest thing for Brady, a three-time winner who went home to his 20,000 square foot mansion to be comforted by Giselle.

I did feel pretty bad in 2007 for Junior Seau, a player whom I'd admired for a very long time. After years of bad, bad teams, he finally had a shot at the ultimate prize... and lost it.

by Perkash (not verified) :: Mon, 02/13/2012 - 3:43pm

I don't feel sorry for Brady or the Patriots fans...but I'll say this I was very impressed by Brady. At points in this game he was unstoppable. As for it being surreal..I do agree it was a more stunned feeling that they won again. It's very strange watching your team go from 7-7 to champions of the world in a relatively short time.

by mansteel (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:06am

As to the quality of this Giants team:

@NYJ: won by 15
vs. Dal: won by 17
vs. Atl: won by 22
@GB: won by 17 (GB 8-0 at home to that point)
@SF: won a game that could have gone either way (SF 8-1 at home to that point)
vs. NE: won a game that could have gone either way

That's pretty darn impressive; it's not like they lucked their way into a Super Bowl win.

And, yes, they were a very deserving 7-7 prior to that stretch. But that doesn't take away the fact that they have been unquestionably the best team in the NFL over the last 7 weeks.

by TreeRol (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:56am

Wouldn't winning 2 games that could have gone either way be considered lucky?

by Eddo :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:01pm

Sure, but no more lucky than the Patriots would have been had they won last night (their last two games could both have gone either way).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:36pm

No more than winning two coin tosses in a row; not really exceptional luck. If I'm going to assess the Giants' luck, it seems to me that what happened within the Niners game is what is notable. You just don't win that many road games when your offensive line gets the snot pounded out of it, in the manner that the Giants experienced in that game.

by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:08pm

This is where the lack of rigor with the usage of the word "luck" is an issue. You could use the word solely to describe purely random events, like the coin toss. Or you could use it to describe events that seem to be random, but are actually physical events, like fumble recovery. Or you could use it loosely as a catch-all word to describe fate, like the advantage of playing against Alex Smith with a pass defense that was moderately competent (i.e., better than the Saints').

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:16pm

Yeah, it is a nebulous term. I try to reserve for events which are seldom seen. Getting both fumble recoveries in a game happens all the time. Winning a road playoff game when your offensive line is being treated like the proverbial leased horse/donkey hybrid, and the opponent's back up punt returner has a four hour psychotic episode, which coincides with the opening kickoff, isn't observed too often.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 7:43am

I'd say they were pretty lucky that Alex Smith put together that incredible last-minute drive against the Saints (and by extension that Graham didn't kneel at the 1).

I would not have liked their chances in the Superdome.

by Passing through (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:25pm

Just wanted to add the other half of the picture:

@Wash: lost by 14
vs. Sea: lost by 11
@NO: lost by 25
vs. Was: lost by 13

The team was outscored in the regular season. As Mark Cuban tweeted last night:

"Good teams make the playoffs, the hot team wins the championship"

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:08am

... and I'm obliged to say this:
The last team to beat your World Champion New York football Giants? The 2011 Washington Redskins (who swept the Giants)!

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the world of parity in the NFL!

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:24am

Very similar to 1995, where the 6-10 Redskins swept the 12-4 (+3) Cowboys. The Cowboys other two losses were to Philly (10-6) and San Francisco (11-5).

by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:08am

"Did Al Michaels just say that the Patriots' trainers were "fondling some beads" after the sack that shook Brady up?"

Probably meant to imply they were praying (i.e. the Rosary).

by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:10pm

Yeah, once upon a time, Catholics prayed with rosary beads.

Al Michaels is nearly 70 years old.

I suspect the reference was lost on a lot of people.

by fan (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:30pm

It also made me think of worry beads--don't recall how I heard about them, but it turns out they're Greek in origin:

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:19am

As far as league wide trends go, I doubt we are ever going to see teams like the Super Bowl champs pre mid '90s, with teams that are well above average on both lines of scrimmage, along woith being great at qb and the other ball handlers. The rules and the cap really encourage a massive investment in a dominant qb, and there just ain't enough money to build depth and talent on both lines of scrimmage any longer. 15-1, 14-2. qnd 13-3 teams just aren't what they used to be. Frankly, I like this era better, because it is less predictable, as much as I miss having the running game play a more prominent role.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:29am

I miss the running game too. It was an odd game as the Giants played like an earlier version of themselves. Somehow their backs looked good. It's hard to believe how bad they were running this year or that Manning threw for a quite 4900 yards. In 2008 the Giants looked like a team that won a Super Bowl. Will the 2012 Giants repeat? Same can be said for the Packers this year. In this era it appears it is better to win the Super Bowl in the middle of a great 18-20 game run than start the year hot and just blow people away like the 1984 49ners or 85 Bears or the 86 Giants. Back then teams runs seem to have lasted longer. To me the game highlighted the idea of not firing your coach and his staff. Really you look at the franchises winning the last decade and most have had long stable front office and coaching staffs. Dumping your OC in a 10-6 year might make you feel good, but long term pointless staff changes don't be the way to build a stable franchise. Go figure.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:33pm


Especially firings after you miss the playoffs having lost your starting quarterback for the year while still potentially in contention.

See: Hue Jackson, Tony Sparano, Steve Spagnuolo, Todd Haley, honorable mention to Del Rio and Angelo.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:43pm

Spagnuolo was only in contention in an alternate reality where Singletary was still coaching the 49ers.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 7:49am

Haley was a total breakdown in personal relations, as I understand it, rather than impatience/alleged incompetence. Same arguably goes for Jackson.

All those others were plausibly a little unlucky. The Texans certainly don't regret sticking with Kubiak and Smith a year ago.

by rich316 :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 2:25am

Yeah, pretty much the only time these Giants can run the ball is when the safeties play double-high and nickel out of respect for the pass. Quite the turnaround from even 5 years ago, when they only passed against 8-man boxes and from play-action.

by radar (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:46am

Despite how good this era has been to Giants fans, I miss the old days. There are no more dominant, great teams anymore. I've seen 4 Super Bowl titles and my favorite is still the 1986 Giants because they were an asskicking juggernaut that just destroyed teams. I don't think I'll ever see another team like that, or the '80s Niners, or the '90s Cowboys.

by Independent George :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:03pm

The thing I love (now; at the time, I hated it) was that the 80s Giants had to play the 80s Niners, the 80s Redskins, and the 80s Bears. All of those ass-kicking juggernauts had to face other ass-kicking juggernauts in the playoffs every year, with the Giants & Redskins playing each other twice (along with a halfway ass-kicking Eagles team). There was a reason why the NFC Championship game was the unofficial title game for many years.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:21pm

I agree...parity is fun at times, but the true pinnacle of professional sport is when two juggernauts go toe-to-toe.

See also the NBA of the 80's, when you had truly dominant teams like the Magic Lakers, the Bird Celtics, the Isaiah Pistons, and the emergence of the Jordan Bulls all beating the crap out of each other.

It's why I think the '90-'91 NFCCG win is right up there with Super Bowl 42 for the best Giants win of my lifetime...two dominant teams played an extremely close and hard fought game, and we came ouit on top. That's as satisfying as it gets as a sports fan.

I'm ecstatic that the Giants have won 2 of the last 5 championships, but I do miss having dominant NFL teams too.

by Independent George :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:49pm

Except for when it's the Cowboys who are the juggernaut; that's just morally wrong and offensive on so many levels. The early 90s were a very dark period for me.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:58pm

One of the happier moments of my football watching life in the last 20 years occurred when I learned that Jerrel had gotten his nose in the bourbon, stupidly ran his mouth to Jimmy Johnson, and that Jerrel and Barry Switzer would be managing the Dallas franchise going forward.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:30pm

Hey, don't leave out the first Gibbs era. What was neat about those teams was the way talent was distributed across the roster, with an emphasis on o-line play. That 91 team in particular was simply wonderful, with just an average qb in Rypien.

Of course, the '85 Bears deserves mention as well.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:46pm

1991 Redskins. Their dominance didn't last long, but holy hell that team just smashed other teams.

Stellar defense, three competent RBs, two legitimate deep threats, and Rypien had a great year in 1991-era terms. That team just didn't have weaknesses.

by radar (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 9:28am

Yep. As a kid who was a Giants fan who moved to Virginia in middle school, I HATED the Redskins with an unholy passion. Hell, I still do despite the fact that they've been a nonentity for two decades. Still, that 1991 Redskins team was phenomenal. Gibbs was a fantastic coach - three titles with three different QBs is a damn impressive feat, especially when two of them weren't even particularly good.

by mansteel (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:22am

"...how on earth did they manage to stop that collapse and turn things around in 2007 and 2011 and not in, say, 2008?"

This is a bit of an oversimplification, but the overwhelming reasons are as follows:

2007: QB play. The Giants beat Buffalo late in the year in a game in which--in awful conditions, admittedly--Gilbride let Manning throw three passes in the second half, two of which were picked. This on the heels of an atrocious (18-53, 184 yds) game by Manning against the Redskins. I remember saying, "Man if they just had a good QB, this team would be really good." They could run, defend the run, and rush the passer really well. Happily, they acquired a good QB that week in the person of Manning himself. His play through the playoffs was the biggest difference in the reg.- vs. post-season Giants.

2011: The pass defense. For all the talk about their improved pass rush, it was only a bit better down the stretch. The pass defense was night and day from earlier in the season. Several reasons: at LB, Boley and Jacquian Williams are much, much better pass defenders than Herzlich, Greg Jones, and Paysinger, all of whom played major roles earlier in the year. Fewell simplified the scheme, leading to drastically fewer blown coverages. A. Ross got better.

In neither year is that the whole story, of course, but those are the primary factors.

by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:12pm

We know how they turned it around in 2007 and 2011. The question is what happened in the intervening 3 years? Why were they not able to maintain an elite level of play in the interim?

by mansteel (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:35pm

Not to be obtuse here, but, well...the absence of a dramatic improvement in one particular unit.

I mean, continuing to play poorly as opposed to turning things around doesn't really require much of an explanation, does it?

As to why they tend to play poorly later in the season to begin with? Early on, it was largely Eli playing worse in cold weather. More recently, esp in 2009 and 2011, their schedule has been much more difficult. Injuries have played a role too, but it's hard to know (unless you have their AGL vs. the league's AGL in the first half of the year vs. the second half of the year) whether it's much worse than league average.

by Independent George :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:44pm

2008: They clinched the #1 seed and lost to the Eagles(#1 DVOA). At that point, their strategy against Philly consisted of lobbing it up in the air to let the 6'5" Plax catch jump balls against the Eagles short defensive backs. And it worked beautifully, until Plax shot himself and they played without him on a windy day in the Meadowlands.

2009: Bill Sheridan. Next.

2010: They finished 10-6, missing the playoffs by losing the ultimate 'WTF' game against the Eagles. That season was also notable for the extraordinary number of tip-drill interceptions that Eli clanged off the hands of his recievers.

by Carlos unverified (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:35am

Not to start a flame war b/c this is an honest question... Just how good is Tom Brady when he doesn't have dominant (not merely good but dominant) pass blocking? When he's got all day back there, he's among the best QBs I've ever seen (compared to when they had all day). Great accuracy, great arm strength, tremendous decision making as far as one can tell w/o the All 22.

He also destroys the big blitz. Again, killer decision making, accuracy and arm strength in action.

But when he's facing any kind of pressure from a 4 man rush, he's frankly awful, or at least has been the last couple of years. If he'd played his career behind Peyton Manning's or Big Ben's O-lines, I'm not sure we'd be genuflecting as much as we do.

(ducking for cover)

by Purds :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:50am

I am a Colt fan and usually a Brady basher, but really, the question you ask can be asked of just about every elite QB. Brady, Peyton, Breese - none of them are very good without protection. Yes, Eli and Ben and Rodgers seem to be elusive enough, or quick enough, or big enough, to hold it together under a big rush, but I don't think Brady is any worse than most QB's -- if a team can get a rush on any QB, they have a very good chance of winning.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:53am

Correct. How Ted Thompson (GM of the Packers) forgot this critical point defies all explanation.

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:19pm

Yeah, there's a reason that "getting pressure with 4" is so focused on...it's the best way to beat excellent QBs.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:53pm

Over the last decade or so, if I have a poor offensive line, my desired QBs, in order:

1. Manning, Peyton
2. Warner
3. Rodgers
4. Roethlisberger
5. Favre

I would consider swapping Warner and Manning, depending on whether I preferred higher reward or lower risk. Warner destroyed big blitzes in a manner that should be illegal, but occasionally cracked under the strain and just handed the ball to the rushing defender. If I have absolutely no WR talent, I'd swap Cutler somewhere between 3-5.

If I had a solid O-line:

1. Brady
2. Brees
3. Rodgers
4. Manning, Peyton
5. Warner

Pre-injury Palmer is possibly in here somewhere. I could be talked into Gannon or McNair, as well.

by Theo :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:07pm

Warner? Warner without a solid line is injured, fumbles and is a turnover machine. With a solid line he was MVP material.
He could rip apart a big blitz with a quick pass, but most of his material came on developing plays that took a good offensive line.

by CoachDave :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 3:24pm

See Rams: Years 1999-2001.

Warner was hit constantly in that offense.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 3:36pm

I don't recall him getting hit too much in those years, however, when there was 7 or more defenders in coverage. That was an outstanding offensive line.

by CoachDave :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 6:23pm

My recollection is that he got hit a lot...just like Trent Green, Marc Bulger, Cutler, Stafford and any QB who has QBed for Martz...it's the one consistent downfall of his offensive scheme.

When you spread the field out with up to 5 wideouts, your RB consistently goes out and you've got multiple levels of timing routes to wait for, you get hit...a lot.

I lived in STL when he was there and I lived in Detroit when he was here...his QBs end up on their ass consistently, because the natural defensive reaction is to bring surprise pressure from multiple places to disrupt the timing and when you are only leaving in 4 to block it...you are going to get popped.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 7:13pm

I am unaware of situations where there are not at least one center, two guards, and two tackles, meaning five left in to block. The point of thos threead was whoch qbs did best when there were 7 or more in coverage, while under pressure, and what you seem to be describing is pressure with 6 or less in coverage.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 7:30pm

Kitna was the QB in the Martz years, not Stafford.

by Jonadan :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 7:48pm

I did a little poking around after Martz was... uh, let's say forcibly persuaded to resign/retire, and the biggest change I could find coinciding with the drop in Martz's scheme from "best in football" to "average at best" was losing a Pro Bowl RT in free agency (to Cleveland). Now I've gone and forgotten the guy's name...

Then Martz went to Detroit and San Fran where he was basically working with no talent, but the scheme dropoff wasn't that significant - it had already happened over his years in St. Louis. DVOA says it didn't re-improve in Chicago by much, either.

So, either (most likely) Martz ran across an insight which ripped people up for a couple years and then was figured out, or (probably part of the reason too) the o-line is way more important to the scheme than the headlines and highlight reels ever let on - which, duh, and always, but still worth pointing out again.

"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:58am

He was nearly killed in Super Bowl XXXIV. It was pure Martz. Barely any max-protect. Warner just was fearless, although it did really screw him up for 2002-2004.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 7:58am

His offensive line in Arizona was absolutely terrible. Warner himself was clearly not physically right during his down years. When healthy, he could make a bad line look good (though I would argue not quite as much so as Peyton).

by AJ (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:10pm

Consider pff has manning, p, as having the best grade with no pressure over the three years he played...i think you need to revise that list(unless you prefer your opinion more so than their charting data).

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:18pm

I thought it was clear from the "that I would take" aspect that it was opinion.

I like peak-Brady's accuracy and reduced tendency to beat himself, and Brees and Rodgers better mobility and deep ball than Manning.

As to Warner, I'm thinking his Arizona years. Any QB will be assassinated in the Martz system with a poor line. QB play can't overcome 7-step drops when combined with 2-second sacks. Even Vick doesn't run that fast. But Warner was just deadly in Arizona with good WRs and not much else.

by tuluse :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:23pm

I think Peyton creates situations where he isn't pressured when a normal QB would be. I have never seen a QB with his combination of quick release and quick decision making (with good decision making).

Of course I'm too young to have seen Joe Montana play, and I've heard he had these aspects to his game.

by Independent George :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 2:30pm

Of course I'm too young to have seen Joe Montana play

Screw you.

by tuluse :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 3:29pm

Sorry, but people do keep having kids, and some of us like to watch football :)

by TomC :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 12:02am

Don't mind George. Winning two Super Bowls in five years would make anyone irritable.

by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:15pm

When has Peyton Manning played with a poor offensive line? He's had great pass blocking as long as I can remember.

You simply cannot run a modern, high-powered passing offense without good pass protection. And all of the top QBs have it. This is not a coincidence.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:20pm

Peyton Manning has had years with good pass protection, mostly earlier in the decade, and years when it was mediocre or worse. Last year, it stunk, and was covered by the fact that Manning has gotten so proficient at throwing the ball away when protection breaks down.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:29pm

Patriots fans are the only people who think Indy has had a good O-line in the past couple of years.

You simply cannot run a modern, high-powered passing offense without good pass protection.

You can, just not optimally. Rodgers played well in 2009 behind a line that could be charitably referred to as god-awful, as did Cutler in 2010 and 2011. Roethlisberger has done well behind a line which is Pouncey and four Holes-in-Zone.

by Independent George :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:30pm

When has Peyton Manning played with a poor offensive line? He's had great pass blocking as long as I can remember

2006-2010. This coincides with the period where Peyton also learned to move laterally and throw accurately on the run, so most people didn't notice it until around 09, when he was constantly running for his life but still completing passes (Goddammmit Donald!).

Incidentally, I think his 2003-2005 OL was good, but not great. More specifically, they were quick and good technically, but had a lot of trouble against the power rushers New England, Pittsburgh, and San Diego fielded.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:00am

The line in 2006 was good too, and 2007 wasn't bad. From 2008-2010 it was just awful. Manning did some exceptional work considering the state of that o-line.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 1:26pm

I disagree about Roethlisberger. IMO, the Steelers line is underrated because Ben holds the ball too long and allows pressure to get there.