People ask me all the time who they should bet their hard earned money on each week of the NFL season. I often have a few good choices in mind, but to me the best play is always to not bet at all. The NFL is constantly filled with bizarre, wacky, unexplainable circumstances that all blend together to create the game we all love so much. Today, Roger Goodell’s magic potion helped the Giants become champions for the second time since 2007 and helped Eli Manning earn his second Super Bowl MVP award.
As hard as the NFL is to predict, often the results of the games lead sports writers to make guarantees. I will make some later, but first, let’s take a look at some of the bizarre, wacky, and unexplainable that gave the Giants a chance to play in Super Bowl XLVI.
- After 12 weeks of play, the Giants were 6-6 and rumors were swirling that they might be making a coaching change. Since then, they erased a 13-point lead on the road against the Cowboys to squeak out a victory. Then, they lost to Rex Grossman and the Redskins. The Jets had the Giants on the ropes, but a 99-yard touchdown from Manning to Victor Cruz gave the team life and they went on to beat the Cowboys again the following week to squeak into the playoffs.
- After a relative easy victory of the Falcons the second day of the Playoffs, the Giants traveled to Green Bay and easily destroyed a 15-1 Packers team that just didn’t seem ready for the game. The following week, the Giants traveled to San Francisco and took advantage of two mistakes by Kyle Williams to earn a berth to the Super Bowl.
Did you follow all of that? The Patriots took a much easier path to the Super Bowl going 13-3, earning a bye, and winning two home playoff games on the way to Indianapolis. After two weeks of hype, the game either:
- Lived up to the hype or
- Was as weird, wacky, and bizarre as any game you have seen and left you just as confused with the league as ever or
Here are some of the bizarre, wacky, and unexplainable that led to the Giants second Super Bowl since 2007 and lead Eli Manning to his second Super Bowl MVP. Then we will close out the 2011-12 NFL season with some guarantees I am sure to regret making at some point down the line.
- After a decent opening drive by the Giants, the Patriots defense stiffened up and forced the Giants to punt. Steve Weatherford pinned the Patriots deep into their own territory. On the first play from scrimmage for the Patriots, Tom Brady dropped back into the end zone and held on to the ball forever. When the rush came from Justin Tuck, Brady just sailed the ball down the middle of the field and it hopped and bounced off the turf right next to no one. The officials conferred and the Giants were leading the Super Bowl 2-0. 2-0? Did Derek Jeter single allowing Robinson Cano to hit a home run in the bottom of the first? 2-0?
- The Giants scored after the free kick and lead the Super Bowl 9-0. Before the touchdown, the Patriots appeared to have forced a turnover, but they were flagged for too many men on the field. A crucial mistake in a crucial spot by the usually capable Bill Belichick. Regardless, the Giants were dominating the Patriots who had only run one bizarre play. This thing was over before it even started.
- Wrong. The Patriots then took over the game for what seemed like an eternity. A Brady to Danny Woodhead touchdown pass right before the half gave the Patriots a 10-9 lead heading into the locker room. The early votes for MVP had went from easily Eli (who started the game 9 for 9 on the way to a 9-0 lead) to Brady (who closed the half and opened the third quarter with a 15 for 15 stretch).
- The Patriots had controlled the second quarter. Madonna spent what seemed like an eternity lip synching and not wardrobe malfunctioning, and the Patriots (who deferred) got the ball to start the third quarter and marched down the field to take a 17-9 lead. Eli Manning wasn’t a factor in the game for what seemed to be as long as Titanic and what was a 9-point lead was a 8-point deficit. The Patriots would not score another point in the 2011-12 season.
- Eli Manning finished off the third quarter by leading the Giants on two scoring drives that ended in Lawrence Tynes field goals. The Patriots lead the Giants 17-16 with 15:00 left in the season.
- The fourth quarter was when the game got really strange. First, the Giants missed a glorious opportunity when Mario Manningham led Manning out of bounds down the side line by running a terrible route too tight. Chris Collinsworth blasted Manningham on the broadcast and illustrated the mistake on the television.
- Next, the Patriots began what seemed like it could be a game clinching drive. On 2nd and 11 from the Giants 44 Brady unleashed a beautiful pass down the deep left to a wide open Wes Welker. Welker, who had 122 catches in the regular season, just couldn’t make the Brady strike stick to his mitts. The ball fell incomplete and two plays later the Patriots were forced to punt the ball back to Manning and the Giants.
- Eli Manning walked onto the field in the house that his brother built with 3:46 second left on the clock and a chance to lead the Giants down the field to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl for the second time in five years. On the first play, for his own 12, Manning and Manningham hooked up for a 38-yard gain down the sideline to the Patriots 50. The play will be the game’s signature play and if you haven’t seen it yet you will see it 4,931 times between now and the day you die. Manning dropped a beautiful spiral over the shoulder of two Patriots and into the arms of Manningham who gave Manning enough room this time.
- After a couple of first downs, the Patriots called their second time out with 1:04 remaining and the Giants facing a 2nd and 6 from the Patriots 6-yard line. Manning handed the ball to Ahmad Bradshaw who suddenly seen the seas part and the doors open. The Patriots strategy was to allow the Giants to score and put the ball back in Brady’s hand with a minute to play and a time out in his pocket. Had they tackled Bradshaw, the Giants could have run on third down and kicked a field goal with less than thirty seconds remaining.
- Manning had done it again. He had lead his team down the field when they needed him most. If his defense could hold, Manning would surely win his second Super Bowl MVP and earn his second Super Bowl ring. Eli would have a bit more bling than Peyton.
- Brady got the ball with :57 seconds, a timeout, and a prayer. Starting from his own 20, Brady missed Branch on first down, got a drop from Hernandez on second, and then was sacked by Justin Tuck on third down. The Patriots had to convert a fourth and 16 or the games was over and… they did. Brady found Branch who quickly got out of bounds to keep things going. Brady found Hernandez for a first down and then spiked the ball on second. Brady then took a shot down the sideline that was incomplete. BUT, the Giants were playing with 12 men on the field. For the second time in the Super Bowl, each potentially Hall of Fame coach allowed their team to be penalized for too man men on the field. I can’t make this stuff up.
- The Patriots had one last chance to win the Super Bowl on a “Hail Myra.” Brady heaved the ball into the end zone and it dropped to the turf just out of the reach of the hobbled Rob Gronkowski. The Super Bowl was over.
Eli Manning is 2-0 in the Super Bowl. He went 30/40 for 296 yard passing with a touchdown pass and no interceptions. Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and Ken Stabler are the only quarterbacks to have multiple Super Bowl wins as a starting QB and not be in the Hall of Fame. Manning and Roethlisberger will have their chance and that leads us to a batch of guarantees I am sure to regret late.
- Eli Manning is going to be in the NFL Hall of Fame. He can retire tomorrow and still be able to coast into the hallowed hall. Roethlisberger is a lock to make it as well.
- Tom Brady didn’t win today, and he made some curious plays. He also had some tough drops, didn’t have Gronkowski healthy, and without the Welker drop he would have his fourth Super Bowl ring.
- Remember when Tony Romo missed Miles Austin on third down with a chance to eliminate the Giants from playoff contention? If that pass would have been complete, I guarantee the Patriots would have beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl tonight.
- There was talk going into today’s game wondering if Manning is an elite QB. Brady, Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Bart Starr, and Eli Manning are the only players to have won multiple Super Bowl MVP awards. I guarantee it doesn’t get much more elite than that.
- Brady might be the best quarterback ever. However, can you be considered the best ever if you can’t defeat one of your contemporaries on the games biggest stage? It reminds me of a debate that rules the tennis world, can Roger Federer be the best tennis player of all time despite being dominated by Rafael Nadal? I don’t have an answer, but I do have a guarantee. As much as he is hurting tonight, It doesn’t suck to be Tom Brady.
Eli Manning put a muzzle on all of his critics tonight. He did it on the games biggest stage, in one of its most glorious buildings – a building built by his older brother – against one of his greatest contemporaries. After a parade in the cannon of heroes on Tuesday, Manning will be traveling to Disney World at the top of his profession. He might even bring his brother with him. It’s fun for us to compare them. To ask: Who is a better quarterback, Payton or Eli? Honestly, I don’t think it matters. They are both great. The will both be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The both have at least one large piece of jewelry on their finger(s). They are the best brothers to play the position of quarterback in the NFL. That, I can guarantee.