Thursday, February 2, 2012

Super Bowl Preview; Part 3: My Actual Pick

I can only beat around the bush for so long.  Eventually I need to take a strong stance.  Damn.  I was so good at playing both sides. 

I don’t really understand how television program viewership numbers and ratings are calculated, but I feel like Super Bowl 46 has a decent shot to become the most watched Super Bowl ever.  There are big markets, a big rivalry, and big time players.

Using my last two columns as a guide for the ebbs of the game, here is how I see Super Bowl XLVI going down.

Kelly Clarkson, the most successful of the Idol winners (I think?), belts out a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem.  Steven Tyler, the most successful of the Idol judges (I’m pretty sure) contemptuously watches.  He thinks he should have received the Super Bowl National Anthem rather than the Conference Championship game… dream on.  The players take the field, “as bombs bursting in air.” 

“Heads!” proclaims Eli Manning.

“Tails?” says referee John Parry.

“No, heads.”


New England wins the toss, defers, and starts defending left.   

First Quarter
With the first possession, Coughlin comes out with a conservative opening drive.  Jacobs picks up a first down on the ground within the first two plays, but Wilfork just needs a few runs to get into a groove.  He stuffs the next two Bradshaw attempts and the Giants pick up only one more first down on a quick out to Manningham.  Punt. 

Given New York’s slow start, Belichick and Brady know there’s no reason to force something early.  Brady wants to test the secondary, but is still thinking about his interceptions two weeks ago and how that almost cost his team the game.  Even for someone as great as Brady, it’s never a bad thing to eliminate some early nerves with a short passing game, especially when that’s New England’s offensive foundation anyway.  The Pats move it twice as far as the Giants, but punt at the cusp of Giants territory. 

The Giants start their second possession backed up inside their own 15-yard line.  While this presents a challenge in terms of pass protection, the full field leaves a lot of space for the New York wide outs to get separation from New England’s terrible secondary. 

Pause here.

This morning, I was listening to everyone’s favorite self-praising analyst, Marc Schlereth, break down the “X-factor” for the game.  For reasons I cannot understand, Schlereth proclaimed that do-it-all Julian Edelman would be an impact player on defense.  I suppose he also thinks these two girls got fair presents and that Cod is as good as Lobster (Cod is known as the “poor man’s lobster” for all you non-cooks).  Edelman’s ability to even participate defensively is impressive, but don’t try to convince me or anyone else that he is a legitimate defensive back who is actually going to stand a chance against anyone the Giants will be using in the passing game.  If that’s who New England is banking on defensively, they don’t have a chance. 

I digress.
If the Giants want to win Sunday, they will need an answer for Edelman's
stellar defense.  Wait, what?
The long field means that the New England coverage guys are going to be tested.  After all, in order to produce the kind of long scores the Giants have done so seemingly effortlessly the last month and a half, you need to be far away from the end zone.  This second New York possession is the first of the game we begin to see the unjust mismatch.  They drive down the field for an eight minute drive, but cannot breach New England’s 20 and settle for a field goal. 
Giants 3, Patriots 0

With a few minutes left in the first half, Brady takes the field to prove New England isn’t the only Super Bowl team with a weak secondary.  He connects with Aaron Hernandez for a 35-yard gain over the middle of the field on the opening play of the drive.  Brady rushes to the line of scrimmage for the final play of the first quarter but gets dragged to the ground by Chris Canty on the ensuing play after Umenyiora forces him out of the pocket. 

Second Quarter
The Pats face second and long at around mid field after the sack, but make up the yardage loss and then some when Welker is able to slip away from Corey Webster for his first catch of the game.  He does it again on third down.  New England is able to pick up another first down but a pair of negative rushes from Law Firm force New England to attempt a 47-yard field goal.   
Giants 3, Patriots 3

Coughlin finally decides it’s time to break out the passing game.  Eli throws on six of the first seven plays of the possession, completing two passes to Cruz for a total of 25 yards and another 15-yard hitch pattern to Nicks.  New England senses that a big play will go against them if they don’t fix the problem.  Belichick calls timeout.  New York comes out of the timeout with a screen to Bradshaw and then two more Bradshaw runs for the first down.  Again in Patriots territory, and with about eight minutes remaining in the quarter, Eli takes his first big shot of the game and connects on a deep post pattern with Hakeem Nicks. 
Giants 10, Patriots 3

At this point, Chris Collinsworth turns to Al Michaels and says, amid a series of chuckles, “I’ll tell you, Al, that was some throw by Eli Manning.  Falling off his back foot… Oh, man.  There’s just something about Eli.  He just loves that little flick he did there… see, wow.  What. A. Play.  Looking at Brady over there on the sideline I can tell you, ha, he’s ready to do something even more extraordinary.  Seven minutes and forty-five seconds left in the first half… I think this game’s about to open up offensively.  We might see two more touchdowns this half!” Wrong. 

The two teams exchange three and outs. 
No need for a caption.
New England starts with the pigskin at their thirty-five yard line with just under three minutes left.  They open with some safe play calls (i.e. draw, quick screen) but eventually Brady connects with Gronkowski for the first time for 17 yards.  Brady takes a deep shot to Chad Ochocinco (yeah, you’re right that probably won’t happen) but would rather overthrow him than risk a pick.  He does overthrow him and after a few more short patterns, New England settles for a field goal.
Giants 10, Patriots 6

Madonna clunks onto the stage with her walker (obviously, the IV is still attached) and is joined by Nicki Minaj, who pulls up in a monster automobile gangster with a bad bitch that came from Sri Lanka (the “bad bitch” is a replacement for the scheduled M.I.A., who is nowhere to be found).  They dance, Nicki shows her boob (which is pink, interestingly enough), and modern, hip female performers are banned from the Super Bowl for another decade. 

Third Quarter
Brady pays no attention to the halftime antics and begins to get especially irritable.  The target of his irritation is mistake prone, trash talking safety, Antrel Rolle.  Brady delivers a beautiful pass into the body of Hernandez right in front of Rolle, does it on the following play to Gronkowski for another 10 yards, and then finishes the deal with a deep pass down the sideline to Deon Branch a few plays later.  Audiences are delighted as Brady executes one of his trademarked head-snap, dual fist pump, bulging-eyed scream.  It’s terrifying just writing this.
Giants 10, Patriots 13   

Manning takes the field determined to regain the lead.  Little does he know, it’s Wilfork time.  After a relatively quiet first half, the bulging beast in the middle sacks Manning not once, but twice on the ensuring drive.  On third and 17, Eli let’s a pass sail over the head of Victor Cruz. 

Brady gets back to business, already thinking about a knockout blow.  Unfortunately for him, so are all-pro defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck.  Neither gets a sack this drive, but they exchange hits on Brady within the first few plays and cause two errant passes.  On third and ten, Brady finds Welker running open over the middle of the field.  Welker ducks out of a Kenny Phillips arm tackle and breaks down the sideline for an additional forty yards.  A few plays later, the Patriots have first and goal.  Green-Ellis bursts over the line for a touchdown. 
Giants 10, Patriots 20

Once again the game enters a stalemate.  Neither team can advance the ball in the face of terrific defensive line pressure.  Manning and Brady are too smart to let a mistake decide the game.  The quarter ends with a New England punt.

Fourth Quarter
New England has been uninterested in the blitz for the majority of the game, but they open the fourth quarter with a seven-man rush.  Mistake.  Eli connects with Cruz on a deep curl, he makes Devin McCourty miss, and runs 50 more yards to the Baja.
Giants 17, Patriots 20

With nearly a full quarter left to play, most teams wouldn’t think about running out the clock already.  There’s no chance in Hell the Patriots would consider it.  Brady takes the field looking poised to score another touchdown.  Once again, he finds success in Aaron Hernandez, who, given the Gronkowski injury, has a larger responsibility in this game than in any other one this season.  Brady looks for Hernandez on three of the drive’s first five plays, connecting with him twice for around 20 yards. 

Tic, tic, tic…
Hernandez must step up in the number 1 tight end spot.
New England enters the red zone with under seven minutes left.  On first down, they line Hernandez out wide to the right, with Welker in the slot, also to Brady’s right.  He throws a quick pass to the Common Cold in the flat, Hernandez holds his block on Webster, and Welker scoots past the goal line before being absolutely crushed by Michael Boley.  Play gets reviewed (Al Michaels informs the Super Bowl audience, “all scoring plays get reviewed upstairs automatically”) and the ball appears to cross the plane just before Welker’s cute little kneecap hits the turf.  Touchdown.
Giants 17, Patriots 27

Can the spirit of Tyree find a new host?  The Giants need to make up 10 points in six minutes.  It looks good initially as Will Blackmon returns the ball to the Giants’ 38-yard line.  Where does Eli look now with the game on the line?  Manningham, who has been quite for most of the game, emerges with four catches on the drive, including a 28-yard gain to start the drive.  His last one is on a fade to the left corner of the end zone from 20 yards out, a la Plaxico Burress.   The Giants still have all their time outs. 
Giants 24, Patriots 27

With two minutes and thirty-four seconds (yes, exactly) remaining in the game, Coughlin is faced with a decision.  Play it deep or try an onside kick?  I yell at the screen he should do the onside, “If you give up a first down, you’re pretty much screwed in either case!  You might as well try to get it back.  Even if you don’t, New England still needs to pick up around 15-20 yards to score.  If you give that kind of yardage up, it’s game over anyways!”  If anyone in the room is still listening to my commentary that comes before and after every play, they would tell me I am right, which they had probably already been doing for the last three hours with hopes of that getting me to shut up, not realizing everyone else deals with me by pretending I’m not there.  Coughlin doesn’t get it and kicks the ball deep. 

It’s often the case that in tight games like this one, whichever team wins needs to get contributions from unexpected areas.  In this case, New England needs the running game to win them a Super Bowl. 

2:30 – First down run goes for 2 yards.  Time out. 

2:24 – Second down run goes for 5 yards. Time out.

2:18 – Brady drops back, completes a pass to Hernandez to the left for four yards. First down.  Two minute warning.

2:00 – Law Firm goes up the middle for 8 yards.  Time out.

1:53 – New York crowds the line, Brady audibles out of a sneak, hands the ball to Green-Ellis.  Green Ellis goes straight through the middle of the line, gets to the second level, runs over Aaron Ross, and takes it the distance for a touchdown.  Game over. 

Giants 24, Patriots 34. Tom Brady wins third Super Bowl MVP. 

I’m going to Disney World.


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