Not to channel Gisele Bundchen, but the Super Bowl really came down to the New Giants receivers being able to make plays when they needed to and the New England Patriots receivers failing to do so. Tom Brady wasn’t perfect — his throw to Wes Welker on what could have been the game-winner in the penultimate drive was off, his intercepted pass to Rob Gronkowski was underthrown, and that safety on the opening offensive play was costly. But there were also drops on beautifully thrown balls and open receivers not coming up with them when the game was on the line.
In a game that close and competitive, every mistake is magnified. The Patriots’ 12 men on the field penalty negating a fumble recovery and setting up a Giants’ touchdown, an offside penalty on 3-and-7 negating a key stop on the Giants’ 11 in the fourth quarter, the repeated, costly drops on the final desperation drive. The two teams were by turns hot and cold, with the winner determined by who still had the ball at the two-minute warning.
Take nothing away from the Giants. Their pass rush was solid, their receivers clutch, and Eli Manning has cemented his case to eventually join his brother Peyton — who has just half as many rings — in the Hall of Fame. Eli possesses accuracy and composure, even if he lacks the big persona of other elite NFL quarterbacks. Eventually, the media ought to give him some respect rather than constantly peppering him with questions about Peyton.
But what accounts for the uncharacteristically high number of Patriots’ mistakes? Believers in karma may point to the release of a wide receiver the night before the Super Bowl (though he would have still gotten a ring had the Patriots won and is due for a Super Bowl bonus) to promote a player from the practice squad who was a non-factor in the game. It highlighted a Bill Belichick trait that has makes him unpopular outside New England. Call it the Tiquan Underwood curse.