February 7, 2012
Ahmad Bradshaw’s “accidental” touchdown gave the New York Giants the lead in the final minute of Super Bowl 46. It will be one of the most talked about plays of the Giants victory because of the Patriots’ decision to let the Giants score and save some time for Tom Brady, but it wasn’t a game-changer. Here are my top 10 plays that led to the Giants win.
After the Giants stalled on the first possession of the game, Steve Weatherford punts 36 yards and pinned the Patriots on their own six-yard line, setting up the first score of the game.
The Patriots first play from scrimmage was possibly their worst play from scrimmage. Starting on his own six-yard-line, Tom Brady dropped back to pass in the end zone and was immediately pressured. Brady knew he had to get rid of the ball so he launched it 40 yards down the middle of the field. Only problem was that there was no receiver in the area. Two points for the Giants – two points that would have made a difference in how the fourth quarter played out.
The Giants had third-and-three from the Patriots 11-yard line. Eli Manning completes a short pass to Victor Cruz and he fumbles. Brandon Spikes recovers for the Patriots, but the play is nullified after New England is called for 12 men on the field. Two plays later, Cruz is doing the salsa dance and New York leads 9-0.
The New England offense was rolling – covering 178 yards and two touchdowns on the last two possessions. It looked like they had the Giants guessing on defense. But on a third down from the Patriots 19, Brady was sacked by Justin Tuck. This was a huge three-and-out for the defense to regain its confidence, get off the field and change the momentum of the game.
The Fumble II
With the ball at the New England 47, Manning hit Hakeem Nicks for a 17-yard gain but the ball popped out of his hands. Fortunately for Nicks, Henry Hynoski was the first one to get on the football and the Giants maintained possession. They would go on to kick a field goal and cut the lead to 17-15.
On the second play of the fourth quarter Brady committed the only turnover in the game. It wasn’t terrible as turnovers go. When Chase Blackburn intercepted Brady’s deep ball at the Giants eight-yard line, it was basically no different than a punt. But it kept the ball out of Brady’s hands and added to the Giants momentum in the fourth quarter.
The Fumble III
Another fumble by the Giants and another recovery by the Giants. This time it was Ahmad Bradshaw who put the ball on the ground and Chris Snee who fell on it. With this play beginning at the Giants eight-yard line, this would have been a game-changer if the Pats had recovered.
Rob Ninkovich jumped offside, turning a third-and-seven and an incomplete pass into third-and-two and a completion for a Giants first down. The Giants ended up punting the ball away, but not until after New York gained another 46 yards which dramatically altered the field position for a New England possession that could have put the game away with a touchdown.
It’s second-and-11 on the New York 44 and the Patriots lead 17-15. Brady finds Wes Welker streaking down the field with nobody near him. Brady’s throw wasn’t perfect but it was a catch we have seen Welker make countless times in his career. Only this time, he didn’t. A completion would have put New England well within field goal range and on the verge of a championship clinching touchdown. Instead, after another incomplete pass, the Patriots were forced to punt, setting up Eli Manning for more fourth quarter heroics.
The Throw and Catch
With 3:46 left in the game, the Giants final drive begins on their 12-yard line. On first down, Manning throws deep down the sideline for Mario Manningham. He put the ball right between two defenders in the only place Manningham could have caught it. And he made an incredible over the shoulder catch and somehow managed to get both feet down and maintain possession. Not only was it was the longest play from scrimmage in the game. Not only did it put the Giants at midfield with plenty of time to set up a game-winning field goal. But it also forced Bill Belichick to challenge the play. When the play was upheld, it cost New England a timeout that would have greatly increased their chances of scoring at the end of the game.