The "party" side of Super Bowl Party held off until halftime, but broke loose in full force then. As the TV showed 50-something Tom Petty rocking his way through ´70s classics (I would have loved to hear "American Girl"), Fernando (dressed in a NYG capand Manning #10 jersey for part of the show) and his salsa band filled the hall with salsa, reggae, "Shout" and "YMCA". The show carried over well into the second half, interference that was unnoticed at first given that the screens once again went dark--this time a Lifestyles Hacienda problem. This time we missed only about four minutes of play. With such a low scoring game (7-3 Patriots after three quarters) we didn´t miss much action, and no scoring. For the rest of the third quarter and into the fourth the music raged on, interrupted only by a massive fireworks display. A Dominican drummer, renown on three continents, followed Fernando. By then we´d moved away from the stage to a covered area (oh yeah, rain threatened our outdoor seating on and off through the evening). Finally the drummer took a break, one that mercifully extended through the end of the game--once again we could benefit fully from the Spanish-language commentary.
You know all about the fourth quarter and the outcome of the game, but I´ll describe my highlights anyway. We rooted fearlessly for "Los Gigantes"(quarterbacked by Eli Manning, a New Orleans boy coached in high school by my daughter´s current high school principal), even with the next table full of Patriots´fans. I was worried that the Giants fantastic defensive effort might go to waste, and slumped when Randy Moss caught the TD pass to put the Pats back on top late in the game. Still, I knew that Los Gigantes had both time and timeouts for a comeback. The 4th down play on which Manning avoided being sacked by three Patriot defenders and heaved the ball 35 yards downfield to reserve receiver David Tyree (I didn´t know his first name until I watched ESPN´s English-language highlights this morning.) who made perhaps the best football catch I´ve ever seen, at least in such a do-or-die situation, gave me for the first time a strong feeling that Los Gigantes would prevail. Manning´s rainbow pass to mouthy Plaxico Burress looked like a golden parachute in the air. I just knew that it would land safely in the arms of an open receiver. Still, 35 seconds, three NE timeouts and the great Tom Brady stood between Los Gigantes and victory. A second-down sack turned the situation desperate for the Pats, and even then they almost pulled it out. Brady´s 67-yard bombwas barely tipped off Moss´s fingers. A final fourth down heave wasn´t close and Los Gigantes had their win, even though they had to clear the celebration off the field and run one more "kneel down" play to run off the last 0:01 and close the deal.
Eli was a deserving MVP, but by any analysis it was a true team victory. The defense held the vaunted Pats' offense to 14 points, even fewer than Burress´s 17-point prediction that irked Brady. A relentless pass rush was the key factor, though the run defense held Pats' RB Lawrence Maroney to just 36 yards on 14 carries, well below the 120 yard games he produced in the Pats' previous playoff wins. On offense, top supporters were Tyree of course, with a TD reception (his first of the season) and the acrobatic fourth down catch, Amari Toomer, who demonstrated the most dependable hands and feet, Burress, who ran the game-winning pattern, RBs Ahmad Bradshaw, for timely running, and Brandon Jacobs, for a critical fourth-down plunge. The offensive line kept the Pats' DL and linebackers away from Manning, as did Bradshaw and Jacobs, who picked up several blitzers along the way.
We didn´t linger for the Spanish post-game analysis or renewal of the party. By midnight everyone was in bed and asleep. Vamonos, los Gigantes!!
February 1 - With less than 48 hours to go until the big game, we leave the US tomorrow at 6 a.m. for vacation in the Dominican Republic. I'm sure that the resort will have a TV tuned to FOX's coverage of the game. I'm not so sure about Internet access to be able to blog the game back to you (or to provide any more pregame or timely postgame analysis). Be strong. Rejoice with me if I can get connected. Hang in there until I get back on February 10.
Ominously or propitiously, I discovered a new website today--WikiAnswers. I've already answered about 20 questions--mostly about the Super Bowl and the Phillies. I already blog, Photoblog, Panaramio/Google Earth, Scrabble, and Amazon online. Do I need another outlet? Why not?
January 31 - Numbers Game (Super Bowl Quarterback Numbers) - One of my readers was searching for a list of all the Super Bowl QBs who wore #12. I'm sure this inquiry was inspired by Tom Brady's uniform number. Nowhere on the Internet could I find a list of Super Bowl QBs with uniform numbers. I decided to create one. The winning QB appears first. "12s" (by far the most often occurring number) are bolded. More observations follow.
I - Bart Starr 15; Len Dawson 16
A total of 53 quarterbacks populated the 82 available starting spots in the first 41 Super Bowls. With 10 players and 22 starts, #12 is by far the most popular number. Between Super Bowl VI and XIV, every game was won by a QB wearing #12. In three of these games, #12 was a sure thing as both starting QBs wore that number. Early wins by #12s included Joe Namath's predicted upset of the Colts in III, four wins by the Steelers and Terry Bradshaw, 2-1 Super Bowl records by both Bob Griese and Roger Staubach, and a lone win by Tuscaloosa's other #12, Ken Stabler. After Bradshaw's fourth win in XIV, #12 didn't win again for 22 years when in XXXVI, young Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to an upset win over the St. Louis Rams. In between, #12s suffered six losses--four in consecutive years by the Buffalo Bills and Jim Kelly and one each in blowout fashion by San Diego's Stan Humphries and Atlanta's Chris Chandler. With three wins in the last six Super Bowls, Brady has turned things around for #12, interrupted only by another dismal performance by the Raiders' Rich Gannon in XXXVII. The overall record for #12 - 12 wins and 10 losses in 22 appearances by ten quarterbacks.
January 31 - More, Part 7 - If Oral Inflammation Occurs, Please Discontinue Use of Plaxico
I'm having trouble coming up with today's omen that the Giants will upset the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII ("The Answer"). In fact, things would look and sound better if Giants' WR Plaxico Burress had his tongue embedded in Lucite before remarking that 1) the Giants' receivers were better than the Pats' receivers, and 2) that the Giants would win the game 23-17. In response , Pats' QB Tom Brady was puzzled that Burress predicted only 17 points for the high-scoring (almost 37 points per game in the regular season) Patriots' offense. I don't remember how the Baltimore Colts of 1969 reacted to Jets' QB Joe Namath's guarantee of victory, but certainly it was not by embarassing the 17-point underdogs on the field on Super Sunday. Maybe the combination of another New York loudmouth and a big favorite is an omen of a similar result?
January 30 - More, Part 6 - Hubris, Anyone?
Fox Sports reports that government officials are concerned about a Patriots victory parade on Tuesday interfering with voting in the Super Tuesday presidential primaries. The mayor of Boston claims that Tuesday is the only possible date for a parade. The Massachusetts Secretary of State warns that "the election must take precedence." Such forward-looking hubris just has to improve the Giants' chances for an upset, although I doubt that Bill Belechick is too concerned about this issue, unless his players read the report.
A Google Images search of "football hugs" returned 98,600 hits (61,900 for "Super Bowl hugs"). Surprisingly, a Yahoo Images search of "football hugs" found only 360 (and just 43 for "Super Bowl hugs"). The Google search doesn't stop at Super Bowl hugs. It picks up all "Super Bowl" images, of which there are of course a lot.
Gay readers apparently enjoy this shot of Colts backup QB Jeff Shogi hugging kicker Adam Vinatieri during Super Bowl XLI media day. (from outsports.com)
Dungy gives Colts QB Peyton Manning the hug he waited his whole professional career to receive.
January 22 - More, Part I - Connections
The Pats opened as 13.5 to 14 point favorites. Which Super Bowl teams have been favored by the same or more points? How did they do? I know one answer--the Baltimore Colts were big favorites over the AFL New York Jets in Super Bowl III. Jets' QB Joe Namath guaranteed victory and delivered the history-making upset--a win that probably set in motion the process that would merge the NFL and AFL.
The line on Super Bowl XLII has been bet down to about 12 points, perhaps because of the Giants' strong playoff play, and perhaps because of Tom Brady's appearances wearing an orthopedic boot. Or perhaps it's because Sports Illustrated's respected football writer Paul Zimmerman picked the Giants to win outright in this recent column.
Super Bowl XLII is a rematch of the last game of the regular season between the Pats and Giants in New York. The Giants played bravely, but lost 38-35. With the win, the Patriots completed an unprecented 16-0 regular season, only the second perfect regular season in NFL history (the 1972 Miami Dolphins had the other at 14-0; ironically the Dolphins finished with the NFL's worst record at 1-15 this year). Can the Giants muster the same kind of effort and pull off the win this time?
The Pats/Giants regular season finale was televised on three networks--NBC, CBS and the NFL Network. It was initially set for only the NFL Network, but because of the game's historical impact and the fact that NFL Network is carried by less than half of cable TV companies, the NFL allowed a triple cast of the game on the other networks. The result was a record-setting regular season audience for a Saturday NFL game (I watched it back-and-forth with a now forgotten college bowl game during my "Bowling for Dollars" phase).
New England vs. New York (although they play in New Jersey) is yet another Boston vs. New York game--a matchup we saw too often during the baseball season. Given that the teams don't play often, there's not much of a rivalry between the fans. The Giants have much stronger rivalries with the Eagles and Redskins, while the Patriots have battled the Bills, Jets and Dolphins for years in the AFC East.
Manning and Brady got most of the attention in the championship game wins, but great performances were turned in by less celebrated players--11 catches for 154 yards by Giants' receiver Plaxico Burress (whose whole name works well as a pharmaceutical company; by itself Plaxico would have to cure something); 9 catches, many of the circus variety by Patriots' running back Kevin Faulk; 120+ yards rushing by other Patriots' RB Lawrence Maroney (his fourth 100 yard game in the last five); a comeback-ending interception by Patriots' DB Asante Samuel; and tough overtime running by Giants' rookie RB Ahmad Bradshaw, a 7th round draft pick, who played only a few games in the regular season.
Gathered around the goat pen, but staying outside were Tynes, of course, whose game-winning kick atoned for two previous misses in the minds of some, Giants DB Corey Webster, who atoned for getting burned by Donald Driver's 90-yard TD catch by picking off Favre's errant pass on the second play of overtime, and DB R.W. McQuarters who fumbled while returning an interception--a fumble that popped right into the waiting arms of Packers' lineman Steve Tauscher.
A probably incomplete list of Super Bowl people with Louisiana connections includes Faulk, who starred on Gerry DiNardo's teams at LSU in the late 1990s, Giants RB Brandon Jacobs, a high school star in Napoleonville, LA before going onto Southern Illinois University and the NFL, Webster, a former LSU cornerback, Giants' QB Eli Manning, who grew up and played high school ball at Newman in New Orleans, and FOX analyst Terry Bradshaw, a Louisiana native who starred at Louisiana Tech before going on to a Hall of Fame NFL career (four Super Bowl rings) and popularity as a football analyst and TV personality.
New England scored a record 589 points and gave up only 274 in the regular season--a difference of 315, another record, and an average victory margin of more than 19 points. The Giants scored 373 and gave up 351, a difference of 22, or just over one point per game. This comparison has a lot to do with the two-touchdown point spread. A comparison of playoff games is a little less daunting for the Giants. The Pats have scored 52 and given up 32 in two playoff games, an average margin of 10 points. The Giants have scored 68 and given up 51 in three playoff games for an average margin of almost six points. Advantage Patriots, but not as dramatically.
Foxsports.com fans think a lot more of the Patriots, ranking them #2 (#2?) and the Giants #26. I have no idea how these rankings are determined, but it doesn't say much for the voters.
Lastly for today, I'll share some personal background on my relationship with these two teams. Growing up in central New York state, I was a Giants' fan for most of my youth, rooting for Y.A. Tittle (who looks about 65, but was actually in his late 30s when this picture was taken), Joe Morrison, Sam Huff and Del Shofner, among others. The Giants rewarded me with three consecutive NFL Championship Game losses from 1961 to 1963 (Packers 37-0 (ouch!), Packers 16-7, Bears 14-10). The other choice in Syracuse was to root for the Cleveland Browns and RB Jimmy Brown, who starred at Syracuse University in the '50s. When that Giants' team broke up, we cheered for the generally inept efforts of the Fran Tarkenton-led Giants, after he came over from the Vikings. This team bottomed out in a history-making 72-41 loss to the Washington Redskins sometime in the late '60s. When my family moved to the Philadelphia area, I gravitated easily from being a Giants fan to following the Iggles, as they're known in the Delaware Valley (and who were equally inept until Dick Vermeil came along to coach). My other weaker connection to the Giants comes from days working in South Carolina where I worked and played softball with a guy who was Harry Carson's roommate in college. I rooted for Parcell's Giants when they beat Denver 39-20 in the Super Bowl played in San Diego.
My connection to the Patriots is almost nil. I rooted for them as a heavy underdog when they got annihilated by the dancing Bears in 1986. I rooted hard against them when the Brady-led team played Donovan McNabb and the Eagles a couple years ago. I don't remember getting too worked up in either direction about their other Super Bowls. This year, I'm going loud and strong for the Giants--getting back to my roots and cheering for Louisiana's Eli.
My mother complained about all the death posts (Notable and Traffic), so I'll start a Super Bowl post and try to find some unused angle to the most analyzed sports event in America. How about hugs?
Once again, two weeks of buildup await after the New England Patriots 21-12 win over the San Diego Chargers in the AFC Championship Game and the New York Giants 23-20 overtime win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
The Patriots win was a case of touchdowns beating field goals, as the Pats scored three TDs while the Chargers, playing with surgically-repaired QB Phillip Rivers and without injured tailback LaDanian Tomlinson, managed an inadequate four field goals. League MVP Tom Brady of the Patriots had a relatively poor game, throwing three interceptions, but the Chargers didn't have the offensive firepower to take advantage.
In frigid Green Bay (wind chill -24 F by the end), the Giants and Packers played a surprisingly competent game, decided in overtime when Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes made a 47-yard field goal, after missing two late game attempts, including a 37-yarder at the end of regulation time. We watched the replay several times trying to figure out who hugged Tynes after his game-winning kick. Giants' QB Eli Manning raced onto the field to hug holder Jeff Feagles. I'm pretty sure that Giants' coach Tom Coughlin couldn't bring himself to hug Tynes after yelling at him after the first miss and shunning him after the second.
Sympathy hugs were in order on the Green Bay sideline, especially for future Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre, for whom the NFC Championship Game was expected to be a step on the road to a possible last-hurrah in Super Bowl XLII. Favre threw two touchdown passes during regulation, including a 90-yard strike to WR Donald Driver that was the longest TD pass in Packer playoff history, but on the second play of overtime threw a critical interception that led to the Giants' game-winning field goal. Once again, Favre has to decide whether to return for another season, one that would be his 18th in the NFL.