The Upset!

ElimanningIn the words of legendary broadcaster Dick Enberg, Oh my!! It would be a cliche to single out last nights N.Y Giants win as one of Gigantic proportions, but it is!  It just is!  I’ve been watching Super Bowls since Super Bowl 10, or as far as I can remember.  That game pitted a Dallas Cowboys team with 12 rookies against a dominating powerhouse Pittsburgh Steelers who many regard as the greatest team ever!  Like this year’s Giants, the Cowboys came in as a wild card and nearly pulled off the improbable.  During their playoff run, Dallas went into a frigid Metropolitan Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings and with the help of the original "Hail Mary" pass from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson, upset an outstanding Vikings club.  After destroying the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship, the Cowboys landed in the most improbable of situations, a Super Bowl matchup against the Steelers and their vaunted "Steel Curtain" defense!  Alas, it was not to be as the Steelers proved to be just too tall a mountain for the Cowboys to scale.  Their effort was valiant, but not quite enough in a 21-17 loss.  As a 9 year old Cowboys fan, it was a difficult loss to take, but reflecting back over the years, I’m proud of that "rebuilding" team and the incredible run they made.
As incomprehensible as that run was, this one that the Giants took was even more so !  Like that ’75 Cowboys team, they were also a wild card, but they had to win 3 games on the road in the playoffs as opposed to 2 for Dallas!  Yes, the Cowboys had to knock of a great Minnesota team in a pre-dome nasty cold environment, but the Giants had to knock off this year’s Dallas Cowboys, the number one seed, and then go into the coldest of all colds! They had to go into Lambeau Field in sub-zero conditions and beat the Green Bay Packers!  Finally, they had to defeat an 18-0 team vying for history in the New England Patriots!  This Patriots team with their 3 Lombardi Trophies in 5 years coached by everyone’s current "genious" coach, Bill Belichick and quarterbacked by everyone’s Hall of Fame superstud in Tom Brady!

This Patriots team of 2007 is the highest scoring team in NFL history.  Tom Brady threw for the most touchdowns in a single season ever!  Randy Moss caught the most td passes in a single season ever!  The Pats outscored the opponents by 18 points per game for the entire regular season! To solidify their case for greatness, they beat the best opponents the NFL could send their way.  Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Jacksonville, Dallas, even the Giants! Any debate of their greatness has centered on their comparison to past great teams like those 1970’s Steelers, 1972 Miami Dolphins, 1980’s San Francisco 49’ers, and 1990’s Dallas Cowboys.  You might not have considered them the greatest, but you had to allow them into the conversation.  But not many would have talked about their Super Bowl opponent in the same manner.

The Giants proved that the old adage of "defense wins championships" rings hauntingly true to New England.  Granted, great offenses have been champions, but rarely without a stingy defense.  Even the explosive 49’ers and Cowboys team I mentioned had top tier defenses.  The Giants proved that their defense is made from the same fabric of past champions!  They held a team to 14 points even though this same team hadn’t scored under 20 all year, and averaged 36 throughout the regular season.  In my mind, this is the greatest defensive performance in Super Bowl history!  As a Cowboys fan, I remember the defensive domination of Super Bowl 12 as Dallas destroyed Denver and two defensive players were named co-mvps for the first time.  Likewise, there could have been co-mvp’s from the Giants.  The problem is that there are too many players to consider.  The elected MVP, Eli Manning, however gets no opposition from me.  Not only did he outduel his QB counterpart in the 4th quarter, but he pulled off the single greatest play in Super Bowl history as he inexplicably escaped a furious New England pass rush, and for a brief moment resembled Tony Romo or Steve Young.  The Houdini act resulted in a 32 yard catch by David Tyree who performed a little of his own magic in leaping into the air to snag the ball between his hand and helmet eventually falling to the ground with ball firmly entrenched between two hands without ever bringing it into his body! 
That play falls short of the Staubach-Pearson catch in regard to post-season greatness, but it must be considered to be the greatest of any Super Bowl!  It wasn’t a touchdown, but it was a 3rd down situation that required miraculous efforts by two players, Manning and Tyree!
Of course, there were more than a few key plays in the winning drive including a 4th and 1 conversion from their own 30, and a key 1st down sideline catch by Steve Smith on a 3rd and 11. 

To me, the most amazing thing about the winning drive was simply the resolve of the Giants team.  When Brady drove his team methodically down the field appearing to have finally solved the Giants defensive puzzle resulting in a Randy Moss touchdown, nearly everyone, myself included, felt this was it! After Moss’ touchdown, the cameras cut away to see Pats Linebacker Tedy Bruschi hugging and patting fellow veteran Junior Seau as if to say "this is it, let’s stop them one more time, and then you will get your ring."   No way did anyone think, even with 2:35 and 3 timeouts remaining, were the Giants and Eli Manning up to the task of winning.  This looked like the other Pats Super Bowl wins and Brady looked Montana-esque!  With a fourth and one from their own 30 and 1:40 left, the Giants appeared to have run out of steam.  If they don’t convert, then they are left with the task of stopping New England one more time and exhausting their timeouts.  In all probability, New England would have made first down and sealed the win or kick a field goal at best, and the Giants would have no timeouts and a lengthy field.  But none of that ever came about as Brandon Jacobs bulled ahead for the first down. 

After the last pass of the drive, a 13 yard face to Plaxico Burress, put the Giants ahead, the Pats and Brady still had 3 timeouts and 30 seconds to get into field goal range.  Tom Brady could have vaulted himself above Montana with one more drive, but the Giants Defense stepped up huge!  After a first down incompletion, Brady was sacked for a 10 yard loss.  That was followed by a sensational pass defense way down the field to Moss.  Moss is known for coming down with the ball down the field amidst multiple defenders, but this time Corey Webster reached up and tipped it harmlessly to the ground.  One more incompletion to Moss, and this game was history!  And what history it is!

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