Super Bowl XLII – The Horror, The Horror . . .
What. The. Hell?
OK. So maybe it isn’t all that mysterious.
The bottom line is that the Giants simply played better. That’s right, and the good news is that this was actually a good game. It wasn’t decided by horrific penalties. Or flukes. Nobody was injured. And the decision wasn’t really certain until the very end. It was a really good game to watch.
Well, unless you were a Patriots fan. Not so much because they lost, but because of how they played. Well, that isn’t completely accurate either. The defense held the Giants to only 17 points. Against this Patriots offense, that should have been more than enough. With Brady, Moss, Welker, Stallworth, Faulk, and Maroney … surely they should be able to score more than 17 points. Right?
But before we dissect where the biggest guns to come from Boston since they stopped making battleships up in New Bedford went wrong, lets just take a gander at the defense.
Harrison was everywhere. Merriweather did a pretty decent job for a rookie in his first Super Bowl. Hobbs will catch heat for getting beat a couple of times, but what defensive coordinator leaves 5’9″ Hobbs one-on-one with Plaxico Burress in crucial situations? Or was it a blown coverage? Hobbs did have an interception and laid some pretty solid hits on people. I really have a tough time blaming the kid. I’m sure there are those who disagree. (As it turns out, he played injured the last part of the season and the playoffs, and is going in for surgery.)
The front seven did a great job against the run and getting to Manning (no, the other one). But Eli proved as elusive a target as Saddam did for so many years and, to be fair, he worked some magic that was quite frankly beyond what his brother could manage. Anyway, the defensive front was strong.
Bottom line is the defense did their job, despite giving up a late touchdown.
The offense, however … the line was beaten like a gong. All season long the Patriots offensive line more or less controlled things. If they couldn’t break open the lanes for Maroney, at least they protected Brady so he could pick defenses apart.
Not Sunday night. Brady was pressured, hit, and sacked from the get go. And it clearly affected his game. Maybe they had so many blow-outs that he wasn’t used to it anymore, or maybe his ankle was worse off than they let on. Who knows for sure. Brady kept over-throwing his receivers. More so later in the game than earlier, but he was not the pin-point accurate quarterback we’d watched for almost the entire season.
Most of the offensive skill players you’d expect to shine did so. Kevin Faulk put in his usual gutsy performance. Lawrence Maroney did his best and ran hard, but never got the blocking he really needed. Wes Welker was dazzling and seemed like the only receiver who was really trying.
The rest of the offense … maybe they were out golfing in Scottsdale – or stayed up too late at the strip club the night before. Moss barely was visible until the fourth quarter. Stallworth was likewise quiet. Same with Gaffney. Same with the tight ends. Same with the fullbacks. Where was everyone?
One has to ask, though, was it really the fault of the players? How could this many of the skill players be silent? Sure, you kind of expect Moss to be doubled – but shouldn’t that leave someone open?
– George S. Patton
Yeah, you’d think so. Unless the game plan is so predictable – to the point of arrogance – that it was easy for the Giants to deal with. With so much talent, maybe McDaniels figured they could just overpower the Giants with it. But that didn’t work, and McDaniels has demonstrated over the last two seasons that, while he’s great at managing blow-outs, when things do not go well he runs out of answers.
They ran only a few screens. There were no fancy plays – no reverses – nothing. Nothing to throw the Giants off. They didn’t go with three tight ends to play power ball. They did nothing to free up Moss. They just kept hoping Faulk and Welker could keep moving the chains.
The offense lacked creativity. And it lacked fire. The Giants are a good team which almost beat the Patriots the last week of the regular season, but the offense came out almost as if they were playing the present-day Dolphins or Jets.
There is just no way that an offensive coordinator like Charlie Weiss would have let the offense go out for four quarters playing that poorly and predictably. Josh McDaniels is no Charlie Weiss, and it showed on Sunday. Maybe some day he will become that good, but right now he is not.
As for the New York Giants. They played one hell of a great game. Their defense came out on fire and the offense played tough. As much as I dislike seeing a Manning win – especially since it means more horrific television commercials from that family – you have to feel good for Manning The Younger coming out of the shadow of both his older brother and his father – and out from under the guns of the New York media. Eli Manning is at least more deserving of accolades that Tony Romo. Lord.
And Tom Coughlin, he’s a product of New England who switched to The Dark Side. But there’s Yankee blood in him so, hey, it’s not so bad. At least it wasn’t The Tuna who won.
Why We Really Lost
As I said before, the defense did its job. Not as well as last year, but still well enough to win the game.
When the Patriots lost the AFC Championship game last season there was a decision to be made. Either stick with an offensive coaching staff which favored the passing game, or bring in someone new who could orchestrate a balanced attack. Some combination of Kraft, Belichick, and Pioli opted for the former.
So they stocked up on wide receivers. An amazing array of talent.
– Dan Quayle
But they did not do much to replace Sammy Morris when he went down and the running game started to sputter. They didn’t bring Corey Dillon back – or find some veteran running back who was sitting around eating Cheezy-Poofs and would kill for a chance to play. They went for Kyle Eckel instead. A solid but far from game-breaking fullback.
David Thomas went down and they hardly made a move to reinforce the tight end position until the end of the season, further weakening the ground attack.
As as the ground attack weakened, teams started to figure out how to contain what was becoming a one-dimensional offense.
Compounding this was sticking with an offensive coordinator who had demonstrated that he would abandon the running game at the first signs of trouble.
The seeds for this loss were planted in the off-season. They were able to run up an 18-0 record, but couldn’t seal the deal for pretty much the same reason they didn’t go to the Big Game last season.
Sure, Brady played less than well. The offensive line was outplayed. There were any number of individual and positional failures. But sometimes one needs to step back and wonder why so many pieces of a well-oiled machine could fail on their own. The answer is they couldn’t. Responsibility for what happened falls higher up in the food chain.
I’m out in California, but from what I read most of the Boston area is living under a thick shit-cloud right now.
Somehow this loss does not feel as bad as the loss last year in the AFC Championship to the Colts. In that game the Patriots had won a tough game against the Chargers, flown back cross-country, and then faced the Colts at home after a short week. Oh, and a third of the team mysteriously came down with the flu just before the game.
And they were playing against Bill Polian’s team and a Manning. That game felt so rigged, so doomed from the outset, that it was almost a miracle they hung as tough as they did. Only to be robbed at the end.
This Super Bowl was different. The Giants played better, pure and simple. The Patriots could have won, and maybe should have won, but did not win. Not because of a bad call, or a certain NFL owner orally gratifying NFL management, or all the other things that went wrong last year.
No, this year two good teams played and the Patriots just plain were beaten. Do I wish they’d won? Sure. Then we could be done with Shula and Morris and all those ’72 Dolphins. And we wouldn’t be seeing Mannings on TV commercials so often that they’re burned into the displays.
Maybe its the distance back to The Homeland, but I just can’t mourn the loss.
Where Do The Patriots Go From Here?
Well, this will be an interesting off-season. Some of the veterans are facing a tough decision. Troy Brown almost certainly will leave. There are simply too many receivers on this team now and Wes Welker does everything Troy can do. Hopefully they keep Troy around as a coach.
Junior Seau may or may not come back for one more try. Maybe getting this close to a championship was enough, or maybe he figures it’s worth one more year as long as he’s having fun – and he is having fun. Lots of it. Rodney Harrison has battled injuries the last couple of years and one could easily see where he could decide to call it quits – especially if Junior does.
– Jim Morrison (“Thank you, O Lord”)
Tedi Bruschi still has some gas in the tank, but age is catching up with him as well. It is hard to say how much longer he intends to play. Asante Samuel is as good as gone, but since he didn’t have much of a season by comparison to last year he may be more amenable to a deal.
Either way, some rebuilding of the linebacking and secondary is going to be needed. The coaching is solid, while there were a few breakdowns during the season, and the defense wasn’t as good as the year before, there really wasn’t much to fault overall.
There will be some decisions to be made about which wide receivers to keep. I can’t see them letting Moss go. Welker is a lock. But Stallworth, Gaffney, Washington, and Jackson are all in play. I tend to think Gaffney will stick – he comes at a bargain price and Does His Job. Stallworth has shown flashes of brilliance, but has not been consistent. And he will be expensive. Kelley Washington turned into a standout on Special Teams and that always has a special place in Belichick’s heart. I can see them letting Stallworth go and promoting Washington.
Chad Jackson – who knows? Two seasons and he hasn’t produced. Of course, this year he didn’t get much of a chance to. And there’s still Bam Childress sitting on the practice squad. Who they may need to make a decision on this season one way or another.
Maroney came on strong late in the season, but he hasn’t shown himself to be a real power running back. Assuming Sammy Morris comes back next season from injury, the running game should be alright – but it may still be worth looking for either an under-appreciated free agent, or a gem in the draft.
Tight End is suddenly a concern. Ben Watson under-performed this year – probably in some part due to Moss and Welker doing so well. But he still drops too many balls. Hopefully David Thomas comes back from injury. Kyle Brady … uh … just how old is he anyway? The tight end position is pretty important to the Patriots style of offense, so look for some moves to be made.
The offensive line needs some patching up after their showing against the Giants, and lets leave it at that.
The coaching staff for the offense needs to be looked at. As mentioned before, McDaniels – while probably a fine QB’s coach and a favorite of Tom Brady – simply has not been up to the task. Last year’s AFCC showed almost no ground game in the second half. And this year’s Super Bowl showed no creativity in getting the star players involved in the offense. Something needs to change. Bottom line is that when McDaniels gets into trouble he tries to dump the ball off to a 3rd down back or a slot receiver and everything else goes out the window. That’s a dangerous tendency for a Super Bowl contender.
In thinking things over for another day, it occurred to me that there is a man from New York who bares some blame for Sunday’s horrible, unthinkable outcome.
A man who turned his back on The Family and then had the unmitigated gall to not only bite the hand that fed it, but then take a big steamy dump in it to make the point.
I speak of Eric “Mangina” Mangini. The “head coach” who started the whole SpyGate fiasco, rather than just accept that he sucks as a head coach and got beat in the season opener.
Were it not for this rapacious scum-waffle, the Patriots wouldn’t have been nearly so dead-set on going 16-0. Wouldn’t have been so hooked on setting records. And wouldn’t have had nearly the pressure to win put on them by the media and the league sycophants who also hate losing to Belichick and the Patriots.
Sure, the team set all kinds of records. And it will be a while before a team goes from opening day to the Super Bowl without losing a game. But the real prize was pissed away because the team was, at some level, too deep into Bunker Mode to see what was going on.
The starters weren’t well rested enough. The offense started to believe its own hype. The coaching staff just gave up on things like planning and creativity. The defense got lazy because they could count on the offense to blow the other team out if need be (yes, Asante, you should have caught that Manning pass and secured the win, instead of doing your Reche Caldwell impression).
Had they just decided to cruise through the last few weeks, they might have only gone 14-2 – certainly enough to maintain home-field advantage. They probably would have still set their records for Moss and Brady. But the veterans would have only played half the game. The back-ups and rookies would have gotten some valuable playing time. There would have been some chances to see what the other running backs and receivers could really do against the first string.
But no. Mangini stomped his feet and ratted out the man who made him. And his boss as well, by proxy. And by doing so he changed the Natural Course of Events for the 2007 season forever.
That the league actually listened to and acted upon Mangini’s ravings – knowing full well that such espionage always has been part of the game – shows just how low things have sunk up there in Greed Central. Goodell thinks himself the George W. Bush of sports, but he seems more like Dan Quayle when viewed from a historical perspective.
Regardless, Patriots fans – being the fair-minded sort that we are – will have a tough time being upset with the New York Giants. They played well. They’re coached by a New Englander. Their Manning isn’t nearly the crybaby that the “other Manning” is. And they fought their way to the Super Bowl the same way the Patriots had done so many times.
But all that angst needs to be vented on someone from the Big Apple, and if you tilt your head just right and squint your eyes, its not hard to see that Mangini was – in some way – responsible for the Patriots losing Super Bowl 42.
So feel free to burn the rotund, no-talent, little back-stabber in effigy at any and all opportunities.
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