I knew it was coming. The score was just 10-9, but in my mind it was already 17-9. New England was going to open the second half and march in for a score. The evolution of the first drive of the second half was one of the low moments of my football fandom. I was watching Tom Brady set a record for consecutive completions in a Super Bowl as he took over a game played in my city.
Coupled with the residue of Madonna still ringing in my ears, and I was in football hell.
I had been tweeting from the game, but my phone started to give out after a day of picture taking and social networking. I was glad, to be honest. I wanted to suffer through the second half alone with my misery. The Giants did just enough to keep me from total despair on their first drive of the half, but the field goal was of little consolation. I just didn’t see how they were going to stop Brady.
The Patriots had the ball up five points, and the door was wide open for them. A touchdown would put the Giants almost out of reach. On third and 8 Brady wend down hard on a sack by Justin Tuck. The amazing thing about the play when you watch it is that Brady had plenty of time to throw. In fact, he sacked himself. He stepped up in the pocket early in the play, despite the fact that with a three man rush by the Giants, he had plenty of time and room.
Brady just got scared of the footsteps.
I’ve noticed that people who were at the game are far more critical of Brady’s play than people who weren’t. This is one of those instances where the quarterback just talked himself into a sack. Whether he was afraid of a turnover or what, I have no idea.
The same thing happened early in the fourth quarter. Brady slipped away from pressure and heaved a ball deep down field that was picked off. Of course, I LAUNCHED into a rabid diatribe berating every aspect of Brady’s reputation. Watching the play live, you could tell that the ball never had a chance to be completed. Gronkowski broke open and had five yards on his man. Brady unleashed a lolly pop thrown that was easily hauled in by the Giants linebacker. After I watched the replay, the announcers spent all their time talking about Gronkowski’s ankle, but he was open. The ball was woefully underthrown. There is absolutely no one to blame but Brady. He simply didn’t make a good pass.
I was letting the Pats fans have it at full volume at this point. I went on and on about how amazing it was to be there as Brady came apart on the biggest stage. There was no response. What could they say? We were all watching the same thing. They knew it was true.
The Giants offense continued to frustrate, however. At the 9:35 mark, Eli called a timeout, then the Giants had a false start penalty, then he threw incomplete and New York punted in New England territory (again). For as well as Eli played in spurts, he didn’t have a great game against a suspect secondary. He made some amazing individual throws and clearly out played Brady, but it wasn’t a ‘game for the ages’ by any stretch.
The Pats methodically moved the ball on the ensuing possession, and when Brady converted another 3rd down with 5:22 to play, I hit bottom. The Giants were never going to see the ball again. They had foolishly wasted timeouts, and now the Pats were just going to take the air out of the ball and win the game. All Brady had to do was keep dumping off his 4 yard passes until the clock hit zeros.
I had already seen him take a safety. I had already seen him throw a pick in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl. What were the odds that I would see Tom Brady screw up yet again?
With 4:06 to play Wes Welker broke wide open. Remember those amazing route combinations I mentioned? He had no one within 5 yards of him. It was a gimme touchdown. Brady threw high and behind him. Apparently, there was TV talk that he had to throw where he did because of the safety. It’s not true. The safety was nowhere near Welker. Brady just yanked the pass. That moment was the first moment of real hope I had that the Giants might win.
The rest of the game unfolded quickly. The Pats punted. Eli dropped the biscuit in the basket, and the Pats let Bradshaw score. Once the Giants hit the Pats 40, it sank in that I was going to watch the Patriots lose. They were going to lose. Tom Brady had given away a Super Bowl on a night when his defense played out of their minds.
It was hard to endure the Patriots final drive. I confess that I watched the clock far more than the field. As Brady dropped back for the Hail Mary, I frantically prayed that if it was completed that I would just have a heart attack and die. I didn’t want to live in a world where “Like a Prayer” was the headline of every newspaper in America.
The play occurred in the far endzone, so I couldn’t see the ball. My eyes raced to the officials waiving incomplete. The Giants sideline exploded. I openly mocked the devastated Patriots fans who had just hours earlier been taunting the crowd.
The celebration after the Super Bowl is surreal. As you can see from the picture, the confetti cannons don’t fill the stadium. They basically create a TV effect. They only coat the middle of the field. The effect drastically isolates the fans from the players. Immediately, a good portion of the fans clear out. After the Pats fans left, there was probably about 60-65% of the fans still present for the awarding of the trophy. We waited for Eli to speak and then headed out.
I turned and congratulated the Giants fans, thanking them for coming and telling them to remember that Indianapolis took good care of them. On my way down the escalator, I was yelling, “God Bless Archie Manning!”
The walk back to my car was actually easier and less problematic than for a normal Colts game. So many fans were staying at hotels in the area, that there wasn’t much traffic. The Super Bowl was just…over. I’m sure there were areas where Giants fans were partying, but walking down Capitol that night, there was no chaos. Everyone in our pack was walking quickly and contently back to where ever we came from.
I used the final juice in my phone to call my wife, my dad, my brother and share the moment with them. The entire week had been a triumph. For the Giants, yes, but also for all of us. The city, our city had won the Super Bowl. It wasn’t our team that took home the trophy, but it was our people who made the lasting impact. It had been a celebration of Indianapolis, and it was a party no one will ever forget.
I got in my car and flicked on the radio.
“But will you still love me…tomorrow?” was playing.
I hit the button, not dwelling on it. I wanted to hear post-game reaction.
There was no question, no angst. The world was still going to love Indy in the morning.