Today we have Super Bowl XLVI, held on February 5, 2012, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis between the five-time NFC champion New York Giants and the seven-time AFC champion New England Patriots.
As always, we have a pop quiz, and then homework at the end of the episode. The pop quiz question for today is: what Super Bowl was the last one to have a safety scored in it before this one? The answer will come at the end of the podcast.
Prelude to Super Bowl XLVI
You could not have possibly picked two more different teams to reach Super Bowl XLVI. From the AFC, you had the mighty New England Patriots. They started out the season 5-1, then suffered two straight losses, including one to the Giants. They rebounded to win their next eight games in a row to end the regular season. The Patriots scored 513 points, which was the most in the AFC, as they outscored their opponents by over 170 points.
Quarterback Tom Brady had a fantastic season, throwing for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns, but getting beaten out for the MVP award by Aaron Rodgers. His top receiver was Wes Welker, who caught 122 balls for over 1,500 yards and nine touchdowns. Tight end Rob Gronkowski had one of the greatest seasons ever for a tight end, catching 90 passes for over 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The Patriots didn’t run the ball much, but they didn’t have to. BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for a little over 650 yards and 11 touchdowns to lead the team in both categories.
The Patriots defeated Tim Tebow and the upstart Denver Broncos 45-10 in the divisional round of the playoffs. They then beat Baltimore 23-20 when Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed a chip shot 32-yard field goal that would have tied the game. The Pats were on to their fifth Super Bowl under Brady.
As for the Giants, they were a mess. They started out 6-2, including a win over Arizona which they only got because the officials ruled that receiver Victor Cruz had “given himself up” before an apparent fumble. But then they lost four consecutive games to drop to 6-6. The Giants rebounded with three wins in their final four games – including a 29-14 win over the Jets in which Cruz caught a 99-yard touchdown pass. They snuck into the playoffs as NFC East champions by defeating Dallas 31-14 to get in at 9-7.
The Giants actually gave up more points than they scored. Nevertheless, they became the third 9-7 team to reach a Super Bowl when they went on a tear in the playoffs. The Giants beat Atlanta 24-2 in the wild-card round, upset the Packers 37-20 in the divisional round, and escaped San Francisco with a 20-17 overtime win in the NFC Championship Game. It marked New York’s fifth NFC crown.
Quarterback Eli Manning threw for nearly 5,000 yards, with 29 touchdowns but also 16 interceptions. His top two receivers were Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, who combined for over 150 catches and 16 touchdowns. Cruz led the team with over 1,500 receiving yards; Nicks had nearly 1,200. The Giants were not a good rushing team; running back Ahmad Bradshaw led the team with just 659 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Patriots had a far better record than the Giants, but going into the Super Bowl, the Pats were just 2.5-point favorites. Perhaps the Giants were given a chance because they had beaten New England earlier in the season, or perhaps they were given a chance because of what they did four years ago in Super Bowl XLII. In any case, everyone expected a close game.
Super Bowl XLVI: First Quarter
The Patriots won the toss and chose to defer; it was the first time the AFC had won the coin toss since Super Bowl XXXI. The Giants started with the ball at their own 24. Manning converted the first third down of the game to Cruz for a first down at the 35.
He then hit tight end Bear Pascoe for about nine yards, and Bradshaw picked up the first down on a toss. Manning fired to Nicks for 19 yards on the right side, before taking sacks from defensive ends Brandon Deaderick and Mark Anderson. The Giants were forced to punt, and Steve Weatherford kicked it down to the 6.
On the Patriots’ first play of the game, Brady went back to pass, and he backed up into his own end zone, pressured by defensive end Justin Tuck. Brady launched the ball downfield to no one, and referee John Parry correctly called it intentional grounding. He was still in the pocket, he didn’t throw it near any receiver, and he was under pressure. The Giants took the two points and got the ball back.
Manning threw a pass to fullback Henry Hynoski, who broke a tackle for a 13-yard pickup. Bradshaw then ripped off a 24-yard run off the left side. Manning went back to Pascoe, hitting him for a first down at the 18. Nicks hauled one in at the 11, and the Patriots got called for 12 men on the field on the next play to give New York another first down. Two plays later, Manning threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Cruz, and the Giants took a 9-0 lead.
The Patriots were down 9-0 before even running their second play from scrimmage. They’d turn things around in the second quarter, however. Green-Ellis caught a screen and got to the 35, then Brady hit receiver Deion Branch for a first down. Welker hauled two passes in for 19 and 11 yards, putting the Patriots in field goal range.
Super Bowl XLVI: Second Quarter
Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul knocked down a third-down pass, but the Patriots got on the board early in the second quarter thanks to a 29-yard Gostkowski field goal to make it 9-3.
The beginning of the second quarter hit somewhat of a lull, as both teams punted on their next possession, and the Giants punted a second time down to the 4. The Patriots started their drive with a false start, backing them up at their own 2. Brady threw to Welker to get out from near the end zone, moving it to the 9. Running back Danny Woodhead ran for a first down to the 15, then Brady hit Gronkowski for a 20-yard pickup.
Tight end Aaron Hernandez caught four passes on the next five plays, getting a pair of first downs, with Woodhead also picking one up. Brady then hit Welker and Woodhead for a couple more first downs. Woodhead ended up capping off the drive with a catch over the middle for a four-yard touchdown. That concluded the longest touchdown drive in Super Bowl history in yardage, 96 yards, as the Patriots took a 10-9 lead into halftime.
Super Bowl XLVI: Third Quarter
The Pats started the second half with the ball. Brady threw to receiver Chad Ochocinco for a first down and to Green-Ellis for eight more yards. Green-Ellis ran for a first down, then Brady completed a pass to Welker for his 14th consecutive completion, setting a new Super Bowl record. Woodhead ran for about nine yards, and Green-Ellis picked up the next first down. Two plays later, Brady went over the middle to Hernandez for a 12-yard touchdown, and the Patriots went up 17-9.
The Giants responded, starting with receiver Jerrel Jernigan taking the ensuing kickoff out to the 35. Manning completed a third-down pass to Nicks for a first down, and he hit Pascoe for another eight yards. Bradshaw plowed up the gut to get a first down at the 36, then Nicks caught one for 12 more. That set up kicker Lawrence Tynes for a 38-yard field goal, which cut the Giants’ deficit to five.
Tuck came up with a sack for the Giants to force a three-and-out, and the Giants got great field position, with the ball on the New England 48. Manning threw to Nicks on second down, and he fumbled, but Hynoski recovered it at the 34 for a first down. Running back Brandon Jacobs ripped off a seven-yard run, and Pascoe caught one for a first down at the 12. The Giants couldn’t punch it in, but they did get a 33-yard Tynes field goal to end the third quarter down by two.
Super Bowl XLVI: Fourth Quarter
Starting out the fourth quarter, Green-Ellis ran for a first down to the 43. But Brady launched a deep ball that got intercepted by linebacker Chase Blackburn. The Giants took over at their own 8. Bradshaw fumbled on his next carry, but a fellow Giant fell on the ball. Manning then converted a third down with a pass to Nicks, although the Giants used up one timeout.
Cruz caught one for another first down, and receiver Mario Manningham hauled one in for 12 more yards. But a couple of plays later, head coach Tom Coughlin’s crew called their second timeout, and now the Giants were down to just one. That became big when the Giants were forced to punt. The Patriots had the chance to now run out the clock.
Brady threw a pair of passes to Woodhead, picking up two first downs on gains of 19 and 11 yards. Hernandez caught one for a first down, and the Patriots moved into Giants territory with about four minutes to go. Brady then went long for Welker, who was wide open, but he dropped the catch. A first down there would have likely pushed the clock down to the two-minute warning and given the Patriots the opportunity to kick a field goal. Instead, they had to punt, and the Giants got the ball back at their own 12.
On the first play of the new drive, Manning launched one down the sideline, and Manningham somehow hauled the pass in with both feet in bounds for a 38-yard gain to midfield. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick lost a challenge and a timeout by reviewing the play, but he pretty much had to at this point. Manning followed with two more passes to Manningham and one to Nicks to get the Giants down to the 18 at the two-minute warning.
Bradshaw ran for seven yards, and the Giants began to bleed the clock. Manning hit Nicks for a first down, but he couldn’t stop from going out of bounds, and that stopped the clock at 1:09. The Patriots called a timeout after a Bradshaw run, leaving just 1:04 to go. The Giants had the chance to now run down the clock and kick a field goal to leave Brady no time on the clock.
So, Belichick then told his team not to make a tackle on the next play. Bradshaw couldn’t help himself, as he ran down to the goal line, tried to stop, but couldn’t. He scored a reluctant touchdown with 57 seconds left. The two-point run by D.J. Ware came up short, and the Giants now had a 21-17 lead, but Brady was getting the ball back.
Brady needed to go 80 yards in less than a minute to win the Super Bowl. His first two passes were dropped by Branch and Hernandez, and Tuck sacked him on third down. The Patriots called timeout with 39 seconds left and facing fourth-and-16. It looked like the game was over, but Brady somehow converted with a pass to Branch for a first down at the 33 with 32 seconds to go. Hernandez caught one for another first down at the New England 44, and Brady spiked it with 19 seconds left.
On the next play, the Giants had 12 men on the field; Brady tried launching to Hernandez deep, but the pass fell incomplete, and now only nine seconds remained. After an incompletion to Branch, Brady tried the Hail Mary. His pass went high into the end zone and got batted. Gronkowski, who was fighting an injury sustained earlier in the game, was almost in position to catch the tipped ball. He dived for it, but it caromed down to the ground, just out of reach. The Giants held on to win Super Bowl XLVI, 21-17!
Super Bowl XLVI: Aftermath and Awards
Manning was named Super Bowl MVP for throwing for 296 yards and a touchdown. If I were to give out an award, though, it would have gone to Tuck. He had two sacks, and he also caused the intentional grounding call on Brady that gave the Giants two points. That safety was the first since Super Bowl XXV when the Bills’ Bruce Smith sacked the Giants’ Jeff Hostetler in the end zone, and that is the answer to today’s pop quiz question.
The best player on the losing team was Brady. He threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns while getting picked off once. He put his team in a position to win, but the defense couldn’t hold that late lead. As for a player who was anything but valuable, I’d have to give that to Ochocinco. The big-name pickup caught just one pass for 21 yards. I realize that he wasn’t on the field much, but there was a reason he wasn’t on the field. Belichick clearly felt that he shouldn’t be out there, making his acquisition kind of pointless.
The best player you don’t remember is Pascoe. Tight end Bear Pascoe caught four passes for 33 yards and made his catches in big spots. He ended up carving out a seven-year career out of it, including his first five years with the Giants.
The biggest play of this game was Manningham’s 38-yard catch down the sideline on the Giants’ final drive to help set up the game-winning touchdown. Manning to Manningham became a catchphrase after this game. But the biggest play you don’t remember? That would be Brady’s incompletion on a deep ball to Hernandez on a play where New York had 12 men on the field. Had that pass been completed deep downfield and Hernandez tackled in bounds, the clock would have stayed stopped because of the penalty, which would have been declined.
Even though New York committed a penalty on the play, it worked out for them, since they got the incompletion, and ten seconds ticked off the clock. The NFL implemented a rule change because of this that now 12 men on the field is immediately flagged and the play shut down if the snap is imminent (as it was in this case).
This week’s homework is Out of the Blue: The Giants’ Shocking Super Season by the New York Daily News. A bookstore near my house had this book on sale for a ridiculously low price because it was going out of business. Had I thought of it, I should have just bought all the copies and sent them out to any listeners.
Sadly, I didn’t think of that at the time. Nevertheless, you can find this book for pretty cheap online regardless.
The Giants won their fourth Super Bowl and eighth NFL championship overall, putting them into third place all-time when it comes to league championships. Only the Packers with 13 and the Bears with nine have more. That is the true championship count, not the post-1967 count of only Super Bowls that gets used by most people. The Giants are truly one of the greatest franchises in NFL history.
Next time, we will black out in the middle of the Super Bowl. It’s one of the craziest Super Bowls of all time – Super Bowl XLVII, which includes a big day from the Ravens’ Joe Flacco, a kickoff return for a touchdown, a thrilling comeback, a no-call on a tightly covered play, an intentional safety, a free kick on the game’s final play, and the stadium losing power halfway through all of that!
Get your popcorn ready for Super Bowl XLVII, hopefully coming in a couple of weeks as long as I’m able to do so. Until next time, this is Tommy A. Phillips. You can visit my website tommyaphillips.com where you can find all of my books, including The Orange Bowl: A Complete History, my newest book. So long!
Lombardi Memories is a show that takes you back in time, into January or February, to the greatest one-day spectacle in all of sports. This is the every-other-Tuesday podcast that looks back at each and every one of the 50-plus Super Bowls and tells the story of who won and why. Tommy A. Phillips is your host on this Super Journey. He’s an author of multiple NFL books. You can purchase below.
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