Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl Liveblogging Part XIII

By Rick Morris

How can a game look like a lackluster Super Bowl for 55 minutes and utterly catch fire in the last five? There was an unprecedented three lead changes in the final quarter of a Super Bowl.

We just saw history, folks, and this will be a game that gets talked about 50 years from now when we reflect back on what the Giants just did.

Eli Manning completed his 2008 Redemption Tour with a moment that makes his career immortal, regardless of whatever else he accomplishes from here. The game-winning 12-play, 83 yard drive in the final 2:42, culminating in the touchdown pass to a previously-underutilized Plaxico Burress for the 17-14 win, defies belief still. Eli deserves the MVP and the play where he wiggled out of the grasp to hit Tyree deep in New England territory is the defining moment of this epic event.

Eli always had good maneuverability, slightly better than his brother in fact (and that is the ONLY area where he comes out on top of Peyton). But tonight he put it all together in a manner that few QBs ever do on the biggest stage. And it turns out he did win the MVP, good for him.

Now, New England, which reached for untold glory, suffers a humiliation that is under the radar but present nonetheless -- they were trying to be the first team to be both a Team of the Decade and have an unbeaten season (this was only because the Dolphins of the early '70s were decimated by World Football League defections and never got a chance to build on their accomplishments through the decade). But instead, they become the first Team of the Decade of the Super Bowl era to lose a Super Bowl in that decade.

Tom Brady clearly was not nearly 100%, proving my pregame skepticism completely wrong. Credit must go also to the unbelievable Giant pass rush, however, as Brady got hit more in one night than in several previous games combined. But chew this over for a second: the Patriot offense, the greatest regular-season offense in the history of the league in the regular season (at least in terms of points tallied), put up a donut tonight: one TD on their first drive, one on their last, and bupkis in between.

As I noted in our Super Bowl preview, the Football Outsiders website stated this week that the Giants were bucking history -- not merely because of trying to knock off an 18-0 team, but because they were one of the most mediocre teams ever to be in a Super Bowl if you look at the totality of their season. Few teams in the history of the game succeeded in pulling themselves out of the ranks of the average to attain necessary greatness later in the season. That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but it certainly is not. Eli Manning and many of his teammates were looking quite suspect as recently as midseason and the historical record is strongly against such a collection of players growing up over the course of the same season. They deserve a lot of credit for accomplishing such a rare feat.

Prior to the season, I picked the Giants to finish 6-10 as Tom Coughlin was brought back for what looked to be a lame duck season after his 2006 team was racked by turmoil. Who knew that shedding Tiki Barber would help the chemistry enough to bring the team together?

As for me personally, as I have noted I am a huge Dolphins fan and I was rocking my Nat Moore jersey tonight. Frankly, when Burress scored his touchdown, I was hyperventilating I was so happy and so utterly shocked. I had to run into the kitchen to get a bag to breathe into, earning me the scorn of the room!

Here's a little well-earned '72 Dolphins triumphalism

To conclude this wrapup, here are some quotes I did not hear in the postgame interviews that I had hoped would be said:

^ Eli Manning: "You mean my brother struggled to beat this Brady character all these years? What's up with that? It only took me one shot!"

^ Archie Manning: "This is absolutely the greatest day of my life! Now, don't get me wrong, I'm still ashamed of Cooper, but other than that, nothing can bring me down right now!"

^ Tom Coughlin: "Hey Tiki Barber, I got your coaching effectiveness swinging right here, son!"

^ Steve Spagnuolo: "Back up the Brinks truck, biatches!"

^ Kevin Gilbride: "What a sweet contract I have, I get paid for a full game but only have to work in the late second half!"

^ Tom Brady: "Even a wild night with Gisele won't erase this pain. Oh, wait, it will."

^ Don Shula and Mercury Morris, at midfield swigging straight from champagne bottles after bum-rushing the field: "We're still the only Perfect Team!"

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