Musings, observations and the occasional insight from Super Bowl XLII, a game so ugly it was absolutely beautiful. And historic. And dramatic. And everything a New York fan could have dreamed of ...
• Unless he's a complete stiff in the interview process -- and I don't think he will be -- we might want to go ahead and give Giants defensive coordinator SteveSpagnuolo the Redskins' head-coaching job. That's how hot Spagnuolo will be, now that his Giants defenders shut down the most prolific offense in NFL history.
Oh, the delicious irony! Jim Fassel, the former Giants head coach had to be sick watching this game. I believe he was the leader in the clubhouse for the Redskins job, unless Spagnuolo made up some ground with a stellar outing by his unit in the Super Bowl.
Spagnuolo's unit got after Tom Brady all night long and played with a passion and intensity that will speak volumes on behalf of his candidacy in Washington. It's hard to imagine a scenario where you could be deemed a hotter assistant, or a more sought-after head-coaching candidate than Spagnuolo is, thanks to tonight's prime-time audition.
• Hey, you gotta hand it to Plaxico Burress. The guy predicted a Giants upset, then went out there and backed it up, catching the game-winning touchdown pass with 35 seconds remaining.
So what if it was 17-14 rather than 23-17? Joe Namath, move over. You've got company in the Super Bowl Legend's Club.
• David Tyree? David Tyree? Name me one person in America who predicted that David Tyree would turn in the game's most important and amazing play? That 32-yard Eli Manning-to-Tyree completion -- which he secured one-handed, with the ball trapped against his own helmet -- will be replayed as long as there's sports in New York.
And let's not forget the miracle escape by Manning on that play. He looked all but sacked by Patriots defensive lineman Jarvis Green. What an unforgettable play it was.
• The city of Boston's remarkable sports-related hot streak just officially ended.
• In every radio or TV interview I did all week long, whenever I was asked what the key component of a Giants upset would be, I always said it was New York's pass rush. If the Giants' league-leading sackers could get to Brady, or at least leave him harassed, hurried and harried, New York's chances to beat the unbeaten Patriots would soar.
In the second quarter, that's what started to unfold, as Brady was sacked by Kawika Mitchell and Justin Tuck on successive plays. All told, the Giants got to Brady three times in the second quarter, and hit or hurried him on a half dozen other snaps. Tuck had two of those sacks and also stripped Brady of the ball on one of them, ending a Patriots drive that had reached New York territory.
The Giants moved Tuck around on the defensive line, and New England never had the answer for him. Tuck abused Pro Bowl-bound guard Logan Mankins at times.
• Trust me when I tell you that folks close to Brady were very, very worried about his ankle on the Sunday night after New England had beaten San Diego in the AFC title game earlier that day. Brady basically couldn't even walk on his sore ankle that night at home, which tells you how fortunate the Patriots were that there's a two-week gap between the conference title game and the Super Bowl.
Still, Brady appeared to have trouble with his deep-passing touch against the Giants, which could be attributable, at least in part, to his inability to plant that foot and follow-through on his throws.
• With the Patriots up only 7-3, it's hard not to see New England's refusal to go for a 48- or 49-yard field early in the third quarter as anything but a lack of confidence in second-year kicker Steven Gostkowski. In an indoor setting, with no elements to contend with, you've got to believe your kicker can bang that one home. Strange strategy from Coach Hoodie, who could have used an extra three points at game's end.
• Until that last fateful slip on the Randy Moss touchdown, what a job Giants cornerback Corey Webster did on the game's most dangerous receiver. What in the world got into Webster this postseason? He was Champ Bailey and Lester Hayes rolled into one.
• These were two entirely different games, but the Patriots beat the Giants by three in that offensive slugfest in the Meadowlands in December, 38-35, and the Giants beat them by three Sunday, in a 17-14 game where the defenses starred and neither offense ever looked entirely in sync.
Kind of fitting.
• Have to admit, my first thought when I saw the Patriots successfully challenge that the Giants had 12 men on the field on that third quarter punt was: New England gets still more help from video.
• The Patriots' dynasty started with the tuck rule, and it ended with the Tuck Rules. As in Giants defensive tackle Justin Tuck rules, after the dominant game he just turned in against New England.
I'm pretty proud of that one.
• I'm not surprised that a new round of Spygate controversy flared up late this week, simply because it was the blockbuster story that never really went away this season. But you get the feeling at this point, with so much smoke mixing with the fire, we'll never really know the complete story of what the Patriots actually did, might have done, or are perhaps being wrongly accused of in regards to their pre-2007 video-taping practices.
Do I think it's likely this latest twist about the Patriots filming the Rams' Super Bowl walk-through in February 2002 is made up out of whole cloth? No. But is it a bit flimsy to try and convict New England based entirely on the account provided to the Boston Herald by an unnamed source? Exceedingly so.
I'm not ready to declare the Patriots' first Super Bowl title -- the one the guys in red, white and blue so memorably won amid a wave of patriotism in the wake of 9/11 -- tainted by this questionable addition to the Spygate saga. Doesn't there have to be a little more than lip service paid to the notion of innocent until proven guilty? Produce something or someone who can shed more substantial light on New England's pregame videotaping practices, and we'll be happy to revisit the question of the Patriots' guilt or innocence, along with their legacy. Until then, I don't think we definitively know much of anything.
• The record will show Eli Manning threw his first and only interception this postseason early in the second quarter of Sunday's game, when Ellis Hobbs picked him off on a pivotal third-and-five play from the Patriots' 14. But the truth is, Manning no more deserved that pick than I did. The ball went off rookie receiver Steve Smith's hands and caromed over his shoulder to Hobbs.
• Tell me Kevin Boss didn't look like Jeremy Shockey on that big 45-yard fourth-quarter catch-and-run?
• Loved those priceless shots of Peyton Manning clapping and pumping his fist while watching his little brother lead the Giants on the go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
• For the second consecutive Super Bowl, a Manning walked off the field as the game-winning Super Bowl MVP.
• Weird game in the first half, wasn't it? Even though the Patriots led 7-3 for almost the entire second quarter, it was a miserable 15 minutes of football for them. New York consistently took the action to New England, at times pushing the Patriots around physically and that four-point New England lead felt more like a 10-point deficit.
• Who would have thought Tom Petty would be better in the first half than Tom Brady? Nice, tight four-song set by Mr. Petty, although for me, every Super Bowl halftime show after U2's memorable post-9/11 tribute in February 2002 pales by comparison.
• Winning and winning big almost always earns an NFL head coach a contract extension, but has anyone ever done more personal renovation to help secure his future employment than the Giants' Tom Coughlin? All he did was significantly alter his temperament and approach to coaching at the ripe old age of 60, and then he watched as his team reaped the results.
Good for Coughlin. Good for the Giants. Coughlin really earned that contract extension which soon will be coming his way.
• Cris Carter not deemed a first-ballot Hall of Famer? I don't get that. I covered the Eagles-Vikings-Dolphins receiver for the last four seasons of the '90s in Minnesota, and besides catching more than 1,100 passes and scoring 130 touchdowns, I always said the smooth-as-silk Carter was one player I would have paid money to watch perform.
• Have to admit, Glendale's University of Phoenix Stadium (UPS, as I've dubbed it) was dressed up and looking good for its big close-up Sunday. It may look like a giant four-slice toaster, but it has great atmosphere inside; and even with the retractable roof closed, it didn't feel all that dome-like to me.
• Weirdest ranking I've heard all week was turned in by legendary NFL groundskeeper George Toma, who told the NFL Network the UPS turf "is the third-best sod I've seen in my 66 years in the game.''
Third-best? Huh? That's rather specific. Makes me crazy to not know his top two.
• This probably doesn't translate to the experience of watching the game on TV, and please don't think I'm bemoaning my fate, but being at the Super Bowl these days is an endurance test when it comes to the human ear's ability to handle a cacophony of noise. I'm talking a four-hour wall of ear-splitting sound pumped into every inch of the stadium. My head will be ringing until the start of the NFL Combine later this month.
• I'm glad Art Monk made the Hall of Fame. If only because it now puts the cottage industry known as the Art-Monk-deserves-to-be-in-the-Hall-of-Fame Washington lobbyist group out of business.
• Pretty sure we've seen the last of Patriots receiver Troy Brown. And it's a shame he was inactive Sunday, in what is almost sure to be his last game after a 15-year career in New England. I don't think anyone typified the Patriots' team-first mentality more so than Brown, who in recent years regularly and selflessly switched over and played cornerback when New England's secondary was riddled with injuries.
• Speaking of retirement, I saw Broncos safety John Lynch at dinner Friday night -- we were eating at the same Scottsdale restaurant -- and he says he's still doesn't know yet if he'll return for a 16th NFL season. Lynch, who I covered early his career in Tampa Bay, said he had hoped to have a decision by Super Bowl week but now intends to decide after the Pro Bowl.
Lynch didn't tip his hand, but my gut tells me his body has had enough and he'll walk away from the game. Don't know if he'll ever make it to Canton, but Lynch at least has a Hall of Fame candidacy.