The 2014 NFL Season is drawing to a close. With each passing week, more teams lock up their spot in the NFL playoff tournament. With the 2015 Super Bowl tickets already being sold and the championship looming, let’s take a few moments to recount the best Super Bowl in recent memory.
Two weeks before the biggest annual sporting event in the world, the game opened in Vegas with a two possession spread, -12. Coming off the heels of what many were calling the greatest season ever played, the 2007 New England Patriots were entering the game as heavy favorites. Their opponent was the meager #6 seed New York Giants. The Giants had squeaked their way into the game. Registering three wins by a combined total of 17 points, all on the road, the Giants were thought to be a cut below a stellar New England team. New England, on the other hand, was coming off a season of historic offensive production, breaking several records en route to an 18-0 record entering the Super Bowl.
On top of the contrasting storylines surrounding each team, the two had previously met in Week 17 of the regular season, where New England completed their 16-0 regular season by defeating the Giants 38-35. Few expected this game to have any semblance of playoff implications.
After rolling through the playoffs, defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers, the Patriots headed to Arizona for a rematch against the Giants. This game opened as a 12-point spread, indicating the Patriots were expected to win and to win by nearly two touchdowns. This spread was one of the largest ever seen in a Super Bowl, coming in behind Joe Namath’s famous guarantee in Super Bowl III (The Jets were 18-point underdogs) and the Patriots own upset of the St. Louis Rams as 14-point underdogs in January of 2002.
Once the game got underway, however, it did not skew in the manner that people expected. The two teams combine for 73 points in Week 17 of the regular season, they managed just 10 in the first half of the Super Bowl. This highlighted the Giants’ strategy for the evening very early, keep Tom Brady on the sidelines. And they did that by sustaining long drives, their first being a near ten minute drive for 77-yards and a field goal. This strategy, with a relentless pass rush, was how the Giants hoped to beat the seemingly invincible Patriots.
No points were scored in the third quarter. The game remained 7-3 in favor of the Patriots entering the final quarter of play. It is in the 4th quarter however, that Super Bowl XLII entered the lore of football history. The Giants scored to go up 10-7 on the first drive of the quarter. Following stout defense and several three-and-outs, the Patriots regained the lead at 14-10 with a TD pass from Tom Brady to Randy Moss that left 2:42 left on the clock.
When Manning and the Giants regained the ball, the team had just 2:39 to traverse 83 yards downfield. The Giants converted a 4th and 1 early in the drive to extend their chances. Then, CB Asante Samuel dropped a potential interception that would have sealed the deal for the Patriots. The next play, Manning dropped back to pass, quickly felt the Patriots pass rush. After evading Adalius Thomas and Richard Seymour to slip outside the pocket, Manning fired the ball downfield. Giants WR David Tyree went up for the ball against Patriots SS Rodney Harrison. After Harrison knocked the ball free from Tyree’s hands, Tyree pinned the ball to his helmet securing a catch, gaining 32 yards and converting a third down. Four plays later, Manning floated a pass over Patriots CB Ellis Hobbs to WR Plaxico Burress in the corner of the endzone for a 13-yard TD that put the Giants up 17-14 with 35 seconds to play. The Patriots received the ball back on their own 26, with 29 seconds to play and three timeouts. Following a 10-yard 2nd down sack of Tom Brady, however, the Patriots fired two long incomplete passes to Randy Moss resulting in a turnover on downs and the end of the game.
The game is historic in several ways. The Tyree Helmet Catch remains the lasting image of the game, but the storylines at play brought the game’s appeal to another level. The 18-0 Patriots searching for perfection against the long shot New York Giants. This game brought Eli Manning into the conversation as a top-tier NFL QB while halting the declaration of Tom Brady as the greatest QB of all-time. As Super Bowls go, Super Bowl XLII was certainly among the most memorable games played ever. We can only hope tickets for the 2015 Super Bowl deliver a similar level of excitement.
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