Thursday, February 9, 2012

Giants: Super Bowl miscellania

Each team got a few big breaks in the game. The Giants fumbled twice and managed to recover both, where a recovery by New England on either one would have cost the game. The flip side, of course, is that the fumbles were by two players, Bradshaw and Nicks that have not fumbled at all this year, so the fact that they fumbled may be deemed a break for the Patriots.

Giants got a break on the dropped pass by Welker, but the ball was poorly thrown by Brady. It was a tough catch for a small receiver, who had to twist his shoulders around, reverse his body and reach up for the ball. The ball hit him in the hands and it surely was a catchable ball, but it was not an easy play.

Patriots caught a huge break on two refs calls, one in the first half and one in the second. In the first half, Giants were up 9-3 and had just punted the ball into the Patriots end zone giving them the ball at the 20. Patriots went 3-and-out and punted the ball back to the Giants at their 23. At this point in the game, the Giants were really controlling things. On their 3 possessions they had scored one TD and on each of the other two possessions, had moved the ball into New England territory, to about their 40 before each drive stalled. By contrast, the Patriots on their three possessions, had a FG on one of them and the other two drives resulted in a safety on the first play and a 3-and-out. If the Giants could score on this possession, they could really take control of the game on the scoreboard as well as on the stat sheet. Giants started moving the ball well, getting two first downs and advancing it into New England territory where they had a 3rd and 1 at the 46. Giants called a running play for Jacobs up the middle which was perfectly blocked and Jacobs ran for 10 yards giving them a 1st and 10 at the New England 36. However, the umpire called holding on Boothe and the play was wiped out. Looking at the video board at the game and checking it out on replay when I got home, you could see that it was a terrible call and this wiped out a scoring drive. However, this is not just my opinion that the call was poor, it was confirmed by the players themselves. Permit me to explain. The NFL Network has a wonderful feature where they wire many of the players for sound, take many of the interesting sound bites and broadcast it in a show called SoundFX. In the Super Bowl, the referees and Vince Wilfork were wired for sound. After the umpire threw the flag for holding, the head referee went over to him and questioned his call. The referee said, "It looked to me like it was not a hold, it looked to me like Wilfork just twisted around and fell down". The ump who threw the flag said he saw it differently and he thought it was a penalty. They had Coughlin yelling at the refs on the sideline complaining about the call and telling the refs to ask the players. A few plays later, the ref went over to Wilfork and asked him if they had gotten the call right. Wilfork answered honestly and said - no, it was a bad call, no holding. I was annoyed at the game and was even more annoyed when I heard this exchange. Poor call and poor refereeing process - you don't make a call unless you're sure it is right. That play fundamentally affected the game. It gave the Giants 3rd and 11 and  Eli tried a deep ball to Manningham which went incomplete, forced a punt giving the Patriots the ball back at their own 4. Brady drove them down the field 96 yards for the TD that gave them a 10-9 half time lead. If the refs had not blown the call, Giants could have scored to increase their lead and there would not have been time on the clock for Brady to move the Pats down for a score. It was a real game changer.

In the fourth quarter, Manningham was clearly interfered with on a 3rd and 10 which would have given the Giants first down on the Patriots 30, but no call was made. This was a bad call but not as egregious as the bogus holding call on Boothe, which was a combination of bad judgment by the official who called it and bad process by the head referee who let the call stand even though he saw the play differently.

How about this for a little trivia: In the two seasons that the Giants and Patriots met in the Super Bowl, 2007 and 2011, the Patriots cumulative record was 33-5. Of those 5 losses in those two season, 3 came against the Giants. Another way to look at it: The Patriots record against the rest of the league in those two seasons was a cumulative 32-2. Their record against the Giants was 1-3.

In the two Super Bowls against the Giants, Brady's completion percentage on passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air was 0-13 (as distinct from a catch and run that resulted in a greater than 20 yard gain).

The Giants OL did a good job blocking for the run against the Patriots 3-4 scheme. Patriots used a Bear formation against the Ravens, where 3 DTs lined up head-to-head against the three interior OL-men to take away the running game. Patriots did not use this formation against the Giants and lined up more conventionally with their 3-4. The pass blocking was a little spotty, especially from MacKenzie who got beat clean a couple of times by LB Nimkovich.

When David Tyree made his helmet catch in the 2008 Super Bowl, it turned out to be the last pass he caught as a NY Giants player. (It also was the last pass he caught in the league, since he was out on IR the following year and retired after a short stint with another team.) I wonder if Manningham, this year's Super Bowl remarkable catch maker, has also caught his last pass with the Giants. After that incredible 38 yard play, he did catch two more passes on the winning TD drive, but as a FA, he may be leaving to another team. He is a very valuable player, but he is the third WR on a team that has some talent behind him and in front of him on the roster. Giants may have in mind a salary number they will be willing to pay to keep him, but if some other team is seduced by that catch to give him big money, he will probably walk. I don't want to do an analysis of team needs, who's staying and who's going - that will come later. Manningham's status is mentioned just because of the Super Bowl hero thing.

It was incredibly brave but very hard to watch Ballard hurt and then test his bad knee on the sideline. Initially they diagnosed it as a sprain, so he tested on the sideline whether it could remain stable and bear weight if he planted on it and cut. He tried and crumbled to the ground grabbing his knee and screaming in pain. It was later discovered that he had a torn ACL which explains the lack of stability. Since this happened on the last possible day of the season, Ballard will not be ready for the start of next season, nor will Beckum who sustained the same injury. They gave their all and the result is really sad. It tells you how tenuous the career of a football player is. Ballard showed enough during the season to earn a spot on the roster next year and maybe solidify his role as a starter. However, now that he has a torn ACL and will be unable to play until probably around November, Giants will have to acquire some TE talent. With Ballard's recovery uncertain, they will not just get some fodder as a roster-spot-placeholder until Ballard gets back, but will try to get someone who can play. If they are successful at finding one, Ballard's place on the team and even his career might be in jeopardy. It's because of situations like these that I always side with the players when they hold out for the extra few dollars during contract negotiations. One false step and their career could be over.

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