In 48 BC, 60,000 Roman soldiers under Pompey the Great stood against 22,000 Romans under Julius Caesar outside of Pharsalus in Greece. Pompey's legions were fresh, well-fed, and outnumbered Caesar's nearly 3 to 1. Caesar's men were tired, starving, and facing oblivion. Yet Caesar's men won a decisive victory.
In 1415, 30,000 French soldiers stood against 6,000 Englishmen on the fields of Agincourt in northern France. Despite possessing an overwhelming numerical advantage, the French were crushed. Only 112 Englishmen lay dead at the end of the day, while an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 French were killed.
In 1940, the mighty German Luftwaffe (Air Force) set out to cripple Great Britain. The Germans had more experience than English pilots, flying in the Spanish Civil War, as well as numerous campaigns in the early stages of World War II. The Germans had better fighters, and more of them. They had almost as many bombers as the English had total planes. But eventually the Germans were worn down and defeated.
Sunday's defeat to the Giants was not nearly as gruesome, nor as historically important. But the Patriots came in as the undeniable favorite, a team that had not lost in more than a calendar year. A two time Super Bowl MVP under center. The Coach of the Year on the sidelines. Pro-Bowlers galore. The tattered remains of broken records at their feat. Yet they lost.
How? I'll tell you how.
No team has ever pressured Tom Brady the way the Giants did on Sunday. Their front four got pressure up the gut and on the edge. Their blitzes were savage, precise, well-disguised, and executed to perfection. Brady was sacked, knocked down, forced to step-up, unable to step through his throws, hurried, and flushed. There were very few easy dropbacks.
The Giants not only got in Brady's face, but they prevented the deep pass. Moss and others were wide open downfield several times, only to have the play broken up behind them by pressure on Brady. The Giants also clogged the throwing lanes, disrupting the short passing game.
The pressure led to several false start penalties, almost all of which came at inopportune times, disrupting the rhythm and momentum of drives, turning 2nd & 10s into 2nd & 15s.
The Running Games
Laurence Maroney had given two impressive performances to help get the Pats to Super Bowl XLII, and at the start of the game looked good. But the Giants clamped down and stopped him for the rest of the night.
In New England's first drive, Maroney had four carries for 15 yards. His final carry of the drive was a 1 yard touchdown. For the remainder of the game, he was held to 21 yards on 10 carries, averaging an anemic 2.1 yards per carry.
Here are those 10 carries:
11:11 2nd qtr, 2nd & 2, NE 41 - Maroney left end, pushed out of bounds, gain of 1
10:43 2nd qtr, 3rd & 1, NE 40 - Maroney left tackle, loss of 2
8:35 2nd qtr, 1st & 10, NE 30 - Maroney up the middle, no gain
1:41 2nd qtr, 2nd & 10, NE 11 - Maroney right end, loss of 3
14:16 3rd qtr, 1st & 10, NE 36 - Maroney up the middle, gain of 7
13:02 3rd qtr, 1st & 10, NE 48 - Maroney left end, loss of 2
8:42 3rd qtr, 1st & 10, NY 28 - Maroney right guard, no gain
2:19 3rd qtr, 1st & 10, NE 21 - Maroney right tackle, gain of 9
1:47 3rd qtr, 2nd & 1, NE 30 - Maroney left end, gain of 2
6:39 4th qtr, 1st & 10, NE 35 - Maroney left end, pushed out of bounds, gain of 9
So Maroney got 21 yards on these 10 carries, but 25 yards came on three of those carries. His runs were that inconsistent. In the entire game he had three 9 yard carries, a 7 yard carry, a 5 yard carry, a 2 yard carry, a pair of 1 yard carries, three carries for no gain, two carries for a loss of 2, and a carry for a loss of 3. Six of his 14 carries went for no gain or a loss. That's abysmal.
Of the 10 carries listed above, some hurt a great deal. The first two came after Ellis Hobbs intercepted Manning, and the Pats blew a chance to build on their 7-3 lead by going 3 and out. Think about this, they had 2nd and 2, and failed to convert for the 1st down. That's not supposed to happen...ever.
That carry for no gain with 8:42 in the 3rd, was one of the plays that led to the 4th & 13 debacle. The inability to get any yardage on 1st down led to a Kyle Brady reception for 3, which led to 3rd & 7, which led to a sack, which led to a 4th & 13 situation in no mans' land.
With no running threat, the Giants' front four was free to tee off on Brady. Drives lost momentum or were never able to pick any up.
But it wasn't all Maroney's fault, or even the offensive line's. The Giants did a good job of stopping him before he could build up any steam. They stuffed the middle, and pursued well to the outside. Even when Maroney got a little bit of space to get some power going, the Giants were quick to envelop him.
Meanwhile, Jacobs and Bradshaw combined for a solid day of work. They didn't put up massive numbers. They combined for 87 yards on 23 carries (3.8 YPC), which isn't stellar, but they picked up decent yardage almost every time they ran. They only lost yardage on one run. They gained 2 yards or more on 19 carries. They gained 3 or more on 13 carries. Four or more on 10 carries. Seven or more on 5 carries. These runs created 3rd and manageable situations for the passing game.
One of the biggest plays of the game was a 2 yard run by Brandon Jacobs on 4th & 1 with 1:34 on the clock in the 4th. If he gets stuffed, which he very nearly did, the game is all but over, with the Pats taking over on New York's 37, in need of a touchdown to ice it, or a first down to end it. Instead, Jacobs gets the 1st down, and the Giants drive winds up in the end zone for a game-winning touchdown.
Inability to Make a Big Play
The Patriots didn't make nearly as many big plays as the Giants did. In their long opening drive, the Giants converted four 3rd downs in order to hang on to the ball, chew up clock, wear down the defense, and eventually score 3 points. Meanwhile, Ellis Hobbs had an opportunity to pick off a tipped ball in the end zone, but failed to come down with it.
After eventually intercepting Manning, the Pats did nothing to capitalize. They made the big play but couldn't build on it. They failed to convert a 2nd & 2, then a 3rd & 1 and were forced to punt.
On the Giants' 33 yard line, a fumbled hand off was apparently smothered by Pierre Woods, but the Giants were able to wrestle it from him and retain posession. Instead of the Pats taking over at New York's 30 yard line, the G-Men punted, and New England got the ball back on their own 30, a 40 yard change in field position.
The rest of the 1st half was a field position battle. After absorbing two sacks, the Pats punted and the Giants got the ball on their 43 yard line. Then New York punted and Kevin Faulk caught it at the 11. Eventually Brady fumbled at New York's 44. A 45 yard drive hadn't even gotten the Pats into field goal range.
The Giants made a big play in the 3rd quarter, on a 3rd and 6. They sacked Brady for a loss of 7, which pushed the Pats beyond comfortable field goal range. Belichick decided to go for it on 4th and 13, but the Pats were unable to convert.
The Giants had the longest play of the game, a 45 yard reception by Kevin Boss, which set-up a touchdown pass to Tyree. The TD gave the Giants a 10-7 lead. New England's longest completion was 19 yards.
Brady's Deep Misses
When Brady got enough time and space to throw the deep ball, they all were horribly off-target. Moss, Stallworth, Gaffney, and Welker were all able to beat their coverage and get seperation. But Brady's balls were overthrown, underthrown, thrown wide right, wide left. He was all over the place. Against a better secondary, there would have been some interceptions.
The pressure had been all over Brady from start to finish, but his short passes were crisp and generally on target. He was 7 for 10 in that 4th quarter touchdown drive. So I don't think the pressure was why his long balls were so off target.
Those misguided bombs at the end of the game were perfect examples of Brady's loss of touch and accuracy when throwing deep. On 1st & 10, both Gaffney and Welker had a step on the coverage, but the ball fell over and in between the two. On 3rd & 20, Moss had a half step on his men (enough space for him) but the ball was just slightly underthrown.
My guess would be that the ankle, coupled with good pressure from the Giants, was responsible for these un-Brady-like deep balls. Had the Patriots got even one of those early deep balls, this game is entirely different.
Finishing the Game
By the middle of the 3rd quarter, it was clear that this game would be decided by 7 points or less, and each team's performance in their final drives would determine the game's outcome. Brady and the Pats went ahead 14-10 with 2:45 on the clock. It was up to the defense.
The Giants' final drive started off well for New England. Hixon was upended by Raymond Ventrone at the 17 yard line. The Giants would have to go 83 yards in 2:39. Not impossible, but the way the Pats defense had been playing, not probable.
The first opportunity to stop the Giants came on 4th and 1 at the 37. Brandon Jacobs got the hand-off up the middle, as we all expected. He was hampered at the line, but was able to fall forward for a gain of 2 and a 1st down.
The second opportunity came on 2nd & 5 at the Giant 44. Manning overthrew Tyree, and Samuel was right there. Asante got fingertips from both hands on the ball, but his leap was just a fraction of a second off. The tipped ball floated out of bounds and incomplete. An interception right there, with 1:15 on the clock, would have - at the very least - taken nearly a minute off the clock and forced the Giants to burn their timeouts.
The third opportunity was on this play:
Adalius Thomas started the pressure. Manning stepped up, but Jarvis Green and Richard Seymour were still right on top of him. But nobody took him down. Had he been sacked, it would have been a loss of about 8, setting up a 4th & 13 on the Giant 36 yard line.
Not only did the Pats fail to record the sack, Manning was able to find David Tyree, who made the catch of the century. Tyree almost let the ball fly past his head. Any tip would have probably been intercepted by the Pats. Rodney was right on Tyree. Hobbs, Sanders, and Samuel were all closing in on the play.
The fourth opportunity came on 2nd & 11. Another pass intended for Tyree was nearly picked off, this one by Meriweather. It would have been a tough, diving, over-the-shoulder catch; but it was possible. Meriweather did a good job just to break up the pass, but it could have been better.
Then New York's touchdown, featuring Plaxico Burress in single coverage, and a falling down Ellis Hobbs. That was ugly.
New York finished the game properly. New England came close to making big plays to end it, but they failed when it mattered most. Champions don't fail at times like that.
It's hard to question Coach Belichick, but this game featured some interesting coaching decisions.
The 4th & 13 play was the most glaring decision, but for me it wasn't that bad. All year, we've gone for it from that spot of the field. I wouldn't have minded a punt, either, trying to pin the Giants back.
I do have a problem with the 3rd & 7 play calling on the previous play. Why not try a screen to Faulk on that play? Why try to go deep on 3rd & 7 when in field goal range, especially against a fierce pass rush that just might get to Brady. Even if you don't get the first down, you'll be in good field goal range, or set-up a 4th & 3 or 4th & 4.
I didn't like how often the Pats kept going deep. It was obvious that the Giants pass rush was teeing off on Brady. It was just as obvious that Tom's long passes were terribly innacurate. So many 2nd & 10s, and 3rd & 10s came about because of the deep ball addiction.
So the Giants played better than the Pats. The Patriots failed to come up with big plays, which they've made all year. There's nothing we can do except look to next season.
Giants' linebacker Antonio Pierce said after the game "This was the death of a dynasty."
To Mister Pierce, and the rest of the NFL...
we'll be back.
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