Going into the fourth quarter of Superbowl XLVI this past Sunday, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was gaining momentum after throwing two touchdown passes, which brought the Pats to within two points of the Giants. While managing the clock in a way that would have left New York with little hope of catching up, however, mistakes were made. The New York Giants held on long enough to become Super Bowl XLVI champions, defeating the Patriots 21-17.
The Patriots defense made a good stop at the beginning of the game. The momentum didn’t carry to the offensive side, though, as New York Giants punter Steve Weatherford pinned the Patriots on the six yard line, allowing New York’s defense to pick up a safety. Giants quarterback Eli Manning followed that up with a touchdown pass to receiver Victor Cruz. The Patriots were able to go on a 17-0 run after that touchdown, giving them a two-point lead entering the fourth quarter despite their earlier shortcomings.
Then the mistakes began. First, Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn intercepted a pass by Tom Brady. Then Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker dropped what could have been a game winning pass. With little time left on the clock, tight end Aaron Hernandez dropped another crucial play. Making more mistakes than the Patriots offense, however, was their defense.
New England’s Achilles’ heel is its secondary, which was not able to prevent important passes from being completed — like Mario Manningham’s 38 yard sideline catch — and left receivers wide open on several crucial plays. This blown coverage helped the Giants get downfield quickly and take the lead late in the fourth quarter.
The secondary did not come down to apply pressure and to stop the run, either. New York’s three running backs proceeded to break through New England’s front seven for a total of 115 yards as the safeties hung back.
Manning helped the Giants by completing 75 percent of his passes for 296 yards and a touchdown, while Brady completed only 66 percent of his passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns. Giants’ defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul batted down multiple Brady passes, which is one reason why Manning had an advantage over Brady statistically speaking.
Manning earned his second Super Bowl MVP award for his performance. The MVP award has not gone to a position other than wide receiver or quarterback since 2003, when former Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Dexter Jackson received it. However, some analysts disagree with the Manning decision.
“Justin Tuck was the most valuable player in Super Bowl XLVI,” Pro Football Weekly’s Hub Arkush said.
Tuck brought the pressure that led to the safety in the first quarter and also sacked Brady in the fourth.
The Giants and their fans continue to celebrate, while Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gives his team “a little time [to] regroup.”