Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Michael Strahan and the Giants defense successfully pressured Brady in the first half - Photo by Doug Mills NY TimesIt's Fat Super Bowl Tuesday, and I'm still soaking in the Giants' shocking victory on Sunday night. A lot will be said about this Super Bowl, but none of it matters because it wasn't said by me. Being a lifelong Giants fan (and not just when it was fashionable to be one), I may be a little biased but here's why this was the best Super Bowl ever:

  • It was won by a 2 touchdown underdog against a previously undefeated team. Therefore, I'd have to say that this was the single biggest upset in NFL history, and maybe all of professional sports. (People are going to tell you Namath leading the Jets to win Super Bowl III was bigger, but they're asshats and they're wrong.)
  • The New England Patriots didn't lose this game, the New York Giants won it, with an 83 yard game winning TD drive in the final 2 minutes. As a bonus, there were no sissy kickers involved in the final decision.
  • It put to bed the endless "are the 2007 Patriots are the greatest team ever?" discussions. Now we know they're not. That title still belongs to the 1985 Chicago Bears, followed by the 1984 San Francisco 49ers (both 18-1), and then the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins. However, the '07 Pats were just elected into the Hall of Nice.
  • Defense wins championships. Yes, it's a cliché but it's so often true. The Patriots record-smashing offense averaged nearly 37 points a game during the regular season, yet were held to just 14 on Sunday, as Brady was knocked down 23 times (5 sacks) and constantly pestered by the Giants pass rush. (The unsung hero for the Giants was Justin Tuck: 6 tackles + 2 sacks + 1 forced fumble = 1 fantastic game by the Giants' defensive lineman. THE TUCK RULES!)
  • The Giants wanted it more. Yes, that's another cliché, but try and convince me that they didn't. You can't, and you never will.
  • Bill "Mumbles" Belichick, the genius coach who could do no wrong, was outcoached by Tom "Screaming" Coughlin and the Giants' staff.
  • It proved that arrogance doesn't win you games (e.g. Brady's snarky laughter regarding Plaxico's 23-17 prediction), you have to actually go out on the field and perform. (One additional point: how ironic is it that Tiki Barber interviewed Eli Manning on the TODAY show on Monday morning? AAAAWKWARD. I prefer to think that Tiki, and his massive ego, were both dying a little inside.)
  • It was a fitting payback for the Pats' coaching staff getting caught cheating, for which Belichick could still be suspended for. The moral of the story: kids, you shouldn't cheat to get ahead.
  • Back-to-back Super Bowl MVPs were won by a pair of brothers. You can hate the Manning family if you want, but that's astonishing.
Of course, this game is nothing without the Game Winning Drive, the one that turned Eli Manning into a Man, the same drive that made me alternate between nervously pacing, hopping with joy, and screaming at the screen like a complete lunatic. This had three memorable components:

THE ESCAPE. Third and 5 on the Giants 44, with 1:15 left Eli Manning dropped back to pass and immediately had 4 Patriots defenders swarm him, one hitting him in the head, several grabbing his shirt, and a sack looked like a foregone conclusion. But none of them ever tackled him and he somehow got free, rolled right and unloaded a rainbow pass to the middle of the field for a ridiculous 32 yard completion.

THE CATCH. The player on the other end of that pass, jumping just a little higher than Rodney Harrison at the Pats 24 yard line, was David Tyree. Though he spent most of the season on special teams and only had 4 catches, he ended up having the game of his life at wide receiver, with a TD and the biggest catch in Super Bowl history. Going up to grab it with both hands, Harrison had a fistful of his jersey with one hand as he tried to knock it out with the other. But he somehow pressed it against his helmet with his right hand as he fell backwards onto the defender, then rolled over with it firmly in his clutches without the ball ever touching the ground. Unreal. The phrase "miraculous catch" was just replaced by the word "Tyree".

THE WINNER. When Eli threw the TD pass to Plaxico Burress with :35 left, that ball seemed to hang in the air forever. And that feeling when you see the ball at its apex, and the camera pans to show the receiver wide open with nothing but a glorious expanse of endzone grass surrounding him, and before he even catches it you know it's going to happen, and the euphoria sweeps over you as you hold your breath and wait for the winning score to become reality . . . I wish you could bottle that up and sell it. It's amazing.

(Also on that drive: Jacobs converting a crucial 4th and 1; Steve Smith catching a 5 yard out on 3rd and 11 and turning it upfield for a first down.)

Of the three SB wins I've witnessed, I enjoyed this one the most. The 1986 championship team was a juggernaut for whom a SB win seemed like a fitting climax; the 1990 team went undefeated most of the season and, despite stumbling a bit after losing its starting QB, won it all with the help of a lucky missed FG. But there was really nothing special or extraordinary about this 2007 team, except how they played when it mattered.

I've bitched about this team for years, frustrated by their inconsistency, wondering which Giants team was going to show up on any given night. Why does this team do this to me? Why do I let them? However, moments like this remind me why I bother to hang in there and root for them. Now it feels like it was all worth it.

(In a week, I will be reporting from the Florida gulf coast where I will be playing some golf and relaxing on the beach. EVERYTHING'S COMING UP JEFFUARY!)

That great photo courtesy of New York Times photographer Doug Mills.

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