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Wes Welker, meet Asante Samuel.
When fans look back at the Giants' victory over the up-until-then undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl XLII four years ago, they remember Eli Manning's refusal to be sacked during the final drive and David Tyree's amazing fourth-down catch, secured with one hand pressing the football against his helmet. It was the injury-plagued Tyree's last catch in the NFL.
But perhaps even more important was Samuels' dropped interception. Earlier in what eventually became the game-winning, last-two-minute drive, Samuel had a championship in his hands and couldn't bring it in.
In the second half of the fourth quarter Sunday, Welker had the championship in his hands. Tom Brady had thrown him a 25-yard pass down the seam and Welker turned, left his feet and put up his mitts. The ball was in both of his hands before he failed to secure it and it bounced away. What would have been a huge first-down reception on the edge of the red zone instead became an incompletion and soon the Patriots were punting the ball back to the Giants with plenty of time for Manning to lead yet another game-winning drive.
Still, as good as Manning has been this entire season and postseason, driving at least, say, 55 yards at that point to at least secure a potential game-winning field goal attempt was a tall order. He needed a big play to shorten the field after taking over just outside his 10. He got one.
The drive ended with what will be the second most-remembered play - the Patriots letting Ahmad Bradshaw score to preserve as much time on the clock as possible for Tom Brady's last drive and Bradshaw complying against Eli Manning's orders.
Seeing as how Brady's ensuing drive was unsuccessful - in large part because of more hamhanded choking by his receivers that sent even Giselle Bundchen into a frenzy - history will note that Bill Belichick simply allowed the Giants to score the Super Bowl-winning touchdown.
It was not an unprecedented move, though. Mike Holmgren did the same thing in Super XXXII when he was coaching the Packers, though in that case Holmgren didn't even know what down it was.
In the end, even though the Patriots defense couldn't shut down the Giants offense when it mattered most, this loss was on the offense in general (only 17 points!) and Brady in particular.
Despite setting a Super Bowl record for consecutive completions in the middle of the game, Brady made some horribly unforgivable throws before and after. He had done the same thing against the Ravens the week before (two brutal interceptions) and that game would have been lost but for Lee Evans failing to hang onto a final-30-second touchdown pass (another massive incompletion in a massive game). Then, of course, Billy Cundiff missed the 32-yard field goal that would have sent the game to overtime.
Brady's terrible passes only resulted in one interception this time but it was a big one. The other gave the Giants a safety. That happened on his first toss of the game, a throw-away deep down the middle after he had failed to clear the tackle box during the extended time he had back in the pocket in his own end zone. An obvious intentional grounding flag was dropped and the safety was assessed.(Maybe this guy is his pal.)
The third-quarter pick was especially aggravating for Patriots fans because it happened on first-and-10. After Brady was pressured on that play and moved out of the pocket to his right, he tried to heave a deep ball to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was hobbled all game long by the after-effects of a high-ankle sprain (a nasty injury).
The ball was underthrown and the pick was made. The Giants soon drove down to one of the field goals that pulled them ever closer. The Patriots never again regained the momentum.
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Posted on Mar 24, 2017