Why the Cheatriots Couldn't Win
Here are some great stats I saw about this past weekend's superbowl, many of which are in this article about the effect of luck on the game, and which I really think highlight well my lasting impressions of this game, these teams, and the 2011-2012 NFL season.
For starters, some stats to give an idea of just how amazing the Giants' feat this year is. For example, did you know that Eli Manning and the Giants finished 3-0 on the road in this postseason, while all other teams in the NFL finished 0-9 on the road? So in a year where nobody seemed to be able to rise up and win a game against a better team in the playoffs, the Giants stepped up and beat the Falcons at home, followed by the 15-1 Packers at Lambeau, and then the 13-3 49ers in San Fran, and then they followed it up by winning the Superbowl in Indianapolis against the 13-3 Cheatriots.
Moving to their performance in the Superbowl itself, in their Super Bowl 42 meeting, the Giants held New England to 14 points, which was 23 fewer points than its regular-season average in that season of incredible offensive outbursts for the Cheats. In their second Super Bowl meeting this past Sunday night, the Giants held New England to 17 points, again 15 fewer points than its regular-season average. The Giants defense simply stepped up big time against the Cheatriots, both times they have met in recent memory in the superbowl. At more than two touchdowns below the Cheatriots' season averages, it is really worth mentioning.
And regarding Eli Manning, I did not realize this but Eli Manning is now 7-0 as a starter on the road in the playoffs, with 12 touchdown passes versus two interceptions. That right there might be one of the sickest stats you will ever see about the NFL postseason. Forget Mark Sanchez and his four road playoff wins, Eli Manning at 7-0 on the road in the playoffs, with 12 tds and just 2 picks? Mark Sanchez doesn't even dream of being that good in the clutch. What a stud Eli turned himself into this year. Much as I hate to admit it.
Some interesting stats comparing this year's Giants run to that of last year's Green Bay Packers, and the general mediocrity of the teams in this year's championship, during the regular season:
The Packers and Giants, the last two Super Bowl champions, were a combined 19-13 during the regular season followed by a combined 8-0 in the postseason over the past two years. If you recall, the Packers were all but done after an embarrassing loss at home to the Lions in Week 14 back in 2011, and then they backed into the playoffs anyways and the rest was history. And this season, the Giants' Week 15 debacle loss at home to the hapless Redskins in a game that wasn't even as close as the 23-10 score would indicate seemed to all but ensure that they would miss the playoffs as well, but then wins at the Jets and against the Cowgirls in the last two weeks of the season catapulted them in anyways, and once again, the rest has since become the stuff of NFL legend.
Also, the Giants and Cheatriots finished the 2011-2012 season with a combined record of just 6-6 against teams that had winning seasons, and that includes all the playoff games. The Giants beat only New England this year during the regular season among its 9 wins, 8 of which were against teams who ended the year 8-8 or worse. Meanwhile, the Cheats did not win a single game against an over-.500 regular season team despite winning 13 games overall this year. Think about that -- the Cheatriots played only two games against winning teams in 2011 -- the Steelers and the Giants in Weeks 8 and 9 this year -- and they lost them both, by an average of 6 points. Neither of these teams faced particularly strong schedules this year, nor did either team perform particularly well against the few good teams they did face, but just like last year's Packers, they got hot at the right time and rode their big players to victory.
There are also some good stats that I think give some solid insight into how the Cheatriots managed to lose this game:
Tom Brady completed 25 of his first 31 pass attempts in Superbowl XLVI, but then ended the game completing only 2 of his final 10 attempts as he desperately tried to lead his team on a late-game comeback. Eli Manning, however, completed 25 of his first 34 pass attempts much like Tom Brady did, but then he finished the game completing five of his final six attempts, including the amazing pass to Mario Manningham (see below) that will go down as the biggest and most amazing play of this year's superbowl.
Which really illustrates the larger point here, to those of you who are big football fans and have watched a lot of these big games over the past decade or so: Tom Brady is simply not as good as he used to be. This should not surprise anyone, as he is now in his 12th year playing in a league where the vast majority of players don't ever survive half that long. By NFL standards, Brady is getting up there in age, and the simple fact is that, when his team was recording signs and stealing plays and winning superbowls back in the early 2000s, Tom Brady was at the time one of the absolutely most accurate, best decision-making quarterbacks in the league. Nowadays, Brady's accuracy is just not up there with the Rodgers's and the Brees's, and it really showed in this year's superbowl.
For starters, let's take a look at the play everyone (including Brady's wife) is talking about, Wes Welker's huge drop late in the 4th quarter which would have sustained a key Cheatriots drive and gone a long way towards ensuring a New England victory in the superbowl:
If you take a look at the play above and you're capable of some objectivity that so many people lack when it comes to their favorite sports team, this really isn't about Welker missing the catch, even a little bit. It's a bad throw. Period. Not only is this ball about four feet straight over Welker's head, when it had no need to be given that Welker is completely wide, wide open, but it'a also at his back shoulder, making this a very,very difficult catch. Now, don't get me wrong -- Wes Welker is the most productive receiver in the NFL for the past several years, and he does quite often find a way to make this catch. And I can certainly feel for Tom Brady when I see his top receiver get both hands on a thrown ball in a situation where he was not otherwise touched by any defenders. But at the end of the day, the inescapable conclusion from watching this play is that Tom Brady made a bad throw. The precision accuracy that used to be such a hallmark of Brady's success back in the early days of his Cheatriots career, is now gone, at least in any consistent aspect. In this case, Brady had his #1 target wide open on an absolutely crucial, nearly superbowl-winning play, but Brady's throw ended up in an extremely difficult spot to catch it, even for Wes Welker. Gisele, Tom and anyone else can say what they want, but this one is probably 85% on Brady, and 15% on Welker in my view.
Similarly, let's look at the next biggest play in the game, from the Cheatriots' perspective -- the Chase Blackburn interception:
Once again, here is Tom Brady given all the time in the world behind the line, but when none of his wideouts are open, Brady opts to go with his ever-trusty tight end Rob Gronkowski and heaves one up there, at a time when Gronk had clearly beaten his defender and was a good five yards open downfield and counting. Unfortunately, just look at that pass. Brady throws it a little off his back foot, a little tentatively, and the result is just what one might expect -- this ball is at least ten feet short. And really, it's even shorter than that, because Gronk had his guy beat when the ball left Brady's hands, so Brady should have led Gronk even deeper with his throw, but this toss ends up about 10 feet short of where Gronk was when Brady threw the ball. There's just not even close to enough juice on this throw, and this is the one and only reason why Chase Blackburn was able to make what was admittedly a nice catch on his part. But if this ball is thrown well, there's no chance for Blackburn to even make a play, and given Gronkowski's performance this year, it seems a pretty safe bet he takes this one into the end zone for a huge score that almost certainly changes the outcome of this game. Instead, however, Brady launches a duck well short of its intended target, and this gives Blackburn -- who was already behind the play right from when Brady threw the ball -- the opportunity to be in better position that Gronkowski to make the huge interception and take away one of the Cheatriots' last good opportunities to score in this game. The simple fact is, Tom Brady did not used to miss this badly on his longballs in superbowls past, but now his accuracy is just not what it used to be, and it shows in his results.
Before anyone says I'm just nitpicking here, let's take a look at the Giants' biggest play of the superbowl, which was this amazing catch by Mario Manningham down the left sideline late in the 4th quarter with his team needing a score in the final minutes to take the lead from the Cheatriots:
I mean, just look at that play. Where Tom Brady stepped down in his team's biggest throws of the day, making questionable decisions and missing his spots as detailed above, Eli Manning shows us what Brady used to do in the superbowl back in the day -- he absolutely nails it. Nails it! As amazing of a job catching that ball as Manningham did -- hauling it in, feet both in bounds, retaining possession while being hit and tackled out of bounds -- I just can't get away from the fact that Eli Manning's throw is even better. Play that vid over again and just look at where that ball landed. And this was with Eli also off his back foot and under pressure to boot, but just look at what Eli did there. He lofted this one and landed it in a spot where absolutely, unequivocally, the only player who could make any play on the ball whatsoever is his guy. Those defenders -- though Manningham seemed like he was draped with coverage when this play happened in real time -- but those defenders literally had no shot to even touch this ball. Manning put this throw perfectly where only Manningham could make a play, and yet just close enough to him to enable him to actually be able to make that play.
This is what winning superbowl quarterbacks do, and this is exactly what Tom Brady used to do back in the day when his Cheatriots were winning superbowls themselves. But not anymore. Now, impeccable, almost impossibly perfect throws like this are what Eli Manning does to Tom Brady's team. While Brady, on the other hand, basically, well, Brady's himself. You thought Tebowing was big, but Bradying might be I think the Next Big Thing.
I'll leave this post with a couple of final thoughts about the superbowl, and the Cheatriots's cheating past.
Before Spygate, Bill Belicheat's Cheatriots were 12-2 overall in the playoffs, and 3-0 in superbowls. But since the team was caught cheating in the middle of the 2007 NFL season, the Cheatriots are now 4-4 overall in the postseason, and 0-2 in the superbowl. If you choose not to see a connection there, then that's your prerogative. But then it's my prerogative to laugh at you, which I will most definitely do.
Also, I saw pointed out in that article interestingly that the Giants are 4-0 in the superbowl when Bill Belicheat is on the sidelines. That of course is 2-0 with Bellicheat as an assistant under Bill Parcells, and now 2-0 against Bellicheat's Cheatriots team. Maybe they can hire him as a strategic consultant or something if they ever make it back to the big game again, since it seems unlikely to this writer that the Cheatiots will make a return trip to the superbowl anytime soon.