By Wesley Kaminsky
Let me start by saying I’m not a Patriots fan. I’m an Eagles fan. I’m merely an angry, bitter, disgusted Eagles fan who has tasted playoff failure for my entire life. I’ve witnessed the Eagles lose in four NFC championship games, and one Super Bowl. I was in attendance in Jacksonville during that Super Bowl XXXIX loss to the Patriots. I haven’t tasted a Super Bowl victory, and neither have any Eagles fans. Instead, I’ve had to suffer through watching the Giants win two Super Bowls in the last four years. I didn’t sign up for this.
I’ve taken a couple of days to reflect on what took place in Indianapolis on Sunday night. The more I think about it, the more I cannot believe the Patriots lost.
The more I realize how lucky the Giants got.
The more I realize how Tom Brady blew it. The Golden Boy.
The more I realize that the Giants shouldn’t have even made the playoffs in the first place.
Blah. Blah. Blah.
I’ll take you back to Week 14 to start. The Giants trailed the Cowboys 34-22 with just under six minutes to play in Dallas. A loss there and the Giants could virtually kiss their season good bye and start preparing for next year. After an Eli Manning touchdown strike to Jake Ballard, the lead was down to five with 3:14 seconds left (Cowboys ball). On a 3rd and five play from their own 25-yard-line, Tony Romo missed a wide open Miles Austin that would have sealed the game, and the Giants season together. The Giants would then go on to score a touchdown the next drive and their season was rejuvenated. Thanks for that, Tony Romo.
Nearly two months later, the Giants found themselves in the Super Bowl as they made the most of their second life. I won’t even get started on how Kyle Williams saved the Giants, and how on earth the 49ers couldn’t intercept balls that were all but gift wrapped by Eli Manning. No, I don’t want to get into that.
The Giants had an opportunity to do the impossible: Beat Tom Brady in a Super Bowl for a second time. After starting out his career an incredible 10-0 in the playoffs, Brady has appeared human, as he is just 6-6 in his past 12 playoff games. This was the first year Brady had won a playoff game since the near perfect season that was ruined by the Giants. Four years later, Eli Manning ruined Brady’s season again.
Things could not have gotten off to a worse start for the Patriots. On their first offensive play, Brady was called for intentional grounding in the end-zone, resulting in a safety. On the Giants next possession, they were moving the ball at will, but on a third and three play from the Patriots 11 yard line Victor Cruz fumbled, saving the Patriots.
But wait. The Patriots had 12 men on the field, resulting in a first down Giants. Two plays later, Manning found Cruz again, this time for a touchdown. Giants 9, Patriots 0.
Lucky break number one for the Big Blue.
Trailing 9-3, Tom Brady would then go on to complete his next 16 passes, finding Danny Woodhead and Aaron Hernandez in the end-zone, as the Patriots led 17-9 with 11:25 remaining in the fourth quarter. Little did anybody know, but those would be the final points of the game that the Patriots scored.
The Patriots defense did its part, continuously shutting down the Giants in the red zone. They led 17-15 at the end of the third quarter. Tom Brady was a quarter away from Super Bowl number four and sweet revenge. After a Tom Brady interception, Ahmad Bradshaw followed to cough up the football at the Giants own eight yard line, from which the Patriots failed to recover.
Lucky break number two.
With neither team being able to move the ball down the field, the Patriots had a chance to seal the deal, up two points, with 4:40 seconds left at the Giants 43 yard line. Tom Coughlin had already blown two time-outs, and the Patriots were a few first downs away from winning this thing. Please god.
Then, on second and 11, Brady saw a wide open Wes Welker in a play that Patriots fans will remember forever. The only problem was Brady missed him a little bit, and Welker couldn’t reel it in. Yes, the same Wes Welker who seems like he has never dropped a pass in his career. How could this be? The next play, Brady couldn’t connect with Deion Branch and it was Giants football with 3:46 remaining at their own 12.
Lucky break number three.
Just like he’s been doing all season long, Eli Manning delivered when his team needed him to. On 1st down, he hit Mario Manningham on a 38-yard pass. Manning was cooking. The Patriots were dead.
With 1:04 left in the game, Ahmad Bradshaw rumbled into the end-zone giving the Giants the lead for good. It was Deja Vu all over again. Give me a damn break.
Tom Brady needed to go 80 yards with 57 seconds left and one timeout.
They needed a miracle. They needed Tim Tebow.
Brady simply didn’t get it done in the fourth quarter. On first down he threw it behind a wide open Deion Branch, epitomizing the rough quarter he had. After a Hail Mary attempt fell just short, the 9-7 Giants were hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in four years. Eli Manning had beaten Tom Brady for the third straight time, and the Patriots were left wondering how they let this one slip away.
Many will point to the Wes Welker drop as the key play. And let’s face it, Brady and Welker make the pitch and catch 9 times out of 10. That’s not going to make Patriot fans feel any better about it though.
As a Tom Brady fan and Giants hater, this one stung me. I shouldn’t care this much about it but I do. The Patriots simply had this game and couldn’t execute when they needed to.
I give Eli Manning and the Giants credit, but I can’t help but think that this Super Bowl run was more of sheer luck. Unfortunately you can’t play the “What If” game in sports though, and that’s why the Giants are World Champions.
For now, forgive me while I go hibernate and stop watching SportsCenter for a while. All I ask is that one of these years I get to witness the joy of seeing my team win a title.
Please, if there is a god, I’m ready to see the Eagles do the impossible. Right now it just seems like a far- fetched dream.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.