The Perfect Upset

By Lloyd Vance
Updated: February 4, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — The 88th season of the NFL concluded with an unbelievable finish as the New York Giants (13-6) proved the world of experts wrong — including yours truly — by beating the heavily favored New England Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII.

The G-Men preserved the perfection honor of the 1972 Dolphins as they knocked the Patriots (18-1) championship perfection express off the tracks with a dominating defensive effort.

The Giants were led by veteran defensive captain Michael Strahan (3 tackles with 1 sack) and defensive end Justin Tuck (two sacks, six tackles, one forced fumble) with the Steve Spagnuolo making all the right calls that produced 5 sacks.

“Golden Boy” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was hit again and again (16 hits in all) as his stable of all-star receivers could not get open fast enough.

Riding a wave of confidence from their tough 38-35 home loss to the Patriots in week 17, the disrespected Giants — first NFC wildcard team to win Super Bowl– and their beleaguered duo of head coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning answered the 88th NFL season’s moniker/question “Who Wants It More?”

The upstart “road warrior” New York Giants (won an NFL record 11 straight games) are now World Champions and one word “Hungry” personifies this team.

The entire country and media (record 4,786 credentialed media members including 116 international media organizations) were fixated on the Patriots quest for perfection giving the Giants a slim to known chance of winning.

But the hungry G-Men remembered that games are played on the field and brought their lunch pale to go to work on the borderline cocky Patriots.

The Giants started with an opening drive that lasted 16 plays and took a Super Bowl record 9:59 off the clock and never looked back. Manning (19-34, 255, 2 TD, 1 INT) was gritty and never made the mistake that so many doubters predicted.

He truly showed his mettle in the fourth quarter leading the Giants comeback from a 14-10 deficit concluding a “white knuckle” drive with a perfect 13-yard touchdown fade route to his favorite target Plaxico “the predictor” Burress that made the final deficit of 17-14.

On the drive Manning — known until recently more for being Peyton’s little brother or the onery first player taken in the 2004 draft — was 5-9 for 79 yards with a huge touchdown and one big “shut up” for his haters.

The magical game-winning 12-play, 83-yard drive was a test of will that the G-Men passed as they converted three third downs.

No matter what any has said about Manning in the past, he now will go down in the pantheon of Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks (22 of the 42 MVPs have been quarterbacks) after answering his critics loudly.

On the game-winning drive Manning miraculous pulled away from Patriots defensive end Jarvis Green, who had two large handfuls of the Giants quarterbacks jersey.

Manning threw up a prayer over the middle that was answered by special teamer turned receiving star David Tyree (3 catches for 43 yards, 1 TD, 1 Tackle) who earlier had caught the Giants first touchdown earlier in the fourth quarter.

Tyree caught the 32-yard jump ball against his helmet as Rodney Harrison pulled and prodded unsuccessfully at the G-Men’s tough guy. The play ignited the Giants sideline and showed that the New Yorkers would not be denied.

Everyone thought the clock would strike midnight for the Cinderella Giants against the “mighty” Patriots as Tom Brady (29-48, 266, 1 TD) strolled onto the field with 35 seconds, 3 timeouts, and only needing three points to tie the game.

The last series did not go the Patriots way to say the least as on first down Brady tried to hit Gaffney long incompletion, second down Penn State rookie defensive tackle Jay Alford tried to cave in Brady’s chest with an authoritative sack driving the Patriots back ten yards (timeout), third down Brady went deep to Randy Moss on a play that worked in week one versus the Jets.

However this time cornerback Corey Webster had the answer and on fourth down and ten seconds left Brady went deep again to a double covered Moss incompletion.

What I really like about this Giants team is that they definitely showed that it takes an effort of all 53 men on the roster and their coaches to achieve the ultimate “team” prize in sports.

The Giants showed that decisions in the off-season including the draft help build a winner. The rookies or “Little Giants” as I like to call them played a huge roll in the win Jay Alford had the aforementioned sack.

Steve Smith had several huge catches finishing with 5 catches for 50 yards, Aaron Ross provided tough coverage, Ahmad Bradshaw led them in rushing (45 yards), Zak DeOssie had a huge special teams tackle, and TE Kevin Boss had a huge game turning 45 yard catch and run at the start of the fourth quarter.

The fun part now is that we can relive the rollercoaster like championship season for the Giants that ended on a huge high. The G-Men should be marveled for their “Never Say Die” team attitude.

– Head Coach Tom Coughlin starts the season on the hot seat.

– The group seemed all but dead after starting 0-2 and allowing 80 points including a bad home loss to the Packers

– In week 3 the Giants stuffed Redskins running back Ladell Betts at the goal line on third-and fourth down in the final minute to secure a 24-17 road victory.

– Have to win on the road 13-10 in week 8 at London versus the hapless Dolphins

– Usual end of season swoon with Eli looking dubious especially week 12 in a 41-17 home loss to Vikings with Eli throwing 4 picks

– Tight win over Eagles as Akers hits right upright on 57 yarder at the buzzer

— Home loss to the Redskins in the wind as Eli throws for (18-52, 184, 1 TD, 0 INT)

– Squeaking past the Bills 38-21 in week 16 to make the playoffs despite Manning (7-15, 111, 0 TD, 2 INT, and 2 lost fumbles). Rushing game with Bradshaw and Jacobs save the day with 291 rushing.

– Played the Patriots tough in a 38-35 loss where they gain confidence and knowledge.

– NFC playoff run where Eli doesn’t throw an interception and they beat the Bucs, Cowboys, and Packers (OT) all on the road to make it to Arizona.

– Stop the 18-0 Patriots in Super Bowl XLII 17-14 to end a magical season.

Definitely congratulations are in order for the Giants players, coaches, and staff, head coach Tom Coughlin, GM Jerry Reese, and the Mara family (owners since the early years of the NFL in the 1920′s) as they did the Big Blue fans proud by winning with grit and determination.

Now that Super Bowl XLII is over, I can take a quick break before preparing for the combine and draft.

Lloyd’s Leftovers

– Everyone always wants to know the commercials that I liked and didn’t like. Well I have to give a vote to the Victoria Secret football spinning ad, the Clydesdale training ala Rocky, Charles Barkely annoying Dewayne Wade on his cell, and the Bud Light Wine and Cheese Party. Some stinkers I thought were the Doritos commercial with the girl singing and the ad placement at the end, Lizards and Naomi Campbell water ad, and the Justin Timberlake Pepsi spot (anything with him automatically gets a big thumbs down).

– I thought first time referee Mike Carey (First African American referee) and his officiating crew did a good job with penalties (only 9 total), replays, and spotting the ball.

– Did you notice that the Patriots and Giants combined for a Super Bowl first two-possession first quarter.

– Even though he is a prickly individual, you have to give it to the Patriots head coach Bill Belichick challenging 12-men on the field in the third quarter and getting a first down.