Thursday, February 9, 2012

Super Bowl XLVI

In 2007-08, the Patriots were undefeated going into the Super Bowl. It sounds strange, but 18-0 made me feel uncomfortable. Being from Boston, the idea of being the favorite was foreign to me. I didn’t know how to feel not just being the favorite, but possibly being the best team of all time. The hyperboles were unstoppable and so were the Patriots. It just seemed too good to be true.

When the Patriots were shocked by the Giants four years ago, I felt destroyed. But part of me was not all that surprised. It’s kind of like dating the perfect girl: a supermodel who loves sports, laughs at my jokes, makes a mean BBQ, gives massages, plays video games, and thinks the world revolves around me. In the back of my head, I would keep thinking: “What’s the catch?” That’s how I felt about the Patriots that year. I kept waiting for the catch. And then David Tyree literally showed me what that catch was.

This year I felt different. The Patriots were favored by Vegas, but the majority of the pundits were choosing the New York Football Giants. Even Maya Angelou told the Patriots to suck it. The real favorites were the Giants, and the Patriots were the true underdogs.

The Myra Kraft story touched my heart, and made the Patriots appear to be a team of destiny. If you’re not familiar with Myra, the late wife of owner Robert Kraft, just google her, and your heart will be warmed. When I read about Robert Kraft, the Patriots owner instrumental in ending the strike, it only seemed fitting that his team would win the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, the Giants started opening their big mouths. They tweeted, talked, and shouted off the rooftops that they were going to be the champs. The Giants website even announced them the winners the night before the game, a gaffe that would have been sealed in infamy if the Patriots had won. The Giants took on the role as the bullies, the villains, and I liked it that way.

And then I made a big mistake. I actually believed the Patriots were going to win. I ignored all of my training as a Boston fan, and for one brief mistake, I became an optimist. I let my guard down and became vulnerable. And I completely forgot, that’s when it hurts the most. And that’s why this game crushed me even more then in 2007-08. I really thought the Patriots were going to win, and to be honest, I still don’t know what happened.

I’ve played the game again and again in my head, and if one little thing happened here or there, then….but  then I realize I can’t change the game.

What are the odds of the following things happening?

          1)The Safety      

Odds of happening: 4%

This was the strangest safety in Super Bowl history. I’ve seen similar plays including in the Giants playoff game versus the Falcons, but never when the quarterback throws it thirty yards downfield. How can the refs prove that a receiver didn’t fall down or someone ran the wrong route?  Either way, it was a pretty stupid play by Brady as he easily could’ve left the pocket before he released the pass, but we will discuss that more later.

2) Chase Blackburn's Interception Over Gronkowski

            Odds of happening: 1%

Gronkowski entered the game with the most prolific year in tight end history. Blackburn entered it working as a substitute teacher. Gronkowski shattered football records. Blackburn played hangman with his students.

Gronk’s injury played a huge impact, but he is still 6’ 7” and was up against a linebacker/substitute teacher. In a miraculous feat, Mr. Blackburn jumped over the monsterous Gronk to make an interception of a lifetime.  The ball was underthrown (another curious mistake by Brady), but if that same play happens 100 times, it gets knocked down 49 times, caught by Gronk 50 times, and picked off once. 

3) Welker's Drop

Odds of happening: .05%

Cris Collinsworth put it best: “Welker makes that catch one hundred times out of hundred.” The ball was not thrown perfectly (Brady issue again?), but I have to agree with Cris on this one. I have no idea what happened. Gisele should shut her mouth and stick to modeling, but in the end, she said what we were all thinking: “How did he not catch that?” They would not have scored on that play, but the way they were moving, there’s little doubt that they were going to.

4) Manningham's Catch

Odds of happening: 10%

This was one of the best catches in Super Bowl history. The Giants now have two on the list versus the Patriots. It was a perfect throw, a perfect catch. There’s nothing more to say.

      5) Giants fumbling THREE times with ZERO turnovers

Odds of happening: 7%

The Giants recovered two of their own fumbles and one was nullified because the Patriots had too many men on the field (the extra player was not even involved in the play.) The ball just seemed to bounce right back to them every time. That bring us to…

LUCK

The Giants got lucky. This isn’t a knock against them at all. They clearly took advantage of having that luck. Eli was mentally tough, and they made the plays they needed to make.  But luck has become a huge part of making a Super Bowl run in the last decade.

The Patriots started their 21st century dominance on a lucky play, The Infamous Tuck Rule. The Giants won Super Bowl XLII on a lucky catch. The Patriots made the Super Bowl this year on a lucky missed kick by Billy Cundiff. And the Giants were lucky when they got two tragic mistakes from Kyle Williams. 

The Super Bowl has been so close that a couple of lucky moments now decides the winner and loser. This year the ball literally bounced in the Giants favor. Every Brady Super Bowl has been decided by 4 points of less. One lucky play either way could have made him a 5 time champion or a deluxe version of Jim Kelly.

IS BRADY OVERRATED?

I don’t think so, but this story should and will be discussed throughout the year. Here is the argument:

Brady is an incredible regular season quarterback, much like Peyton Manning, but in the playoffs he is extremely average. His quarterback rating is an 86.0 in playoff games (and remember that includes the Denver blowout), more than ten points less than the regular season. He won two Super Bowl MVPs, but the first was based on one great drive at the end of the game against the Rams, and that’s about it. The defense clearly won that game for him. He played great in Super Bowl XXXVIII and decent in Super Bowl XXXIX, still made a few costly errors in each one, and barely emerged as a winner. And against the Giants, he has been nothing but average.

His numbers this past Super Bowl were fairly decent, but when you break down his mistakes, they were awful. He took a safety on the first play of the first possession. It was a stupid mistake that should not have happened. Not only did he give up two points, but it set up the Giants in good field position for the first touchdown.  He under threw Gronkowski on the interception, and threw behind Branch on that fourth quarter drive. Welker’s drop was inexcusable, but the pass was nothing to brag about. In fact, in all five Super Bowls, Brady has yet to lead his team to a score in the first quarter. 

He has trouble putting away opponents in big games. If he wasn’t bailed out by his defense, Brady could be ranked below Peyton Manning in winning the big game.  Besides his great game against Denver, Brady hasn’t played well in the playoffs since 2004-05. Maybe Brady is overrated.

CONSPIRACY THEORY

The Giants defenders seemed to get hurt at very convenient times. The Patriots were driving on three separate occasions when Giants players fell down with injuries and caused a five minute delay. While we watched a never ending preview of Battleship, the defenders rested, drank Gatorade, and regrouped. On each occasion, the defender took only ONE play off and then returned. Do I think this was done on purpose? I doubt it, but why not. It’s not illegal and it was a great way of keeping the Patriots out of rhythm and giving the Giants a chance to rest on defense. It’s just something to think about.

HAIL MARY

It is only fitting that in the “Year of Tebow” and a halftime show featuring Madonna, the game ended like a prayer. I cannot watch replays of the Hail Mary, but I’ve been told Gronkowski missed the catch by a matter of inches. If he had been healthy…but there I go again, trying to change the game in my head. It’s over and it’s time to move on.

IS IT REALLY OVER?

When you live in New York, and root for Boston, it never really ends. I watched the Super Bowl at a Boston themed Bar in NYC. The place cleared out in seconds. I shouted in anger, kicked a nearby garbage can, and then sat on a stoop in disbelief for minutes, hours, days? 

I attempted to clear my head and trudged home with my hoodie covering my head. On the walk of shame, dozens of New Yorkers tormented me. I wasn’t even wearing any colors, they could just tell I was a Patriots fan. I looked and walked like a loser. I heard: “Patriots suck!” “Brady sucks!” “You suck, douchebag!” and once in a while a “Go Giants!” I wanted to shout back, but there was nothing to say.

On Monday, I went to the Knicks game hoping basketball would take my mind off of the game. But at halftime, several New York Giants were introduced and the place went nuts. Everyone was standing, except for me. I was alone. The next day was the parade. Everywhere I looked, everyone I spoke to, it was all about the Super Bowl Champion GIANTS. Sports Illustrated greeted me at the door with the Giants on the cover.  Even the guy at my local Dominican lunch spot was speaking in Spanglish about the Giants.   

For a while, I actually wished I was from Kansas City or another dead sports town so I wouldn’t have to feel the pain of coming so close. It was the equivalent of having a devastating hangover and announcing never to drink again. But I’ll be back and so will the Patriots.  

As far as living in New York, the torment has to end soon, and what doesn’t kill me will only make me stronger. To paraphrase Frank Sinatra: “If I can take it here, I can take it anywhere.”

See you next year. Go Patriots! 

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