giants almost too polite to win super bowl xlvi

well, good morning

and if like me you’re nursing the effects of a night sprawled on the sofa with nothing but a duvet, Super Bowl XLVI and toffee popcorn for company, then a special welcome to you.

despite the fact that i’m even more tired today than usual, as someone who backed the Giants to win a tight game, i feel it was well worth the effort. of course, actual Giants fans have been left in something of a difficult spot. on the one hand their team just won the Super Bowl. on the other, they did it in spite of making what would, if they’d lost, have gone down as one of the biggest tactical errors in the sport’s history.

American Football is a curious game at the best of times, but last two minutes of last night’s game was a particularly good example of its oddities. all over the world there would have been enthusiastic but inexperienced Giants fans jumping about and whooping their tongues out as Ahmad Bradshaw sat down into the end zone to score what became the winning points. i, however, and i’m sure many millions more Giants supporters, was (whisper)shouting at the TV in disbelief. “take the knee, take the kneeeeeeee! why didn’t he take the knee?”

there were two reasons for this: first, i like the phrase “take the knee” – it sits next to “take the fifth” in the list of my favourite American phrases, and arises only in quite specific circumstances. second, it was what the situation had demanded and yet not what Bradshaw seemed able to do or did.

American football is a game of territory, possession and time. moments earlier, Mario Manningham had made one of the best catches in a Super Bowl ever to put the Giants in a great position. there was now just over a minute left on the clock and the Giants had good possession, deep in Patriots territory – it was 2nd down and they were six yards out.

despite trailing at this moment by 17-15, because of the likelihood that their possession would yield at least a three point field goal if not a six-point touchdown, the Giants had (according to the fine minds over at Advanced NFL Stats) a 94% chance of winning.

however, despite their possession and territory, their real advantage in this situation was time. if they could both score a minimum of three points and use up all or almost all of the remaining time, then they were champions.

what happened next was a curious, but not unprecedented piece of tactical shenanigans. Bill Belichick, the coach of the New England Patriots, ordered their defensive line to allow the Giants to score a touchdown. therefore, as the play began, instead of finding players rushing up to block and tackle, Bradshaw who received the ball from quarterback Eli Manning, found his path to the end zone utterly unguarded.

this was the moment that he should have ‘taken the knee‘, i.e. fallen to one knee in order to finish the play. Belichick had decided that the best chance the Patriots had to win the game was, instead of using up time trying to stop the Giants from scoring a touchdown and then trying to make a block or force an error on their field goal attempt, to let the Giants score straight away, and then try to use the remaining time to get back up the other end and score themselves – a tactic that the Packers head coach Mike Holgren had also used (unsuccessfully) against the Broncos at Super Bowl XXXII.

therefore, as counter-logical as it might seem to American Football novices, the best thing for Bradshaw to do, tactically speaking, was to just fall over, forcing another play and more time to be wasted. watch this clip from 2009 for an example courtesy of Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars:

 
instead, apparently unaware that the situation might arise, he dithered and then sort of sat ungracefully down and over the line for a touchdown. i guess he felt it would have been a bit impolite not to score. despite the fact that the Patriots had initiated the tactical ploy, maybe he didn’t want to be known as the guy who won the Super Bowl by trickery?

although the Giants went from 15-17 down to 21-17 in the lead, their chances of winning the game actually decreased (ANFLS recalculated it at 85%). while they were able to use up a bit of time by attempting a two point (running) conversion, the Patriots were left with 1m 3s to make something happen.

although, fortunately for Bradshaw and the Giants and Giants fans everywhere, the Patriots were not able to make a scoring play, it would have been interesting to see how history would have treated Bradshaw if they had.

after the game, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s wife Gisele Bundchen, who in the run up to the game had sent out emails asking friends and family to pray for her ‘Tommy’, no doubt exponentially increased her popularity in the locker room by sticking up for her husband’s team in their moment of defeat.

 
filmed leaving after the game, she shouted, towards a vocal Giants fan, “They didn’t catch the ball when they were supposed to catch the ball. My husband cannot fucking throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time”.

quite. perhaps the Giants will ask her to tutor Ahmad on the game.

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  • Comments (2)
    • Drew
    • February 7th, 2012

    Yeah. She should have been getting her family to pray for Wes Welker instead of Tommy. Tommy doesn’t need divine intervention. ‘Wesy’ on the other hand…

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