February 04, 2008

A Super "Super Bowl"

The New York Giants are on top of the football world after a stunning 17-14 upset of the, up until early yesterday evening, undefeated New England Patriots. For the first time in a long time the Super Bowl lived up to its lofty name.

What a phenomenal performance by the Giants. Some serious proppage has to be given to Eli Manning and the New York defense. What a comeback. What a game. What an upset.

And to think, It wasn't supposed to be this way. The Giants were supposed to be but the final footnote in the perfect season of the New England Patriots. Books had already been written about the Patriots and their perfect season. Well, the G-Men had other plans.

I had a feeling it was going to be close game. The Giants gave the Patriots a run for their money in week 17 of the regular season, and New York was feeling good about themselves after a marvellous run to simply make it to the biggest stage the NFL has to offer.

I didn't, however, think that the game was going to be this good. Although it was a defensive struggle, it was a game for the ages. It had it all. Great performances by both quarterbacks, inspiring defense, and big, big plays.

None bigger than Eli Manning's 32-yard toss to David Tyree, with the Giants trailing 14-10 with just over a minute left on the clock in the fourth quarter. On a third-and-five play, Manning was somehow able to avoid the sack, even though it looked like he was only a moment away from being brought down. Four Patriots were all over him, but they couldn't bring him to his knees. Manning somehow scrambled out of the pocket, got his head up, and chucked the ball, along with a prayer, down field. Into the hands of wide receiver Tyree the ball went, and somehow, someway, Tyree was able to hold on. It was an unbelievable catch; an unbelievable play to cap off an unbelievable football game. It kept the Giants drive, and their title aspirations, alive as well. After the game, New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin called Tyree's catch one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history. I don't think I can argue with him.

What a game-winning drive orchestrated by the young and unflappable - and Super Bowl MVP - Eli Manning. He looked confident out there. Like it was any other game. Who would have thought Peyton's younger brother would be winning the Super Bowl, and the MVP award, only a year after his older brother did the same? What a story. Archie Manning created a couple of special quarterbacks.

An 83-yard drive to lead your team to the title with just over two minutes to go in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl against the heavy favourites Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. No Hollywood writer can script it any better than that, folks.

For some reason, I like Eli Manning. I like him a lot more than Peyton. Maybe it's because he was able to reach the NFL's pinnacle while playing in the shadow of his brother, and in the toughest market in pro sports. Maybe it's because he's been vilified by the New York media for so long, and had his character questioned time and time again. Maybe it's because it took the younger Manning only four years to get to the top, compared to nine years for Peyton. Maybe it's because even his former teammate - Tiki Barber - dissed Eli after he retired (how you like him now, Tiki?). Maybe it's because Peyton is so damn country it pisses me off. There's a lot of reasons why I like little Eli and after tonight's performance, there's even more.

Speaking of Peyton Manning, it was cool to see him so pumped up watching the game from a luxury suite. I'm not sure if he was so into the game because baby bro was playing in it, or because of his hatred for Tom Brady, his nemesis and sworn enemy. Either way, Peyton's got to be a happy camper today because Brady wasn't able to add number four to his Super Bowl ring collection. And he can thank baby bro for that. And by thank I mean buy him a car, or a house. Something millionaire-ish.

What makes New York's win even more incredible is that the Giants were said to have no business even being in the Super Bowl. There were calls for coach Coughlin to be dismissed only a few weeks into the season, along with calls for Eli Manning to grab some pine on the bench. The Giants were given no respect all year, but all they did was go out and play. They made the playoffs as a wildcard seed, and went on to defeat the first, second, and fourth seeds in the NFC, all while playing as the road team. They went into Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay, and came out victorious. If you know anything about football, you know that Dallas and Green Bay are two of the toughest teams to beat in their own backyard. For the Giants, their improbable victory last night was their 11th straight on the road. They had no business being in the Super Bowl? Rubbish. They had every damn right to be in the big game, and were more than deserving of the honour of hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Eli Manning isn't the only member of the Giants who is deserving of some love right today. How about good old Michael Strahan? Or Strah-dog, as I like to call him. He got his ring. Finally. Back in September, Strahan was rumoured to be joining Tiki Barber on the sidelines this season. He held out of training camp while debating whether or not to return for his 15th season in the NFL. Hey Strahan, good call on coming back.

Strahan and Amani Toomer were the only current members of the New York Giants who were on the team that got spanked 34-7 by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2001 Super Bowl, and both Toomer and Strahan were huge last night. Toomer had six catches for 84 yards to lead the Giants, while Strahan was a menace on defense - the catalyst of one intense pass rush - finishing with three tackles, one sack and two quarterback knockdowns. I'm mad happy for Strah-dog right now. I hope he retires. Ain't nothing like going out on top.

Speaking of a chase for a Super Bowl ring, it's hard not to feel for Junior Seau today. I'm not sure you can get any closer to a championship than Seau did last night. On a team with an 18-0 record, and only two minutes and change away from that elusive title. Yet for Seau it wasn't to be. Now that's a heart-breaker if there ever was one. All the Patriots - especially Tom Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison - wanted nothing more than to get Seau a ring, but they couldn't get the job done. My close friends will understand this one: seau, Junior Seau.

In the what-I-thought-to-be-physically-impossible category, I also feel a little bit for Tom Brady right now. I thought it wasn't possible to feel for a guy who only wins Super Bowl's and dates and impregnates beautiful women, but I guess I was wrong. It turns out "Mr. Perfect" Tom Brady isn't so perfect after all. He is a mere mortal; a man actually capable of losing a Super Bowl game in which his team trails during the fourth quarter.

I must admit, though, that Brady battled last night. He showed a lot of grit and character. Nothing came easy for him last night, but when the Patriots were down in the fourth quarter and needed him to rise to the occasion, he did just that. He worked his standard fourth quarter magic. He marched the Pats down field and hit Randy Moss with a touchdown with only a couple of minutes left on the clock. Brady did his job. He left the fate of the game in the hands of his defense. They were unable to hold the lead he gave them.

Before I leave you, Wes Welker is also deserving of some serious butt-slappage after his performance last night. I think Randy Moss being traded to New England was the best thing that could have ever happened to Welker's career. While the defense was busy focusing on Moss and Dante Stalworth, Welker was running wild all over the field, as he did all season. Welker caught 11 passes for 103 yards and had the Patriots been able to hold on and win it all, he most surely would have been awarded the MVP award.

I've got to admit that it would have been special to watch the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl last night and complete a 19-0 perfect season. It would have been nice to be witness to history. The New England Patriots were ever so close; only two minutes and change from going down as the best team in NFL history. Talks of a dynasty, and of Brady being the best quarterback of all-time, would have begun in earnest today had the Patriots celebrated victory yesterday in Arizona.

At the same time, I always love a good underdog (who doesn't?), and the New York Giants were certainly up to the task yesterday. And, honestly, it's about time a team from Boston lost already. When it comes to pro sports, that city is out of control right now.

Congratulations to the New York Giants and all their fans. All in all, a super Super Bowl.