Given the way these two teams were playing coming into this game, with the Giants' offense nearly as potent as the Patriots' and that the Giants' defense was capable of giving the Patriots problems, coupled with a Patriot defense that only scares Patriot fans, you had to think this was a terrible matchup for the Patriots. Given that background, if you were told that the Patriot defense would hold the Giants to 15 points with four minutes to go in the game and that the Giant defensive front would not harass Tom Brady during this game but that the Giants still won, I think you'd have said I was crazy. Tom Brady had a bad game. He refused to take a victory that was repeatedly offered to him.
Despite how he played, just one break going the Patriots' way in this game would have changed the outcome. I'm not saying all the luck went the Giants' way -- well, yes, I am. Even if I disregard the fact that the Giants fumbled three times but got away with them all, there's still the fact that they caught Tom Brady on a bad day. You couldn't ask for better luck than that.
The shoulda-coulda-woulda list from a Patriot fan standpoint will linger a long, long time.
- The intentional grounding call on the Patriots' first play of the game (more on that later), which results in a safety and two points for the Giants, as well as a punt and great field position for the Giants
- The offside penalty on the Patriots during that subsequent drive, which nullified the Pats recovering a Giant fumble, resulting in the Giants getting 7 points instead of none
- The Tom Brady interception in the 3rd quarter with the Patriots already up by 8 points (reminiscent of a similar interception in the end zone, taking 3 points off the board, in SB XLII) (also reminiscent of the interception he threw in this year's AFC Championship game that nearly cost them that game); we're driving and it's first down and he decides to throw a jump ball to a tight end with a bad ankle. On replay I have to think Brady was trying to throw that ball much deeper than it went. That's the only place where Gronkowski was open. The Giants take that interception and drive back down the field for a FG
- Except that wouldn't have happened if another fumble by the Giants didn't have eyes or the fact that Rob Ninkovich is offside on a 3rd down play where we stopped them. This one stands out in a big way. Obviously if we had recovered that fumble, it's a gift 3 points, maybe more and puts the game away; but even the offside gives us the ball back with good field position instead of them taking that lucky break and going down and scoring a FG
- Three Giant fumbles in this game that the Patriots never got. I've already covered two of them. The 3rd was a strip of a Giant receiver in Patriot territory. As the ball is coming out, there are four Patriot defenders five yards or less away toward the goal line and 3 Giant players at least five yards away all back in the other direction. Which way did the ball bounce when it came out? Toward the Giant players and nowhere near the Patriots. I can't remember if that's a drive where the Giants scored 3 or 7 but they did score.
- Despite all of the previous ones, they're moot if the "greatest QB of all time" does his job. The Patriots are up by two points with the ball and are driving toward Giant territory, burning time off the clock. Brady throws a bad pass to an open Welker, causing Wes to have to leap to his fullest while on the run and completely rotate around. Does Welker catch that ball 3/4 of the time anyway? Probably. But he was wide open and even a half-ass pass is easier to catch than that one. On the very next play he badly throws behind an open Deion Branch coming across the middle. The throw is so badly behind Branch that if we'd had any luck in this game, the defender would've been six inches closer to Branch and then run over him as Branch tried to stop to catch this ball. The result of these two bad throws at a minimum is stopping a Patriot drive that would've been first down within Giant territory with about 4 minutes to go in the game.
But it should have been and maybe still was irrelevant because somehow the Patriot defense holds the Giants to 7 points in the first half and the Patriots score a touchdown just before halftime to take a 10-9 lead. And then the Patriots get the ball first for the second half and drive down the field for a TD, going up by 8 points. They have the momentum and it looks like the Patriot D has the Giants stopped again, but for the aforementioned Ninkovich offside.
I'll wrap this up by using a comment I posted on Facebook last night, that maybe now (probably not) the Patriot fan base and sports media will finally get off Drew Bledsoe's back. Since the last Patriot Super Bowl victory, Tom Brady is something like 4 and 4 in the playoffs, with two one-and-outs in '09 and '10, a poor showing in this year's AFC Championship and two subpar performances in the last two Super Bowls, the latter two eminently winnable games that even a lesser QB would have won. These two would have truly put him at the top of the QB heap -- hell, even one of the two would've secured his legacy.