Well, they were both our teams, but we picked the New England Patriots, so in that sense, we lost. A huge mazel tov to the New York Giants, now one of only five franchises (can you name the others?*) to have won four or more Super Bowls. During the Patriots’ first offensive drive—which was the second time they had the ball, given Tom Brady’s dumb safety on their first offensive snap of the game—it rapidly became apparent that the Giants were the better team, as the Patriots’ greatest mismatch on offense, tight end Rob Gronkowski, was clearly going to be a shadow of his usual self due to the high-ankle sprain he sustained in the conference championship two weeks ago against the Baltimore Ravens. That the Pats managed to be up 10-9 going into halftime (and receiving the upcoming kick-off) was a triumph of game-planning, eating up clock while driving down the field (and finishing with a touchdown), and a weird reliance on running back Danny Woodhead. It was impressive, but it shouldn’t have been enough, and it wasn’t.
This was a game that came down to two big late-fourth quarter plays: Brady’s incompletion to Wes Welker, his (and the League’s) top receiver, which would have extended the Pats’ drive and possibly allowed them, then holding a 17-15 lead, to put the game away; and, on the first play of the Giants’ subsequent drive, Eli Manning’s 38-yard connection with Mario Manningham up the left sideline. The comparisons of this play to the David Tyree helmet catch of four years ago were facile, even obscene: That earlier play was a bizarre, mystical instance of a young quarterback escaping a sure sack and aimlessly chucking the ball down the field and a no-name receiver guarded by a future Hall of Fame safety miraculously pulling it down; last night’s play was an instance of a proven, clutch, veteran, elite quarterback picking apart a mediocre defense and a favorable alignment with a millimeter-perfect pass. (Here is an excellent dissection of the two plays.)
Analyst Michael Lombardi noted this morning that much credit for the Giants’ two Super Bowls should go to Ernie Accorsi, New York’s general manager for more than a decade, who retired before the season of their last Super Bowl but a few years before had insisted on forgoing Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers for the services of Peyton’s scrawny little brother Eli (he also drafted defensive lineman Justin Tuck, arguably the Giants’ other most valuable player, and hired coach Tom Coughlin). Accorsi is Jewish.
Nextbook Inc. executive director Morton Landowne, a Giants season-ticket-holder for 50 years, was privileged enough to be at the game and emailed last night requesting a tutorial on Coach Bill Belichick’s decision to allow the Giants to score late in the game last night (and running back Ahmad Bradshaw’s seeming reluctance to oblige). Essentially: The Giants had a field position where, if they wanted it, a go-ahead field goal was virtually guaranteed, and they could have run more time off the clock to do it; Belichick was in a sense choosing to need a touchdown to win, with a minute left, over needing a field goal to win, with perhaps fewer than 20 seconds left. This was statistically the correct call. But the Pats were unable to score that touchdown.
And how about that halftime show! (If you didn’t enjoy it, you had set your bar too high.) Yesterday also saw the announcement that Madonna will launch her world tour on May 31 at Ramat Gan Stadium, outside Tel Aviv.
Earlier: Go, Pats
* Green Bay Packers (4), Dallas Cowboys (5), San Francisco 49ers (5), Pittsburgh Steelers (6).
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.