posted 2012-02-16 16:39:29

Reflections on Super Bowl XLVI

Elite Eli, $3 million misstep, and productive penalties

Arthur Kapetanakis

Sports Editor

Everyone knows all about the Giants victory by now, so I will forgo a game recap and just tell you the three main things that I took away from the Super Bowl. Full disclosure, I am a casual Giants fan, but far from a die-hard, and a bigger fan of football and the NFL in general.

The first thing that I took from the Super Bowl and the Giants’ run through the playoffs was that Eli Manning is indisputably an elite quarterback. Every time the Giants needed a big play, Eli was there to deliver the perfect pass. But the best part about the “Aw-Shucks Assassin,” as ESPN’s Rick Reilly called him, was that you expected him to do it. In previous years, Giants fans were watching and hoping for Eli to lead Big Blue down the field during crunch time. Now, it seemed they were waiting for the steady blow-by-blow attack to culminate with a celebration in the end zone.

My second reflection is more of a gripe. Giants’ running back Ahmad Bradshaw made close to $3 million for playing football last season. Yet, in the closing minutes of what was a 15-17 game, Bradshaw scored a go-ahead touchdown that could have cost the Giants a ring. If that statement confuses you, please allow me to explain.

The Giants had the ball on the Patriot six-yard line with under a minute to play. It was second down, and everyone in the room where I watched the game knew what should have happened next. The Giants should have run the ball a little closer to the goal line, but stopped short of the end zone in order to force the Patriots to use up their final timeout before getting the ball back the final drive.

Whether the Giants would have been better served going for the score on the ensuing third down or kneeling and setting up what would have effectively been a last-second extra point attempt to seal the game, either scenario would have been, percentage-wise, a far better play than what unfolded.

But on second down, as the Patriots' defense opened up like the Red Sea to intentionally afford Bradshaw a clear path to the end zone, Bradshaw kindly cooperated and ran into the end zone. At the last second, he seemed to realize his error and tried to stop short of the goal line, but his momentum carried him through nonetheless.

This left Tom Brady and the Patriots with 57 seconds and one timeout to orchestrate a game winning drive to steal the Super Bowl away. Granted, such a drive would have been historic, and was always an unlikely event. Of course, Brady did not cash in on Bradshaw’s error.

But for someone who is getting paid $3 million to play football, making such a potentially costly mental mistake is unacceptable, not to mention incredibly frustrating to watch.

My third takeaway from this game centers on the twelve-men-on-the-field penalty that the Giant defense was flagged for on New England’s final drive of the game. On the third-to-last play of the game, the Patriots ran a Hail Mary and Brady launched the ball towards the end zone from their own 39-yard line. The pass was incomplete, and the play took more than ten seconds. The Giants were flagged for having twelve men on the field.

Their penalty for employing an extra defender on such a crucial play was a mere five yards. More importantly, the time that elapsed on the play was not put back on the clock. This left the Patriots with less than 20 seconds to work with. In the desperate situation that they were in, the five yards they were awarded for the penalty was insignificant. The precious time that they lost while running the play against the twelve-man defense, however, was critical.

Under these rules, and in the circumstances that were at hand, it would have been advantageous for the Giants to continue sending out twelve defenders for each play until the clock showed just enough time for one final play. (A game cannot end on a defensive penalty, so the Giants would have had to make one final stop with the standard 11 men).

In any event, Eli Manning and the Giants pulled off the victory, shutting down the vaunted Patriots once again. It has been said that one play, one inch can make the difference between winning and losing in football. But, as the G-Men paraded through the streets of downtown Manhattan two days after the game, they were too busy celebrating to think about such minutia. They are Super Bowl champions, and that is the only thing that matters now.