Monday, February 4, 2008

Super Bowl Link Recap

Extreme Makeover, Champions Edition - Harvey Araton, NY Times

Long before the ballet of Manning, Tyree and Burress came more brutish statements from the Giants. How do you stop the great Tom Brady? Hit him, harass him as we’ve seldom seen in the Brady-Bill Belichick era.

Kawika Mitchell for 7 yards on second down in the second quarter, Justin Tuck for another 7 on the very next play, two more in-your-face declarations to Brady that this wasn’t the Giants’ defense he had toyed with, racked up 38 points against, in the final game of the regular season.

Thus was the transformation of the Giants as a rushless, winless early-season disaster in the making on the way to completion Sunday evening. The unlikeliest of Giants championship runs went from Tampa to Dallas, Green Bay to Glendale, hurdling the best of the National Football Conference and finally a team that was supposedly here for a coronation.

A Formula for Success, but not Innovation - Bill Rhoden, NY Times

In what will go down as one of the greatest finishes in Super Bowl history, Manning put the offense on his back and led the Giants on two spectacular scoring drives.
Manning, in full survivor mode, bit and clawed. He ran, he scrambled, he was even Houdini.

On third and 5 at his 44-yard line, Manning disappeared under a wave of Patriots defenders. Somehow, he found his way out, coming up for air and finding David Tyree for a 32-yard completion. Four plays later, Manning, the quarterback who was doubted until December, found Plaxico Burress, the receiver who barely practiced all season, for a touchdown and the championship.

This Super Bowl represented the convergence of two compelling paths. Brady was taken in the sixth round of the 2000 draft; Manning was the first player chosen in 2004. While Brady might have felt fortunate to be drafted, Manning, the youngest in a royal family of N.F.L. quarterbacks, used his standing and a full sense of entitlement to force the San Diego Chargers to trade him. Manning entered the league as the embodiment of the modern-day, prima donna quarterback.

He became a starter late in his rookie season but was dogged by criticism that he made poor decisions, was a weak leader, was not a big-time player. The criticisms followed Manning until last December, when something kicked in. He led the Giants to playoff wins against Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay — all on the road.

Now Manning is being celebrated as the prince of New York.

Amazing March - Mike Vaccaro, NY Post

Actually, it was going to take 83 yards, in 159 seconds or less. The Patriots had just Brady-to-Mossed the Giants into the worst kind of hole, down 14-10, history preparing to pile on, getting ready to salute the Giants' grit and send them on their way.

Only the Giants had other ideas. You can go up and down the 41-year history of the Super Bowl and you will find one team that drove the length of the field in the final minutes of the game and turned a losing score into a winning score, 19 years ago. That team was the 49ers, and the quarteerback's name was Joe Montana.

Montana was built for moments such as this one. Was Eli Manning?

The Giants defense, who'd allowed them all to dream this long, thought so. Up and down the. Up and down the sideline, Michael Strahan kept chanting two numbers to any teammate who would listen: "Seventeen," he yelled. "Fourteen." That was his prediction. "Michael believed," Justin Tuck would say, "and so we all believed."

Fox Gets it Right on Super Bowl Night - Phil Mushnick, NY Post

Fox had a good night in that we didn't miss anything we had to see. That super slo-mo replay of that unreal David Tyree catch with one minute left showed exactly how spectacular it was. No network had a better response to a big play, all season.

And Fox didn't over-play any angle. And Joe Buck, who is always better when he doesn't force it, didn't force it.

Still, there were some odd moments.

The oddest, by far, came with 2:40 left in the first quarter, Giants up, 3-0. Troy Aikman said that during a visit with Tom Brady, during the week, he was left with the impression that Brady's ankle is injured worse than Brady was letting on. Really? But isn't that something Aikman might have told us, say, at the very top?

And rather than telling us that Randy Moss is being shut out, couldn't Fox, in an isolated clip package, have shown us how? Maybe during the halftime on-site studio show? We got our first peek on tape with six seconds left in the third. Yet, when a player showboats, Fox shows it at least twice.

And isn't it worth asking why, as long as they were unstoppable, the Pats wouldn't go with Brady to Wes Welker on just about every play?

Manning, Tyree Show Why the Giants Are Super - Mike Lupica, NY Daily News

"How did you get away from that sack?" he was asked.

"Don't frankly know," he said. "All I was trying to do was escape."

He was asked if he could feel not just the pressure, but a hand on the back of his uniform jersey.

"I knew I was getting grabbed," he said. "And then I saw Tyree."

A few minutes later Tom Coughlin couldn't stop talking about that scramble from his quarterback and that throw, amazing throw in an amazing drive, that Eli made to David Tyree that was like the punch that started to finish the New England Patriots on the day they thought they were going to be 19-0.

"It has to be one of the great plays of all time in the history of the Super Bowl, doesn't it?" Tom Coughlin said.

When the Heat was on, Eli Manning kept Giants, Self Cool - Gary Myers, NY Daily News

A few weeks ago, Manning was a mess. On the last Sunday in November, he had four interceptions against the Vikings, three returned for touchdowns. In the middle of December, he had 35 incompletions against the Redskins. The next week in Buffalo, he fumbled five times and threw two interceptions. Could anybody at that time possibly have predicted he would be a better quarterback in the Super Bowl than Tom Brady?

"What can you say?" Toomer said. "You saw the plays he made. I can't say enough about how Eli played."

Manning did have a chat with some of his teammates after Brady scored.

"I said this is where you want to be," he said. "I talked about it before with Peyton. What situation would you want to be in? You want to be down by four at the end of the game, where you kind of have to score a touchdown. If you're down by three, you might just settle for a field goal. You're better off down by four, where you have to score a touchdown to win the game in the Super Bowl.

"To go and do it is an unbelievable feeling."

By the time Manning was done with the Patriots, the Manning brothers had won back-to-back Super Bowl MVPs. Peyton Manning was sitting in a private box with this game playing out in front of him. It's surprising he didn't race down to the field and take a couple of snaps. He didn't need to. His little brother did just fine.

History Derailed - Dan Shaugnessey, Boston Globe

Shocking. This was supposed to be the coronation for Bill Belichick's History Boys. They were the only 18-0 team in league history and they were poised to join the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only NFL teams to finish undefeated.

Not quite. The '72 Dolphins are still safe. The Patriots were beaten. The Patriots blew a lead in the final minute. This time, the Patriots ran off the field while the confetti rained down on the other guys. For the first time in a long time, it is the New England fans suffering agita.

"It's disappointing," acknowledged Belichick, who shook hands with Giants coach Tom Coughlin and left the field while there was still one second left. "They made some plays. In the end, they made a couple more than we did."

In the end, it was All for Naught - Jackie MacMullen, Boston Globe

Who believed with 2:42 left, and 83 yards to go, that Manning would outfox a veteran Patriots defense whose hallmark has been to bend, but never completely break? But he did, with guile and improvisation and poise, trademarks he has been criticized for lacking.

No longer. He engineered one of the most improbable upsets in sports history.

"You set high expectations," said Hobbs. "But then you go down, and you're 18-1, and that's one big zit. It's one big blemish. We choked. We choked at the end."

You might recall Burress was the one who predicted a Giants victory by a 23-17 score. Brady had some fun mocking him for suggesting New England's offense would generate so few points, but ultimately the gritty receiver, who missed most of practice last week with a bum ankle and knee, proved to be prophetic.

Blame Pats for This Loss - Gene Wojciechowski,

The Patriots won't be forgotten like most Super Bowl losers. They'll be remembered as the team that couldn't handle its own expectations, to say nothing of the Giants' pass rush.

"They were inviting us to their parties after the game," said Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer. "They showed us no respect."

If that's true, then the Patriots are dumber than ever thought possible. It's bad enough they couldn't block, couldn't run, couldn't throw, couldn't catch, couldn't tackle and couldn't even try a 49-yard field goal when it counted. But to treat the Giants as though their defeat was a foregone conclusion was football suicide.

I thought the Patriots were going to win. The Patriots thought they were going to win. Now they just hope Archie and Olivia Manning don't plan to have any more sons. Last year, it was Peyton who ended their season. This year, it was Eli. Both became Super Bowl MVPs.
David Cutcliffe, Eli's coach at Ole Miss, called this one earlier in the week. Said he had "no doubt" the Giants were going to win. What he also said -- but asked that it not be printed before the game -- is that he had talked to Eli a day or two earlier.

"You know what I liked best?" Cutcliffe said. "He sounded hungry."

Giants Leave Brady Dazed and Confused - Seth Wickersham,

Everyone realized the Giants had to pressure Brady, including Bill Belichick. Now, had the Patriots won Super Bowl XLII, the following would have been viewed as another genius move by arguably the greatest coach of all time: All week, Belichick tried to simulate the speed of New York's blindingly fast front four in practice by lining up reserve cornerbacks opposite offensive tackles Matt Light and Nick Kaczur.

But although the Patriots seemed prepared for the Giants' speed, New England was caught off guard by New York's power and unpredictability. Running back Kevin Faulk said his team was "out-physicalled." Kaczur said that the Giants, "just outplayed us. They're just better than us." Receiver Donte' Stallworth said, "S---, I don't know what they did."

In the locker room after the game, the Patriots seemed lost rather than distraught. Which meant that Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo -- who might have guaranteed himself the Washington Redskins' head coaching job with Sunday's win -- got exactly what he wanted.
"No matter what we called, the players were going to will themselves to be successful," he said. "Even when we didn't blitz, and even when we didn't outfool them or outnumber them, our players just made up their minds to get it done."

It worked. Brady was sacked five times. Laurence Maroney, a hero for the Patriots the past two months, rushed 14 times for only 36 yards. Despite an offensive line full of Pro Bowlers, it seemed as though the Patriots couldn't go more than five plays without a false start penalty. New England's longest completion was 19 yards, its yards-per-attempt average only 4.3, and its 14 points a season low. A few times Sunday, Brady pleaded with New York defensive end Justin Tuck to slow down. Tuck's response: "Just hold the ball a little longer."

Unflappable Manning Lets Instincts Take Over - John Clayton,

He out Brady-ed Tom Brady on Sunday, engineering touchdown drives of 80 and 83 yards. His winning drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left put him in rare company. He's only the second quarterback in Super Bowl history to throw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes in a winning effort. Joe Montana was the only other (Super Bowl XXIII).

Manning showed an incredibly calm demeanor in producing two of the most dramatic touchdown drives in Super Bowl history. At times in his career, he looked scared or aloof in critical situations. Against the Patriots, he was sharp as a knife down the stretch, and his mentality was amazing.

He loved the fact he was trailing, 14-10, with 2:39 left.

"This is where you want to be, honestly,'' Manning said. "The situation you want to be in is down four where you have to score a touchdown. If you're down three, you might settle for a field goal. You'd rather be down four where you need to get a touchdown to win the game or win the Super Bowl. You couldn't write a better script.''

Brother Peyton Manning sat in a suite, vicariously living every moment and every play his brother made down the stretch.

"You sort of play the game as you are up there watching, but you are pulling so hard for Eli,'' Peyton said. "I guarantee you I am more involved in the game he is playing than any other NFL game. I was pumped, and I got a lot of messages telling me to calm down because I was excited and pumped after the big plays he was making.''

MVP Eli Puts Kibosh on Little Brother Talk - Pete Prisco, CBS Sportline

Quarterbacks are defined in these situations. It was his big-boy moment for Manning, showing all those who doubted him -- which is a list of names as thick as a New York phone book -- that he has arrived. The two fourth-quarter touchdown passes mean Manning and Joe Montana are the only quarterbacks to accomplish that feat in a Super Bowl.

"The man is a quarterback of a world champion," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin when asked if Manning had put to rest the skeptics.

That can never be taken from him. It also helps put to rest the little brother talk. It helps ease all the talk about his forcing the trade from San Diego. It helps stop the comparisons to Phil Simms, who won a Super Bowl and endeared himself to Giants fans.

Eli Manning is now there with Simms.

Patriots Will Be Remembered For What They Didn't Achieve - Clark Judge, CBS Sportsline

New England won't be known as the bully that won its first 18 games of the season and set league and individual records. The Patriots will be remembered for -- as Brady correctly observed days earlier -- for missing a golden opportunity.

They had a chance to achieve perfection, and they blew it. I don't care what the Giants did or didn't do. The Patriots were supposed to be one of the greatest teams of all time, and a victory Sunday was supposed to confirm it.

Well, it confirmed something, and I don't need to draw you a picture.

"I probably need some time to reflect on the game and some time to reflect on the season," Brady said. "It is extremely disappointing. This isn't something any of us prepared for."

Plaxico's Singular Sigh of Relief - Michael Silver, Yahoo Sports

Starting from the left side, Burress blasted through Hobbs' press coverage, and as he approached the goal line, faked a sharp inside move. That froze Hobbs, who only could watch helplessly as Burress cut it back to the left corner for the fade. Manning lofted a pass that seemed to hang in the air forever, the Patriots' quest for a perfect season – and the Giants' shot at one of the NFL's all-time great upsets – hanging in the balance.

"He made a great move," Manning said. "The guy thought he was gonna run something short, and Plax set him up and beat him."
Burress, too, was surprised how effective his fake turned out to be.

"We had been watching film on Hobbs all week, and we saw that he stopped his feet right at the goal line," Burress said. "I was telling myself, 'Just be patient. Come off the ball fast, give him a quick slant move and go to the corner.' I never thought he'd (almost) fall down. I thought I'd have to go up and get it in the corner."

Instead, Burress simply had to wait alone for the willowy pass that shocked the Patriots and much of the football world as well.

"It must have been a better move than I anticipated," he said. "I was telling myself, 'Look it all the way in. Make sure your feet are in. And just catch it.' "

And once the ball was in his hands?

"A big sigh of relief," Burress said, smiling. "It was, 'AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH.' "

If He's Going to Lose, Bill Belichick Would Rather be Elsewhere - MJD, Yahoo Sports

With :01 left on the clock, and his team just having failed on a last chance 4th down effort, Bill Belichick ran onto the field for a quick handshake, and then bolted for the locker room.

Belichick's an important guy and everything, but I wasn't aware that the league had given him the authority to decide when games end.There's time left on the clock, his team's been humbled, outplayed, and lost their chance at history ... and Bill Belichick doesn't have the stomach to sit there and absorb the pain until the clock read 0:00.

That's unsportsmanlike at best, disrespectful at least, and at worst, it makes him a big sissy. Because Bill Belichick wanted to go hide when he lost, the field ended up being flooded with people, and the officials had to clear the area before the Giants could take their final snap and make it official. When you lose, you take your loss. You don't leave early because it makes you feel sad inside. Your opponent deserves more respect than that.

Early Exit Poll: He's a Loser - Rick Telander, Chicago Sun-Times

It's kind of funny — if it weren't sad — to see a team take the field for a final play without its leader in sight.

It's kind of like the queasy feeling TV viewers got watching the Victoria's Secret negligee-clad, come-hither model pouting on a bed, followed directly by the Amp drink guy clamping jumper cables to his nipples.

As another classic ad says, this is your country.

Maybe this last-minute defeat and ruination of attempted perfection is karma for the discourteous New England coach who thinks little of bending league rules when it benefits his purposes.

We won't get into Spygate here.

But did anyone ever say Belichick, the mastermind who nearly led his Patriots to the first 19-0 season in NFL history, was a good sport?


Perfection Slayed By Houdini Eli - Jay Mariotti, Chicago Sun-Times

I haven't seen a better escape since the prisoner in "Midnight Express" fled a Turkish jail. There was Eli, his jersey yanked in 100 directions by opponents bigger and stronger, somehow breaking free and making a stunning play on 3rd-and-5 with 59 seconds left. He found David Tyree with a miracle, 32-yard lob to the Patriots 24, in a play we'll be celebrating and replaying for years. What were all those cracks about Eli being this year's Rex Grossman, a little kid who wouldn't be in the league if his name was Eli Smith or Jones? In one singular moment, no quarterback ever has been a bigger man in keeping his feet and locating Tyree, who leaped and outbattled Rodney Harrison by keeping the ball pressed against his own Giants helmet as he hit the turf. It was, arguably, the greatest game-saving play in Super Bowl history, if not the most spectacular. It's what we'll long remember about the victory, with a proud Peyton Manning calling it "one of the greatest plays of all time."

"A lot of people were grabbing at me, but I knew I wasn't getting pulled down," said Eli, his drawl never sounding more endearing. "You have to try to get small sometimes and sneak your way out of something. I found a hole, got loose and made a throw."

That's all, a mere throw to thwart 19-0 perfection and stall history. Did you see his face? Did you detect even a hint of concern, a droplet of sweat, a raised brow, a hair out of place, a wee crease on his forehead? "I've talked about it with Peyton, being in that situation -- that's what you want," said Manning, the game MVP. "You can't write a better script, being in the Super Bowl, down by four with the game on the line against a team that hadn't lost a game. I'd rather be down by four because, if you're down by three, you might want to settle for a field goal. We went for the touchdown."

"I just wasn't letting the ball go. It was an amazing feeling," Tyree said. "Eli's always cool and always calm. A lot of people have questioned his leadership skills. but he has proved his mettle. I knew he was going to get it done."

Perfection Ko'd - Peter King,

The other storylines to an excellent and exciting Super Bowl:

The biggest upset in Super Bowl history? I think not. To say this is the biggest surprise ever, I think, is a slight overstatement. On the surface, a six-loss team beating an undefeated team is obviously a stunning development. But think back five weeks. The 38-35 New England win over the Giants -- when the Patriots were playing for history and the Giants for nothing but to get their offense back on track -- was a knockdown, drag-out brawl. If you watched that game, you knew a competitive game was possible in the rematch. Somehow, I can't imagine this being more of a surprise than Super Bowl III, when the Jets shocked the world and beat 17-point-favorite Baltimore.

David Tyree became this year's Max McGee. We've seen a few of these nondescript guys, such as the late old Packer McGee and Redskins running back Timmy Smith, get to be heroes because of one great game. Tyree will be a legend in Giant lore because of one great quarter. Amazing, too, because as Amani Toomer said, "He was dropping everything in practice Friday. "

Tyree beat all-pro corner Asante Samuel over the middle for a go-ahead touchdown with 11 minutes left. Then, trailing 14-10 with 75 seconds remaining, on a vital third-and-five play on the winning 83-yard drive, Manning got out of the grasp of Adalius Thomas and about 15 other Patriots -- a Houdini-like sack escape -- and threw a lofty bomb 32 yards to Tyree. The receiver and Rodney Harrison leapt for it, and Tyree, with gloved hands, secured it against his helmet while falling down backwards. That's right -- against his helmet. The Giants scored the winning touchdown four plays later. "David Tyree saved the game for us,'' said Plaxico Burress.

Now Spygate will rear its head in New England. Last night was the Giants' night. The next couple of weeks could belong to a Congressional committee trying to get to the bottom of who the Patriots videotaped, when they videotaped and what benefit they derived from videotaping. ESPN reported yesterday what I feel is the absolute truth: If the league or Congress interviews former Patriot video man Matt Walsh, and it's proven that the team videotaped opposing teams' defensive signals in violation of NFL rules, Bill Belichick will be suspended.

Eli Manning has arrived. I said before this game that it wouldn't be too big for Eli, the same way the NFC title game wasn't too big for him. The aw-shucks kid will own New York now the way Derek Jeter owns it, because Eli overcame massive criticism and led an underdog team to a Super Bowl title. Those are the kind of Reggie Jacksonish players New York loves, those players who play big when the moment is big. Manning has come a long way from the guy admonished as a rookie by Tiki Barber to mind his body language because his slumped shoulders didn't inspire confidence. Now everyone wants to follow him.

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