We welcome guest author Mike Schaedler for his thoughts on the greatest Super Bowl ever played.
In week 1, the Patriots crush the Jets 38-14. However, allegations arise that the Pats videotaped the Jets’ sideline. Spygate begins. Bill Belichick is fined $500,000, the franchise another $250,000 (I believe). Belichick says they’ll forget about it and move on. Hmmm. A team with Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Bill Belichick surely wouldn’t have egos too astronomical to run up the score on everyone they can in an act of revenge, would they? Oh wait.
The Patriots take out their frustrations on the rest of the league with a complete lack of class and sportsmanship because they were caught cheating. Week after week, they win by 10+, 20+, 30+, even 40+ points, going for touchdowns on fourth down in field goal range when already ahead by the largest of these margins and keeping their starters in until the bitter end. Is this really necessary against teams like the Dolphins? Tom Brady screams at his receivers and offensive linemen (for whom he’s hideously ungrateful) as well as the officials whenever something minor happens, such as a false start with a huge lead in the fourth quarter or a dropped ball that was thrown poorly. Belichick has the arrogance to say “We played alright” after clearly dominating a game.
While I suffer through meaningless stories about them every day on Sportscenter, the Pats go on to have the greatest regular season of all time, going 16-0 (first team ever to do so in a regular season), breaking records for points and touchdowns with a record for touchdown tosses by Tom Brady (50) and touchdown receptions by Randy Moss (23. It should be noted that Jerry Rice’s old record of 22 was done in only 12 games). They also have a seventh ranked defense. All signs point to a 19-0 Super Bowl Championship season.
Then they met the New York Giants.
The G-men gave the Pats the biggest scare of their season in week 17, having a lead most of the game but losing 38-35. The Pats D looked sluggish as they gave up more points than they did all season. Per usual, Randy Moss, the Patriots’ most talented player, bails out Tom Brady and the rest of the team by running deep with his blazing speed so that Tom Brady can throw it as far as he can for the tallest man down the field to pluck out of the air for the lead. The Giants’ performance was deemed a fluke, and I lost all faith in mankind because a team so evil was granted such good fortune.
The Patriots calmly dispatch the Jaguars and the Chargers in the AFC playoffs to reach another Superbowl. Meanwhile, the Giants KEEP WINNING TOUGH ROAD GAMES. They go into the postseason with the most sacks in the league and one of the greatest D-lines ever. They beat Tampa Bay and the scrappy Jeff Garcia at home. They beat the superstar-laden Cowboys at home and even make Terrell Owens cry. Then they play the toughest game of the 2007-08 postseason for any team, going to Green Bay in below-zero weather. They win in overtime on a Lawrence Tynes field goal after the defense hung tough and intercepted Brett Favre, statistically the greatest and toughest quarterback of all time. Eli Manning has a quarterback rating in the postseason of better than 115 at this point and is finally escaping his older brother’s shadow. Tom Brady looked a bit seasoned against the Chargers with a QB rating of 66.4 and 3 picks. Despite all of this, the Giants are two touchdown underdogs.
Anyone who knows anything about football knows that momentum is key. This is why the Giants should not have been discredited so badly. Did I think they would win? I did not. Did I think they could win? Absolutely. Did I think they’d lose by 12 or more? Not a chance with the way Brady played against the Chargers with his minor ankle injury and the way the Giants had been performing in the most intimidating settings. This meant that the G-men would not be fazed by the Patriots’ perfection. This is evidenced in Plaxico Burress’ prediction of a 23-17 Giants victory. I liked this, because any competitive player should choose only his own team to win. Tom Brady had a laugh at this, asking “We’re only gonna score 17 points? Okay. Is Plax playing defense?” Tom, don’t you think that’s possible against those who are playing defense for the Giants? Don’t you think you ought to respect this D-line before the big game so they don’t level you 23 times? Nah, never mind. You’re Tom Brady and you play for the perfect 18-0 Patriots. Respect and sportsmanship don’t apply to you.
(Side note: Before the Superbowl, more allegations of the Pats’ cheating ways came to light. They were accused of videotaping the Rams’ walkthrough in Superbowl XXXVI. They won this game despite being 14 point underdogs. Hmmm…)
There was one person who really did deserve to win this game, and that was Michael Strahan. 15 loyal hall-of-fame caliber seasons with the Giants and a Super Bowl XXXV loss was the closest he had gotten to football’s ultimate triumph. He and Amani Toomer were the only players left from that team. So it was either two very deserving players and a tough, hardworking team, or a group of pompous professional athletes who run up scores with a quarterback who makes sure he greets Pat O’Brien during the player introductions instead of getting pumped with his team.
The big game finally comes, and three quarters into it, it’s only a 7-3 Patriots lead. Eli guides the G-men to the lead with a TD pass to David Tyree early in the quarter. New York is pumped. However, plenty of time remains for Tom Brady, and you could be watching Bills vs. Browns in week 4 of the 2034 season and you’ll hear some crap about how heroic and attractive Tom Brady is. So the script follows suit, as Tom Brady leads the Pats downfield, throwing a TD pass to Randy Moss like everyone thought he would have done 6 times in this game by now. Next I said something that no Pats fan would have been intimidated by before this game: “Eli Manning has plenty of time, though.”
3rd and 5 in their own territory, and it looks as though Eli will get sacked by several Patriots when he somehow scrambles his way out of it and throws a deep ball to David Tyree (who IS this guy?) who proceeds to pin the ball against its helmet and secure the catch. It’s so fitting that this, possibly the greatest play and catch in Superbowl history, was done against Rodney Harrison, a safety that seems to be unanimously hated by the rest of the NFL for his late hits and roid-raging demeanor. Another first down later, Eli Manning throws a pass on a fade route to Plaxico Burress that, as soon as it was thrown, was a sure score. The man who predicted victory against the NFL’s most evil team backs up his words. Meanwhile, Tom Brady has yet to back up his sarcasm and disrespect to the Giants defense as the Pats are down 17-14 and only 35 seconds left. On the Pats ensuing drive, one of the most memorable and gratifying quarterback sacks ever takes place, as Tom Brady is absolutely bulldozed by Jay Alford, who takes Brady off of his feet and drills him to the ground. Poetic justice after Brady’s remarks. On fourth down, Brady’s 75 yard pass to Moss sails incomplete with 1 second left. Giants’ ball.
Now, coaches aren’t supposed to leave until the game is over, right? Well, I guess if there’s still one second left in your perfection then you can do whatever you want. The whole country sees the classlessness of Belichick, who rushes off the field as early as possible once the game is closed out and he’s shaken Tom Coughlin’s hand. The Giants kneel on the ball after this and end the game. The Pats coach was like a little kid crying in a hoodie that doesn’t fit. Complete disrespect to the Giants and the game of football.
Now it was all over with an ending that nobody except the Giants and a few of their faithful fans expected. The coach whose team had been through so much adversity (NY media scrutiny of Eli, Strahan holding out in the preseason, Coughlin’s job on the line) triumphs over the coach who cheats, lies and exhibits no class week after week. The young quarterback who is engaged to his college sweetheart triumphs over the arrogant diva with the supermodel girlfriend and illegitimate child. The league’s biggest jerk, Rodney Harrison, is on the wrong side of possibly the most significant play in Superbowl history. Belichick’s actions after (I’m sorry – during) the game in front 97.5 million viewers prove everything that was said about him and his team’s lack of class and sportsmanship. The team that runs up the score on all the less talented teams in some strange form of revenge after they cheated comes so close to being the greatest franchise ever but ultimately chokes at the end, losing the only game that matters and becoming just another team. Who’d have thought imperfection could be so perfect?
Ladainian Tomlinson was right about the Patriots when criticizing them in last year’s playoffs. To quote Dan Stack, “Attitude is a reflection of leadership,” and this is evidenced in the Pats’ repulsive attitude from top to bottom all throughout the 2007 season. Meanwhile, the Giants came together at the right time with the right attitude and their defense dominated their way to a Super Bowl XLII Championship. There is no doubt that the Giants deserved to win this game. It was done by physical domination and no controversy. (One Pats fan suggested to me that the game was rigged and noted the huge gambling losses in Vegas. I have one piece of evidence to disprove this hilarious statement: Eli Manning to David Tyree. You can’t stage that).
There was no doubt about the Pats’ talent, just their attitude. But for me, something was proven about Tom Brady in this game. He had a year unlike any other quarterback ever. People argue that this makes him the best ever. No chance. He’s not even the league’s best quarterback right now. Give Peyton Manning that kind of protection and those receivers, he’ll do better and he’ll appreciate his offensive line at that. Furthermore, you’ll never see Brady on the sidelines as an offensive coordinator when he’s not playing. Peyton can do this (i.e. – week 17) because his knowledge of the game is also superior to Brady’s. He may not break the records though, because Tony Dungy doesn’t feel the need to run up the score on hapless teams like the Dolphins and cheat against teams like my struggling Jets, both legitimate sources contributing to Brady and Moss’ records. In Superbowl XLII, Brady’s protection was compromised (knocked down 23 times including 5 sacks) and he had a mediocre game with a QB rating of 82.5 compared to 117.2 on the season, another perfect fact about this perfect game. Brady is, to a large extent, a product of his team’s system. Peyton Manning is not. And neither is Eli.
Super Bowl XLII was the greatest football game I’ve ever watched, beating Texas vs. USC in the Rose Bowl 2 years ago, and it rivals Michael Jordan’s last game as a Chicago Bull as the most memorable sporting event I’ve ever seen. Sure, it could have used more points in the first few quarters, but the storylines leading up to this game, the New York Giants’ defense and the fourth quarter and outcome make it the best in my book. The right team won, and the team that lost deserved it. Good beat evil. Super Bowl XLII was an example of Karma at its very best. It was perfect.