Well, I was wrong. It would seem that Eli Manning and the New York Giants are, in fact, the answer to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. And you know what the worst part is? I have nothing to complain about. For the second time, my Patriots put up only 17 points in a Super Bowl against a Giants team that barely made it into the playoffs, and all I can say is “good game.”
And what else could I say? There were few penalties and no blown calls that I can remember, and no one made a single miracle catch off their helmet. Both teams fought hard; the Giants just fought harder and made fewer mistakes.
On the surface, it was the mistakes that did the Patriots in. The safety on their first play was crucial, as it deprived them of a drive that could have given them an early lead. Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz were enabled to make too many receptions in crucial situations by the Patriots’ defense. On New England’s final drive, the receivers dropped at least four passes that would have moved the Patriots into scoring range. Sure, if Gronkowski is healthy, he probably dives and grabs the final Hail Mary in the end zone and makes a few more plays throughout the game, but Brady should never have been forced to make that throw in the first place.
The fact is, however, that these mistakes only highlight the deeper problems that have plagued this Patriots team, namely the lack of a deep threat and a weakness at corner. The lack of the ability to throw it deep allowed the Giants to relax a bit in their coverage. They knew, for the most part, the general area in which Brady would put the ball and that allowed them to stay shallower than they would have, which also helped against the run (the Patriots’ run game was decent behind Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis). A deep threat would not only have helped the run game, but would have opened up the middle for Welker, Hernandez and Gronkowski. Chad Ochocinco was supposed to fill that role, but he never panned out and likely won’t return to the team next season.
On the other side of the ball, the corner position must be addressed. The weak play of the Pats’ corners forced the Patriots to relax their pass rush to give the corners help in coverage. That meant that the safeties, particularly Patrick Chung, were usually stuck back in coverage when they should have been rushing. Sterling Moore once again made some great plays and could be a starter for the Patriots next season, but it was not enough.
That really is all that can be said about the game. The Giants played well but were not spectacular. The Pats offensive line did well against the vaunted Giants’ pass rush, and Manning, though he made plays, still put up some very questionable throws. In the end it came down to the play of the Giants receivers, who made big plays when Manning needed them to and did not drop passes in crucial situations, like the Patriots did. The Giants played a cleaner game, and for that they earned another Lombardi Trophy.
Despite the loss, this is not the end for Brady and Belichick. They will be back in the Super Bowl, and soon. In fact, I could see them there as early as next season, and I say that without any trace of bias.
Assuming they resign Welker, which will happen unless the front office goes entirely insane, all they need to solidify their team is to find a deep threat and a decent corner or two. Both of those needs can be easily addressed through free agency or the draft, and I believe that they will be and that next season, barring injuries, we may see one of the best Patriots teams in recent memory.
You know what? I’ll call it right now: The New England Patriots will win Super Bowl XLVII and Brady will finally get that elusive fourth ring.