Meatloaf sang that “two out of three ain’t bad“, so by extension, eighteen out of nineteen should also be not too bad, perhaps even good. But try telling that to a New England Patriots fan, and you may well get the s**t kicked out of you. Because on the edge of the famous perfect season, they were outplayed, indeed humiliated, by the underdog New York Giants, 17-14.
The Giants’ defence reigned supreme, and all day were able to penetrate the previously impervious Patriots’ offensive line. Tom Brady was sacked more than in any other game, and was pressured and harassed to the point where he seemed mortal again.
There was a key moment in the final quarter, when he did get free, and had Randy Moss free in the end zone, but missed the throw. This showed me clearly that the Giants’ pass rush had succeeded in shaking him up physically to the point that the mental pressure affected what would normally be a sure thing for him.
And so the Giants did what no other team was capable of doing this year. They brought the greatest offense in the NFL back down to earth. Once this objective was achieved, and the game was no longer a shootout, it was then a question of controlling the clock with a good running game, and the superb, mature play of Eli Manning. In just a few weeks, he has shown his pedigree and can genuinely be classed as an elite quarterback.
His third down and long conversions through the year have been an indicator of his skill and poise under pressure. In recent weeks, he has added a consistency many people thought just wasn’t there. And his escape from a near-sack to complete a 32 yard pass to an equally stunning catch by David Tyree showed he is the full package as a quarterback.
Do I feel sorry for the Patriots? No. You could argue that they suffered from being too good. On several occasions in recent weeks, their kicker missed relatively easy field goal attempts due to lack to match practice, they too did not have enough experience winning pressure games. So when the pressure finally did come through, they fell short. Over the last few years, the Australian cricket team has also had similar issues.
My annual “down under” Superbowl party was a huge success. With a kick-off time of 10:30am on Monday morning, the crowd steadily built and most of them remained glued to their seats until the game’s dramatic climax at around 2pm. Work day? What work day? Beer at 11am? Why the hell not? After all, a Superbowl like this does not come often!