GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Sports history is full of footnotes that turn into headlines…
Xs and O's
QUARTERBACKS Eli Manning completed nine-of-14 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns during the Giants' three fourth-quarter drives. Manning moved up in the pocket to avoid ROLB Adalius Thomas' grasp, spun away from converging RDE Richard Seymour and RDT Jarvis Green, moved backward three yards and set his feet to get enough on a deep throw to WR David Tyree, whose incredible catch moved the Giants 32 yards, to the Patriots' 24, with 59 seconds left in the game. Bottom Line: Manning out-Bradyed Brady. RUNNING BACKS RB Brandon Jacobs adeptly picked up SS Rodney Harrison's well-disguised blitz to give Manning just enough time to find Burress for what emerged as a Super Bowl-winning, 13-yard touchdown toss, with 35 seconds left in the game. But only two of Jacobs' 14 rushes went for first downs. Bottom Line: Ahmad Bradshaw was their most reliable back in the postseason. WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS WR David Tyree out-leaped Harrison, showed strength and concentration in pressing the football to his helmet as Harrison dragged him down and somehow managed to keep the football from hitting the ground, even as he landed awkwardly on Harrison's thigh. Tyree's remarkable reception, on a third-and-five play from the Giants' 44, went for 32 yards and put the Giants in prime position to score the game-winning touchdown. TE Kevin Boss blew by Thomas and Harrison to make a reception, slipped Harrison's attempted arm tackle and gained 45 yards on the second play of the fourth quarter. Boss' catch advanced the Giants to New England's 35, and Tyree caught a go-ahead, five-yard touchdown five plays later. Bottom Line: Tyree could've won game MVP honors. OFFENSIVE LINE LG Rich Seubert overpowered RDT Rashad Moore and simultaneously helped block MLB Tedy Bruschi to create the hole Jacobs basically fell through to gain a critical first down on a fourth-and-one play from the Giants' 37, with about 90 seconds left in the game. LT David Diehl couldn't get out of his stance fast enough to prevent Thomas from running right around him and stripping Manning on a third-and-four play from the Patriots' 25 late in the second quarter. They punted two plays after the seven-yard sack and an ensuing Bradshaw penalty (a 10-yard illegal bat) moved them back to New England's 39. Bottom Line: Manning mostly operated on Brady time in the pocket. DEFENSIVE LINE LDT Jay Alford used his speed to beat RG Russ Hochstein up the middle for a 10-yard sack of QB Tom Brady that backed the Patriots into an extremely difficult third-and-20 situation from their own 16, with only 10 seconds remaining in the game. LDE Michael Strahan's speed advantage was even more noticeable around the midway mark of the third quarter, when Strahan blew by RT Nick Kaczur and dropped Brady for a pivotal, six-yard sack that pushed the Patriots into a fourth-and-13 predicament from the Giants' 31. New England turned the ball over on downs after the following play. Bottom Line: They took turns battering Brady throughout the rematch. LINEBACKERS MLB Antonio Pierce practically tackled TE Ben Watson, who was open over the middle of the end zone on a third-and-10 play from the Giants' 17 late in the first quarter. Pierce's pass interference penalty gave New England the ball first-and-goal from the Giants' 1 and the Patriots pulled ahead 7-3 two plays later. Bottom Line: They were instrumental in pressuring Brady and limiting Laurence Maroney again (14 carries, 36 yards). DEFENSIVE BACKS RCB Corey Webster got his left fingertips up just in time to deflect what would've been a game-changing, 63-yard catch by WR Randy Moss, with about 10 seconds left in the game. Had Moss been allowed to catch the ball, the Patriots could've called a timeout and attempted a 29-yard field goal that would've tied the game (17-17). On the Patriots' previous series, Webster was covering Moss one-on-one on a third-and-goal play from the Giants' 6 and made the mistake of backpedaling as Moss moved into his break. Webster slipped, which allowed a wide-open Moss to catch a touchdown that helped put the Patriots in front 14-10, with just 2:42 left in the game. Bottom Line: Webster was extremely effective on Moss. SPECIAL TEAMS Backup WLB Zak DeOssie stuck Maroney at the Patriots' 26, limiting him to just a 17-yard kickoff return and leaving the Patriots with unfavorable field position prior to their last drive of the game. P Jeff Feagles dropped two of his four punts inside New England's 20. Bottom Line: These units didn't factor much into the outcome of the game. COACHING Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo rotated his defensive linemen and attacked Brady from all angles, never allowing the usually untouchable quarterback to feel comfortable. Among other things, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride was rewarded for sticking with WR Steve Smith following a forgettable first half for the rookie. Bottom Line: This even made Tom Coughlin smile.
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