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Diary of a Giants Fan: GIANTS WIN THE SUPER BOWL 21-17 OVER PATRIOTS – GRADES

In yet another absolute classic, the New York Giants have won Super Bowl XLVI…Holy Sh-

Defiance – A daring or bold resistance, open disregard, or contempt to/for any opposing force.

It’s a word I’ve used so often to describe these New York Giants – A word that has so aptly fit that “What?  Who the hell are you?” attitude that the Giants so outwardly boast.  And at this moment, it’s the only word that I can think of to describe the spectacle that was.  As I sit here and soak in the win, I find myself quite simply without words.  I sit and think about this game, watch the highlights, ponder as much as I can remember, and wonder: How in the hell did that just happen?  Seriously?!  How in the hell did that just happen?  How does a team at 6-6, in the midst of a four game losing streak, turn it around and make the playoffs?  How do they upset three “better” teams and make the Super Bowl?  And how in the hell did they just win that game?  I consider myself a fairly intelligent football fan, and I don’t have a clue, folks.

Well.  A good start helped.  The Giants took the opening kick off and began their campaign for the Lombardi Trophy on offense.  The drive stalled though, and the fourth down brought out Steve Weatherford, who was about to stake an early claim for Super Bowl MVP.  The punter, who has been criminally overlooked all season, downed the ball at the five and pinned Tom Brady back on his Ugg-Booted heels.

Jamie Squire, Getty Images

The Giants, now presented with an undeniable opportunity to stamp themselves a defensive force in this game, took advantage of Weatherford’s brilliance…sort of.  Brady, in the shadow of his own goal post, dropped back to pass on first down.  After what I’d estimate to be about fourteen or fifteen seconds, Justin Tuck finally broke through the line and pressured Mr. Gisele Bundchen who promptly, with no one open, unloaded a deep ball which landed somewhere in Chicago.  Without a receiver in the zip code, Brady was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.  Safety.  2-0 Giants…If nothing else, they’re always gonna make it weird.

The scoring would come in a more conventional way following the ensuing free kick.  Manning began the drive with a completion to full back Henry Hynoski, who ran through several Patriots on way to a twelve yard gain – and the over for the Prop bet that was the lock of the century – Hynosky + or – 4.5 combined rushing and receiving yards).  Completions to Cruz, Bear Pascoe, and impressive running by Ahmad Bradshaw took the Giants down the field and inside the red zone.  The drive was capped off by a brilliant Manning strike, just behind a defender, to Victor Cruz for the touchdown.  Salsa in the Super Bowl – glorious.  9-0 Giants.

But of course, the Patriots would answer.  They’d drive down for a field goal to make it 9-3, and the rest of the half would click by in rather uneventful fashion.  Until, that is, when Giant fans everywhere would have their spirits broken with a string of three consecutive horror shows.  The first came when Brady, backed up again in the shadow of his own goal post (Weatherford still making a play for MVP), lead the Patriots on a drive that both ate up the rest of the second half, and ended with a touchdown pass to Danny Woodhead of all people – guys who can’t be seen unless you’re looking down are hard to cover.  Regardless, the half ended at 10-9 Patriots.  It was a heartbreaking, and terrifically orchestrated, end to a half that had been largely dominated by Big Blue.

Gregory Shamus, Getty Images

The Giants had controlled possession through the first thirty minutes and, if not for some self-inflicted mistakes (looking at you O-Line), Eli and company could have had more.  You got the sense that if they could eliminate those mistakes, the G-men could have their way – running or passing – with the Patriot defense in the second half.  On the other side of the ball, the Giants had played well – even with the debacle that was the last drive.  With no real pass rush to speak of, and with defensive backs that I’ve described at points during this season as: abominable, appalling, atrocious, awful, bad, deplorable, depressing, and disgusting (and that’s just A-D in my Giant Secondary dictionary), Antrel Rolle’s unit had barely allowed a brilliant passing offense to crack double digits. Raise your hand if you would have signed up for that early in the week.  My hand is up.  Is yours?  It should be.  If it’s not you’re quite simply wrong, it was a masterstroke.  If the Giants could find a way to dial up the pass rush (while ignoring Rob Gronkowski and rolling coverage to Hernandez and Welker) things could get ugly.

Sadly, things wouldn’t get ugly the way Giant fans would hope.  Indeed, the second soul crushing horror show was about to take center stage…literally.  If nausea hadn’t set in for Giant fans, it certainly hit with fury as Madonna came out for her Super Bowl debut.  Now, this article is supposed to focus on the Giants, so I don’t want to spend too long on the halftime show, but I’ve seriously never seen a more convincing commercial for Ensure than the twelve minutes that Madonna toed the line between being ungraceful and breaking a hip.  Additionally, does anyone else think that NBC could have done a little more to avoid Madonna crotch shots?  Ew.

As hard as it is to figure, however, things weren’t getting better with the return of the game.  Tom Brady once again took his team straight down the field and into the end zone with a pass to Aaron Hernandez.  It was absolute domination by the Patriots, a virtuoso performance by Brady.  Things were looking bleak.  17-9. Patriots with the lead, and all the momentum in the world.

But once again, we come back to that word:  Defiance.  A bold resistance.  A daring contempt.  A refusal to resign to the dismal fate that I’m sure so many had this team pegged for.  ”Tom Brady’s found his game.”  ”Nobody is stopping this guy tonight.”  To hell with that.  This team doesn’t shrink from a fight, and this quarterback certainly doesn’t shrink from the moment.  Manning would take the ensuing possession and with a few clutch completions to Nicks, take his team into field goal range.  Tynes would convert the attempt to bring the Giants closer.  17-12 Patriots.  After a hold by the Giant defense, which included a Tuck sack, Manning and company would step back on the field and look to move ever closer.  A Nicks reception started the drive, though the wide out was bailed out by the heroics of Henry Hynoski – who now staked HIS claim for Super Bowl MVP with a fumble recovery.  Tough Jacobs runs and a completion to Pascoe set up Tynes again.  The Scotsman converted and the Giants had fought and clawed their way back into this game.  17-15 Patriots.

A Chase Blackburn interception – fear the power of the soul patch – ended the next Patriot possession and allowed the Giants a chance to win the game.  The ensuing drive resulted only in a Giant punt, however, which Weatherford used to reclaim his MVP front runner status by downing it at the eight.  The Patriots were now the ones looking to end this game, to salt it away.  It was the bottom of the ninth and they had the lead.  They were just going to have to hang on.  But much the way that glory slipped through the hands of the impressively mustachioed Bill Buckner in 1986, glory was about to slip through the hands of the thinly and rather creepily mustached Wes Welker.  The wide out dropped an almost certain game-winning reception, and the Patriots were forced to punt.

Win McNamee, Getty Images

And so the sage was set.  3:48 on the clock.  88 yards.  One drive.  And one quarterback who wouldn’t wait more than a single snap before stamping this game as his.  The man who has so often been the hero, so often the rock of the New York Giants, dropped back, manipulated the safety, and uncorked an absolutely perfect pass into as tight a window as you could imagine.  Streaking down the sideline was Mario Manningham who dropped it- Sorry! Sorry!  Force of habit – The perfectly thrown ball was skillfully brought in by Manningham who tip toed the sideline, secured the finger tip grab and took the hit, giving the Giants a real chance to win this game.  What a play.  Simply.  Brilliant.  Completions to Nicks kept the drive moving deep into field goal range.  Inside the ten yard line, the Patriots had no choice but to let the Giants score as quickly as possible and give Tom Brady a chance to win them the game.  And so it was – the least celebrated last minute, championship winning play in the history of the world.  Ahmad Bradshaw took the hand off and rushed through the chasm that was the Patriot defensive line.  Realizing he’d been had, the back did his best to kneel the ball at the one and allow Tynes to play his part, but unable to stop his momentum the back stumbled clumsily into the end zone for the 21-17 lead.  A chorus of “Aww!  Yay…I guess.” reigned down from the fans at Lucas Oil Stadium in what was one of the more awkward moments in Super Bowl history.  But the Giants had the lead, and ask yourself Giant fans:  Did you really want this to come down to one field goal?  Imagine the ways that that could have gone wrong.

The Giants would have to survive one final Patriot possession: enter the brilliant strategy of Perry Fewell.  On one of the last plays of the game Brady unfurled a Hail Mary that fell harmlessly to the turf, taking up several of the Patriots’ final seconds.  The Giants were called for twelve men on the field, but the waning clock was immeasurably more important than the five yards.  Brilliant!  Put twelve on the field!  Put 24! Who gives a rip?!  One final heave to the end zone, the last gasp of a fading Patriot team, was knocked to the ground – not before nearly being caught by Rob Gronkowski, thanks for the that by the way guys. Just had to give me one more moment of agita, eh? – and the Patriots were vanquished.  The New York Giants were Super Bowl Champions.

Drink in those words Giant fans.  Super Bowl XLVI is yours, and it was such a fitting win.  To me, it was an absolute microcosm of the Giant season.  It started out strong, it got down right terrifying in the middle, and it finished in glorious splendor – it’s kind of like the boat ride in Willy Wonka.  Still, though, it’s hard to say exactly how the Giants won this game.  There isn’t one unit or one player – except maybe MVP Eli Manning – that you can point to as the reason.  Manning was huge in this game.  Manningham had the big play.  Jacobs played well, so did Bradshaw.  Hynoski made contributions.  Weatherford chipped in.  Cruz had a touchdown.  Nicks was the go-to receiver.  The defensive line played well in the second half, the secondary was great throughout…

Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

And you know what?  That’s how they won this game.  That’s how they upset three better teams.  That’s how they pulled themselves from the dregs of a season that had them on the precipice of disappointment.  Team.  There were so many times this season when it would have been easy for this team to roll over and just resign to their lackluster fate.  How many lesser teams would have succumb to that pressure?  How many other, lesser teams, would have allowed that heartache to fracture their locker room, and shatter all hope?  How many other teams don’t survive four game losing streaks?  But this Giant team isn’t other teams.  Such efforts aren’t worthy of these Giants.  Such efforts aren’t worthy of a team that has, time and again, defiantly risen to every challenge.  And there’s that word again.  Defiance.  How many times was this team counted out?  How many times were they doubted?  How many times did the pundits and the experts – myself so very much included – say that this team just wasn’t good enough?  And how many times did these Giants step onto a field and say “To hell with you,  to hell with everything, we know what we can do,”  and then did it.  This team came together, went “All In” together, turned their season around together, and won the Super Bowl together.

Sure, it was frustrating at times.  And sure, it was down right enraging at others.  But this New York Giant team never stopped fighting, they never stopped believing.  And isn’t that what every fan wants?  A team that never quits, a team that bands together and never, EVER, stops fighting.  That’s a team you love to root for.  That’s a team that you identify with.  That’s a team you’re proud of.  And I’ve never been prouder.  I don’t know about the rest of you Giant nation, but for me, this was one of the most fun seasons I’ve ever experienced.  There’s just something special to me about a team that wins not through overwhelming talent, not through week in and week out domination, but by fighting, by scrapping, by suffering defeats, getting up, and clawing their way back.  A team that earns it.  I loved watching this team.  I loved their flaws, I loved their losses, and I absolutely loved their triumphs.  The New York Giants.  Champions of Super Bowl XLVI.

Grades: Are you serious?  They won the Super Bowl.  Everyone gets an A+.  You want specifics?  Alright.  Manning was phenomenal.  He didn’t light up the world, but once again he was the exact hero that the Giants needed.  Joke as I might, Hynoski and Weatherford both had great games.  So too did Nicks and the entire Giant secondary. The defensive line came alive at the end of the game and was a real help in holding the Patriots to only seven points in the second half.  But as I said above, this was a TEAM effort through and through.  Now stop reading and go revel.

Check back here during the week for a couple different wrap up stories, there’s still just so much to tell. Now go drink in the glory.  @JoeBianchino

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