By Neil Keefe
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"Welcome to the longest 57 seconds of your 2012."
That's what my brother texted me when Tom Brady and the Patriots walked up to their 20-yard line with 57 seconds left in their season and trailing by four points in Super Bowl XLVI. It felt like the end of Super Bowl XLII and it ended in almost the same exact fashion. Except this time Eli Manning didn't need to kneel the ball to clinch the victory. This time the ball bounced around the end zone as the Patriots hopelessly watched their Hail Mary attempt fail. Both endings worked for me as they both ended with the New York Football Giants as champions.
Sunday night was epic, and because of it I'm running on three hours of sleep, have a minor headache and I'm typing this with my left eye closed since that's the side of my head (right above my eye) where the pain is. But I don't care that I'm running on fumes because I feel like I can draft off this Super Bowl win until at least Opening Day.
There's so much to talk about from Sunday night, and so much I want to talk about, but with the win so fresh, and fatigue setting in like I'm half-heartedly backchecking in the sixth overtime of an NHL playoff game, I decided to take things a different route than usual for the day after another Super Bowl win.
My "friend" Mike Hurley of CBS Boston, who is no longer my friend thanks to the Giants' win over his Patriots, writes weekly "leftover thoughts" columns about the Patriots where he writes down, well, his thoughts from that week's game. I felt like it would be nice of me to dedicate a Giants' Super Bowl XLVI column with the same concept to him since he will forever be scarred by the letters "X," "L," "V," and "I" and likely will never reference Feb. 5, 2012 again for the rest of his life. It's important that I continue to remind him about the fall of the Patriots and this is a great place to start.
Here are some thoughts from the day after the Giants' win in Super Bowl XLVI.
- I have been supporting and arguing for Eli Manning for years to his critics and doubters (mostly Patriots and Jets fans), but I don't need to anymore. He is a two-time Super Bowl champion and MVP.
- Last week I had a tweet argument with WFAN sister station, 98.5 The Sports Hub, in Boston's mid-day hosts Gresh and Zo about their logic that "You can't beat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick twice in the same season." I guess you can do it.
Here are some other things we learned this season that no one can do or should do against the Patriots.
1. The Patriots don't lose in Heinz Field.
2. The Patriots don't lose back-to-back games.
3. The Patriots don't lose at Gillette Stadium.
4. Tom Brady never has back-to-back bad games.
5. You don't want to give Bill Belichick two weeks to prepare a game plan. (This is my favorite because Belichick lost in XLII.)
All of these are now fairytales.
- Here's a big difference between Eli Manning and Tom Brady: Eli can succeed with pressure and chaos around him like he did in San Francisco against a great defense in a hostile environment in miserable weather. Tom Brady can't succeed without ideal conditions and a strong pocket to protect him.
- Tom Coughlin will be getting a contract extension and millions of dollars, and he deserves it. He has put up with more crap (I'm part of that) than any coach that has won in this city (except for maybe Joe Torre at the end of this Yankees tenure). Up until a month ago, most people would have rather had Rex Ryan coaching their team than Tom Coughlin, now there might be seven or eight people that feel that way.
- There are few things better than making the rounds on the Boston sites and sports radio shows after a devastating defeat. The last time this was possible was four months ago after the Red Sox' loss in Game 162, and that four months has felt like way too long. I could listen to Murph from Charlestown call 98.5 to complain about Wes Welker all day for weeks, and I just might.
- I remember maybe one or two commercials from the game, but that's partially because there weren't any worth paying attention to. It still blows my mind that people get paid to sit around conference tables to come up with commercial ideas and then higher-ups approve these ideas to be made into multi-million dollar commercials and that there can be so many bad ones. But really I didn't pay attention to the commercials because I was busy during TV timeouts checking Twitter and pacing. I was also trying to text message Kevin Gilbride some possible plays to run that didn't involve having Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs run directly into the defensive line.
- Kevin Gilbride has earned immunity from me for the 2012 season. However, in the fine print of this agreement it says: "Subject to change if a third-and-7 draw play for D.J. Ware is called at any point during the 2012 season."
- I would like to take this time to thank the following non-Giants for making this miracle run possible: Miles Austin, Jim Leonard, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Rex Ryan, Tony Romo, Mark Sanchez, Alex Smith, Eric Smith, Mike Smith, Mike Westhoff and Kyle Williams. If I forgot anyone that helped the Giants go from five minutes and 41 seconds away from elimination in Dallas in Week 14 to become Super Bowl champions, I apologize, but you're every bit as important to this championship run as the rest of the goats. And mostly, I would like to thank the New England Patriots, especially Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, for making this possible. Thank you!
- Cris Collinsworth said, "Wes Welker makes that catch 100 times out of 100." If 100 times out of 100 equals 100 percent then what was that missed catch?
- Obviously Mario Manningham didn't get to see Collinsworth ripping him on NBC (and rightfully so) and the broadcast showing a graphic of how Manningham should correctly run routes down the sideline, but Manningham fixed his route running the next time Eli went to him down the sideline, and it ended up being the most important offensive play of the game.
- If I were a white punt returner for the Patriots, would Al Michaels call me Wes Welker, Julian Edelman or Danny Woodhead? I guess it doesn't matter since they're apparently all the same player anyway.
- Why do we have to decide which Manning is better? And why does anyone care outside of Eli and Peyton (who I'm sure love to see each other succeed, but also love the brother rivalry)? Can't Giants fans just be happy that Eli is a Giant, and can't Colts fans just be thankful that they had Peyton for as long as they did (and maybe longer)? And can't fans of teams that don't have a Manning on their roster just worry about something else?
- I'm sure Aaron Hernandez looked great to Patriots fans catching a third-quarter touchdown pass and opening the vault and making it rain all over the end zone, but he looked even better to Giants fans dropping a wide-open pass on the Patriots' final drive that cost the Patriots a lot of yards, a down and time on the clock.
- I love that it helped the Giants, but it's another flaw in the NFL rules where the Giants could have 12 men on the field in the final seconds and Tom Brady throws an incomplete pass, and time still comes off the clock, but the Patriots get to replay the down. Why not just put 50 guys on the field and make sure it will be an incomplete, and watch the clock wind down play after play in the final seconds?
- I had XLII flashbacks at the end of the game screaming, "Get back! Get back! Get back!" with Tom Brady launching bombs toward the end zone to try and win the game.
- Thank you to Las Vegas for making the Giants +3 and +120. Thank you for also making them underdogs against San Francisco and Green Bay.
- The Giants fumbled three times, recovered the two that counted and lost the one that didn't count because of a penalty for 12 men on the field against the Patriots. That's a ridiculous amount of breaks, and no one can be mad about any missed holding or passed interference calls throughout the game since the Giants were lucky enough to not lose the game because of their carelessness with the ball.
- Speaking of luck, these fumbles remind us how hard and nearly impossible it is to win a championship, which makes it even more impressive that the Patriots won three in four years when every play has the potential to ruin your season. And it makes it that much more special that the Giants have now won twice in fours years.
- I don't think we'll be seeing "Philip Rivers is better than Eli Manning" written anywhere anymore unless we're talking about the amount of flannel shirts in one's closet.
- When are we going to start talking about how Tom Brady was fortunate to be part of good teams that won the Super Bowl? I think we should start now. Outside of the game against the "How The Eff Are They In The Divisional Round" Broncos, Brady was bad against the Ravens, and not good enough against the Giants. (Yes, I know going 16-for-16 at one point in a Super Bowl game is remarkable.) Brady's first play of the game resulted in a safety after he had two weeks to create a game plan and script the first drive, and his interception after breaking free from a sack was as bad and ill-advised as his pick intended for Matthew Slater in the AFC Championship Game. Seven years ago, Brady had three rings in his first four years and people thought he might win 10 more. Now he hasn't won in seven years when the team has been his team.
- What was with those weird Tom Brady poses and pictures NBC used when talking about TB12? How did he agree to do that, and who thought it was a good idea? I'm going to say he didn't mind since he did sign up for that goat picture once, and I'm also going to say the idea came from an NBC staffer that's a Giants fan. And yes, I just answered my own questions.
- I don't care if Eli Manning ends up in the Hall of Fame or not. I'm not a fan of the Giants to root for guys to someday win a nonsensical vote to get into the Hall of Fame. I'm a Giants fan for nights like Sunday night. It seems like most people that care about the Hall of Fame passionately are those who are fans of teams that aren't any good. That probably explains why my Twitter feed was full of Jets fans ecstatic about Curtis Martin getting in over the weekend.
- The only Patriots-related person I feel bad for is Mr. Kraft. The emotional stories about his wife, Myra, for who the season was dedicated to were touching, and to see him standing there after the game in his box alone (probably because no one knew what to say to him) and watching him just stare at the ground was hard to watch.
- Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks make up two-thirds of the best wide receiver trio in the NFL. They also are two of the most careless receivers with the ball in the NFL, always leaving the ball open to be stripped as they try to make that one extra move to gain one more foot while a defender gets them from behind. They are both fortunate that because of penalties and the right bounce that they didn't cost the Giants yesterday, and they are heroes instead. (This goes for you too, Ahmad Bradshaw.)
- I have been hard on Brandon Jacobs all season. I said he entered the A.J. Burnett Zone and he did, but like Burnett stepping up in Game 4 of the ALDS, Jacobs stepped up on a much bigger stage in XLVI, and ran with more determination than he has since the 2008 season. A few months ago there was no way Jacobs was going to be with the Giants next year, but now I'm not so sure. If Sunday was his last game with the Giants, it was a good way for him to go out.
- I feel the same amount of comfort with No. 42 in the ninth inning as I do with Eli Manning in the two-minute drill or in the fourth quarter. 2005 Neil thinks 2012 Neil has lost it.
- Even though he said he was, Rob Gronkowski wasn't 100 percent. If 100 percent of Rob Gronkowski means two catches for 26 yards in the Super Bowl, then I think WEEI's Gerry Callahan needs to rethink his statement that Gronkowski is "the best tight end in history."
- Wes Welker has earned a lot of credit and hype in his five seasons with the Patriots, so when he does something as bad as drop a potential game-ending pass, it's good to see him taking the heat when something goes bad. He could have ended the game and didn't, and he admitted it and blamed himself for the loss.
- I liked Danny Woodhead with the Jets in Hard Knocks, but I have hated him with the Patriots. I'm not sure why since I don't like the Jets either.
- A quick brag: I didn't know it was going to take a safety and missed two-point conversion for the Giants to get 21 points, but I did predict the Giants would win 21-17 here and here and in the Keefe To The City Super Bowl Podcasts last week.
- How about David Tyree, standing on the sideline, getting some camera time as the Giants' started their final drive and right before Mario Manningham's Tyree-like catch? It's really hard not to be amazed by the strong comparisons between the 2007 and 2011 Giants with the way the season played out each week with nearly identical plays, final scores and results down the stretch and in the playoffs.
- I haven't seen or heard many Bostonians counting down the days until Red Sox pitchers and catchers. I guess that's what happens when your manager, general manager and closer leave and you new general manager is forced to hire a manager he didn't want, and your starting shortstop is a Nick Punto-Mike Aviles platoon and you don't have a right fielder on Feb. 6. If you thought there were a lot of new Bruins fans last spring, there are going to be that many more this spring. I really just hope NESN can dust off and update their piece about the 2011 Red Sox challenging the 1927 Yankees as the greatest team in the history baseball. It's not that hard to change a few names and change 2011 to 2012 in the headline, is it?
- Why can't Patriots fans just accept that they lost? Why does their need to be excuses? Tom Brady and Wes Welker and Bill Belichick didn't make excuses, but the entire fan base seems to. It's like with Rich Eisen referring to Aaron Hernandez as Adrian Hernandez throughout the postgame highlights and then saying on Twitter, ''If I said Adrian, it's the end of a long week. Respectfully, back off.'' We know it's been a long week, Rich. Just say you effed up and that's that. But Boston fans and Boston sports radio repeating "If Gronkowski was 100 percent…" or "If Welker caught the ball…" or "If the fumbles bounced the other way…" then the Patriots would have won is embarrassing. They didn't do any of those things. The "if" game is a game for losers.
- The Packers, Patriots, Saints, Eagles, Steelers, Texans and Ravens all have better odds in Las Vegas to win Super Bowl XLVII than the Giants and that's just the way I want it.
- I said, "I would have the Giants suck and not make the playoffs for the next decade if they beat the Patriots on Sunday," and I meant it. But after 2007 when they won, and then when they were the best team in the league during the 2008 regular season, you can't help but think about winning it again. It's not until you don't win that you forget how hard it is to win. (See: Yankees, 2001-2008.)
- I still have time to write my book, The Last Night of the Patriot Dynasty based off the idea of Buster Olney's, The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty. Had the Patriots won on Sunday night, my idea would have been dead, but thankfully, it's alive and well.
- I think I was more excited to watch the Giants' defensive line dominate Tom Brady on Sunday night than anything else and they really didn't until the fourth quarter. I was looking forward to Brady laying on his back and slowly getting up all night, but he went untouched for the most part until Justin Tuck clearly injured his left shoulder and then when Tuck pulled a "Jay Alford" on the final drive of the game. It's interesting how Brady always references Tuck when speaking about problems with his game against the Giants every time they play. I have a feeling he closes his eyes and goes to sleep and envisions Tuck "bowing" after a sack. Either that or his supermodel wife next to him in bed.
- The Patriots' dynasty is over (it's been over since Champ Bailey picked off Tom Brady in Denver six years ago), but Brady and Belichick's legacy hasn't been completely tarnished. If their legacy were a car, their back windshield has been smashed in, their fender is hanging off, two of the tires have been slashed and someone keyed expletives on one side of it, but hey, it's still drivable. And because the Patriots are no longer what they once were, I leave with you the words of Brandon Jacobs and his thoughts on the Patriots' dynasty.
"We decapitated them. They can't wear that crown no more."
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