In last week’s issue of The Tech, I wrote that Super Bowl XLII would be the “coronation of the greatest football team in history. … Patriots win, no-contest. New England is better in every facet of the game.” Well, clearly I was wrong.
If you knew me personally, you would have been shocked by what I wrote last week. I’ve cheered adamantly, often without restraint, against the Patriots ever since they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl three years ago. I’ve worn my Brian Westbrook jersey into Gillette Stadium, complained every time the Pats made a brilliant personnel decision, and joined the millions of fans asking for a better explanation of the outcome of Spygate.
But last week, feeling that I should start using reason when judging the Patriots, I suppressed my hatred and praised the Patriots for what they’ve become: the best team in the league, and perhaps the greatest team of all-time.
Don’t worry fellow Eagles fans — I’ll never make that mistake again.
According to Nielsen Media Research, 97.5 million people tuned in to watch the game Sunday night, making it the second most watched TV show in history. While most of those people were disappointed by the slow, low-scoring first three quarters, the ending was certainly not short of drama.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady led his offense down the field for a go-ahead touchdown with only 2:42 remaining. The short pass to wide receiver Randy Moss that looked so easy was meant to be a fitting end to a year where both players set all-time records for touchdowns in a season.
The Giants, however, wouldn’t quit. Eli Manning led an inspiring drive, using his feet to avoid defenders and making the big play when it mattered. His thirteen yard floater to Plaxico Burress in the corner of the end zone secured the lead — and eventually the win — for the Giants.
The Patriots failed to capitalize on a chance to make history, and their loss was the Giants’ gain. For Eli Manning, a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award to match his brother’s is only secondary to the ultimate prize of winning the championship. The confidence Manning showed in making big plays at big times should finally silence his critics (myself included) who before didn’t think he had the poise or skill to perform under pressure.
The other story of the night was the Giants defense. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defense put pressure on Brady all night, forcing rushed decisions and bad throws.
It’s no surprise that Spagnuolo trained under the direction of Jim Johnson, the Eagles defensive coordinator who is famous for his unrestrained and exotic blitz packages. Johnson’s Eagles defense followed a similar game plan against the Patriots in week 12 this season, letting Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker beat them from the slot all night while preventing Randy Moss from making the big play.
While the loss is disappointing, the one thing that Patriots fans can take away from the game is that the team isn’t looking to get any worse. While key members of their defense are getting old, the core team will return and only be hungrier for perfection.