It’s not often one get the chance to witness history in the making but the third-deck 50-yard line seat at Super Bowl XLII, NY Giants vs. New England Patriots in Glendale, Arizona, presented just that. Why do I call this final drive by the Giants to win “The Greatest Drive In Super Bowl History“?
For several reasons.
First, the New England Patriots were on a roll and would have posted the first undefeated season in NFL History since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. And some of their players were reportedly in the stadium to witness the expected hand-off of greatness.
Second, most, especially New England Patriots fans, expected New York Giants Quarterback Eli Manning to screw up. It seems Eli, the younger brother of Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Peyton Manning, could not get out of his brothers skyscraper-high shadow. Plus, few gave him credit for the Giants march to Super Bowl XLII, pointing to the G-Men’s defense and running game, more than anything Manning did. Eli was a bit-player, rather than the star.
Third, while the Patriots arguably fooled around with the implementation of an arrogant deep passing game, all but forgetting the short passing game that got them that far, many in the stadium expected the Pats defense to save the day. The crowd around me – about 70 percent Pats fans – were making fun of Manning almost exclusively, chanting “Eli! Eli!” and expressing faith in their vaunted defense.
For a while, it looked like they were right.
The Giants were moving toward mid-field, and picking up a key 4th and 1 conversion on the Giants 38 yard line, but they seemed to be flirting with disaster rather than getting a big play. That changed when, on 3rd down and six yards to go, Manning, seemingly about to be sacked by Defensive End / Linebacker Adalius Thomas, somehow spun away, then rolled to his right, set his feet, and fired a pass toward the deep middle, and to since-retired wide receiver David Tyree.
Tyree, in making a catch that’s now part of history, and partially explains why he retired (how can you top that?), held the ball against his helmet as Patriots Safety Rodney Harrison brought him down.
Many call that catch the greatest in Super Bowl History. I agree and I was there to see it.
When the Giants set up shop at the New England Patriots 24 Yard Line, you could actually feel they were about to score, and that feeling was helped by Offensive Coordinator Kevin Glibride’s strategy of using his backs in underneath patterns, while the Giants receivers ran deep.
But then Gilbride found the right formation formula to get the Giants best pass-catcher Plaxico Buress one-on-one, and that was the same formation they used when their running back caught the ball out of bounds to set up the 1st down at the Pats 14.
But the difference was the Pats Defense.
On the pass to the running back, the Giants were in what’s called “Trips Right,” which is three receivers to the right, the running back closest in to the quarterback. On the opposite side was the wide receiver, Buress. But Plaxico was double covered by the cornerback and the safety, who moved to cover him, causing Manning to throw to the back (in the photo on the left).
But on 1st and 10 from the 14, the Pats Defense executed a costly change-up. They put the safety in a pre-snap blitz position and left Plaxico one-on-one against the Pats cornerback Ellis Hobbs (the photo on the right).
Buress took a quick slant-in move, then broke to the corner of the end-zone. Manning spotted him, really before the snap, and threw. The touchdown catch ended the greatest drive in Super Bowl history: 12 plays and 83 yards. And a performance that gave Manning the MVP award.
As you can see in the video, the Pats fans around me were stunned, and I went nuts. I could barely hold my camcorder!
And while the Pats did have time to possibly score, it didn’t happen.
The Best Of The NFL
This represents the best of the National Football League, and I thank the NFL for allowing me to present it to you here. This is what The Super Bowl is all about: people doing things you didn’t expect them to do on a giant stage.
Bring on Super Bowl 47!