Monday, February 04, 2008

They Wanted It More

It's a well-worn cliche, but it's definitely true of last night's Super Bowl. The Giants just seemed to want it more. With good reason, everybody is going to focus on Eli Manning's absolutely stunning pass to David Tyree with a minute left. Right now I cannot think of a more exciting sequence in a Super Bowl -- not in my lifetime anyway. The closest I could come up with were from the final minute of Super Bowl XXXIV: McNair's amazing third-down scramble Kevin Dyson reaching for the endzone in the Titans' losing effort against the Rams. Some might cite Joe Montana's strike to John Taylor against the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII, but that drive had the feel of inevitability to it. You trusted Joe (or, in my case, feared him) ... but, Eli Manning?

It shouldn't take too long for the NFL mythologists to come up with a name for Eli's escape & heave and Tyree's catch. That play, in dramatic fashion, typifies the Giants' will to win the game, to make it their own -- to stomp to death the apparent invincibility of the Patriots. Any other game this season, the Pats score that touchdown with less than three minutes, follow it up by getting a fumble or interception, and ice the game with Brady taking a knee (or tossing another touchdown for good measure). Not this time. What else can you say? The Giants wanted it more.

I should've known. The signs were all there from the start. The pass rush that would not stop, for starters. Have you ever seen Brady hit so many times? This side of sleep, and even then I suspect he might be robotic enough to sleep standing, the only time he's been horizontal that much would be during far more intimate moments with Giselle. But then there was also curious play-calling. Quick strikes to Welker were there all game, so I'm not entirely sure why they didn't incorporate more slants like that w/ the other receivers. Or, for that matter, why Faulk can only make a play on third down. Or why they played the first half like it was twenty degrees and snow on the ground. Having said that, you have to credit the Giants' secondary. They played two straight games to perfection -- except for that mess of a Moss touchdown in the fourth quarter. But the decision that I still don't get is why Bellichek went for it on 4th & 13 from the Giants 31 in the middle of the third quarter. A 49-yard field goal in a dome is too long? How many 10+ yard pickups did the Pats have all game, and the odds were good that they'd get one there? The field goal wasn't automatic, sure, but you hit it and Eli's heroics result in an overtime. I didn't understand it then, and I really don't understand it now.

The one sign I didn't realize until after the game, the one that really exemplifies the Giants simply wanting this game more. Early in the second quarter, the Giants' side of the field, Ahmad fumbles the handoff and the Patriots' Pierre Woods falls on it. Any other game this season, the Patriots get the ball and score a crushing touchdown and go up 14-3. This time, by the time the bodies cleared, Bradshaw had regained the ball. In the ensuing melee, Bradshaw had somehow managed to flip Woods onto his back and rip it away. That, in itself, says enough, indeed everything, about the game.

The only lingering mystery is a medical one: who is Tom Coughlin's skin doctor? After their game in Green Bay, I thought he was going to be permanently disfigured by frostbite. Who knew that skin grafts healed so quickly now.