Super Bowl: Game Much Better Than the Spectacle
When the New England Patriots’ defense parted like the Red Sea to allow Ahmad Bradshaw to reluctantly score the New York Giants’ winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLVI, they also opened up a Pandora’s box of speculation that may last for years.
For instance, if coach Bill Belichick told his defense to make way for Bradshaw to score because he felt Tom Brady could move the Patriots to a touchdown in the 57 seconds remaining after that second-down score from the 6-yard line, why didn’t he give his great quarterback more time for a spectacular comeback by allowing the Giants to score one or two plays earlier when they were so close? Brady and friends would have had well over a minute left and two, instead of just one, times out remaining had Belichick done so. That is quite a difference in pro football terms.
With that and other questions still hanging out there, Super Bowl XLVI certainly had one of the most exciting finishes in Super Bowl history despite producing about the most curious spectacle in the annals of these National Football League extravaganzas.
In all my years covering hundreds of college and pro football games and now watching these big ones on television, I never saw a player in full stride suddenly try not to score as he reaches the goal line. Such was the case with Bradshaw as he heard his quarterback, Eli Manning, yell to him, “Don’t score! Don’t score!”
Too late. That was like trying to stop a freight train at full throttle within a few feet. Bradshaw turned, twisted, tried to fall back to the 1-yard line but could not help tumbling into the end zone for the winning score in the 21-17 triumph.
Had Bradshaw stopped at the 1, the Giants could have killed the clock for many seconds before a third-down play and, if needed, a field goal fourth-down play. Brady never managed to pull the game out, so Bradshaw’s fall into the end zone turned out just right for the Giants.
Not So Sore Losers
Things got even “curiouser and curiouser” after the game when New England players were whooping it up at a loud drinking party late that night at an Indianapolis club. Videos of the losers “celebrating” on the dance floor showed Rob Gronkowski, the usually superb Patriots tight end, jumping up and down and prancing about on both feet.
Gronkowski, who suffered a severe high left ankle sprain during the New England playoff victory over the Baltimore Ravens two weeks before the Super Bowl, was no help to New England against the Giants because he could not maneuver well. He was Brady’s target the one time the quarterback was intercepted and he had no chance to catch the desperation Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game.
Yet there was Gronkowski jumping up and down like Madonna did at halftime as many Patriot players staged a rather curious “celebration.” Just how many losing teams in Super Bowls, World Series, Stanley Cup finals or NBA championship series go partying immediately after being whipped in the biggest game of their careers?
They say winning heals all wounds. Seems that losing helps some players heal quickly, also.
Then there was Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, the millionaire supermodel, who spewed out venomous comments about the efforts turned in by her husband’s most important teammates — his receivers. Taunted by someone who was probably a Giants fan immediately after the game, Bundchen violated the unwritten rules of conduct for celebrities in such publicly visible situations. She responded in anger.
The fan yelled at her as she exited her Super Bowl box, “Eli (Manning) rules. Eli owns your husband!”
Bundchen hollered back, “You have to catch the ball when you’re supposed to catch the ball! My husband cannot (expletive deleted) throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time! I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times.”
She was referring to Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Deion Branch and possibly Gronkowski, all of whom dropped Brady passes at important junctures in the game for the Patriots. Of course, she forgot to say her husband threw some uncatchable passes, also.
The Good, Bad, Abysmal
That sort of nonsense off the field and the rather sporadic displays of offense on the field by the usually proficient Patriots’ attack, plus Madonna’s abysmal halftime show and countless sub-par ads this year along with the thrilling finish, made this a very good/bad Super Bowl show from start to finish.
It became evident that the underdog Giants were the better team by quite a bit. Eli Manning proved once again that, given a choice of NFL quarterbacks to engineer a comeback drive in the closing minutes, he would be the choice of most people these days. He has managed so many fourth-quarter climbs to victory this season that one begins to expect it of him every week.
The final drive to triumph included the pass and catch of the game when Manning connected with Mario Manningham for 38 yards (NY 12-yard line to 50-yard line) and 3 minutes 39 seconds to go in the game with the Giants down by two points.
The Giants claim they work on this play day after day. It showed as Manningham caught the perfectly targeted aerial on the edge of the world and, hounded by two defenders, caught the ball, kept both feet in bounds for that necessary split second and nailed his best career reception.
Without that play the Giants probably do not go on to win.
Manning connected on all five of his passes in that 88-yard drive to victory, assuring himself of the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player award and the second triumph over the Patriots in the last five Super Bowls. Thus Super Bowl XLVI will be remembered for the touchdown that was “allowed,” another big Eli Manning-led comeback and strange reactions and antics by the Patriots and their closest followers.
But it will also be remembered for very forgettable commercials, those lame or offensive multimillion dollar attempts by Madison Avenue to grab your attention, and for the annual shouting match at intermission that is billed as the Super Bowl Halftime Show.
This time it was the aging “Material Girl” (who is close to being a Material Senior Citizen) who stomped about almost fully clothed for a change. Madonna nearly stumbled onto her backside during the ugly program that included an obscene gesture from one of the associate “performers,” an unattractive English creature who gave the record TV world audience the middle finger for no reason.
So, with ads accentuating sex, racism, extreme violence, drinking and retooling of old commercials plus a boring and unattractive halftime interlude, Super Bowl XLVI was an interesting and unusual championship football game surrounded by extreme mediocrity.
Some of us can wish for a change we probably will never see in our lifetime — elimination of these long, noisy, exercises in very poor taste at halftime and fresh Madison Avenue talent for Super Bowl ads. Give us something akin to the good old Orange Bowl halftime shows, the best that big postseason football games have produced.
Put that together with another Giants-Patriots game and you will truly have an extra special complete Super Bowl show.
Gordon White served 43 years as a sports reporter for The New York Times. His email is email@example.com.
More like this story