Winner: The New York Giants. They scored first, with a technical safety on the Patriots’ opening drive, when Tom Brady stood in his own end zone and intentionally grounded the ball, and they scored last, when Ahmad Bradshaw carried a little more momentum than he probably expected on a largely undefended running play, to beat New England 21-17.
Loser: The New England Patriots. Despite going down 9-0 early in the game, they took a lead into halftime, thanks for a field-traversing drive on which Tom Brady was 10-10 in passing. The Pats suddenly looked like their old, domineering, mechanistic, enemy-vaporizing selves. And they got the ball to start the second half! I sent a text message to Bdoyk at halftime: “Tide has turned.” Her response: “Don’t say that.” To the hyperstitious greater Massachusetts sports community, I’m sorry if that in-game prediction of victory caused your players to develop stone hands on the final drive.
Winner: Ahmad Bradshaw. As mentioned, the Giants’ final touchdown was a bit odd. (Deadspin has the video here.) Down two with a minute left, New York’s strategy would have appeared to be to burn as much time off the clock, having driven to a point comfortably within field-goal range. At best up five (missing the 2-point conversion actually only put them up four), the last thing the Giants wanted was to give Brady a full :57 to march down the field. Watch that clip twice, first to see Bradshaw’s apparent indecisiveness upon finding himself on the goal line, and second, to decide whether the New England defense (despite a good acting job by Brandon Spikes (#55) after the fact), let him score, something that may have caused Bradshaw to carry an unexpectedly unnecessarily large head of steam that he was unable to reverse.
Loser: Rob Gronkowski. The star tight end played hurt, but did little more than that on Sunday night, catching just two passes. (His counterpart, Aaron Hernandez, caught eight, including one touchdown.) Yet he nearly caught the Hail Mary pass pictured above, which would’ve won the game and made him an unassailable champion of grit in the New England sports and adult entertainment communities. It also would’ve turned Bradshaw into a goat for failing to sit down outside the end zone on the play described above, thereby giving Brady the necessary time to conduct the game-winning drive. As well as Hernandez played, you have to think that a healthy Gronkowski would’ve made a difference in this game.
Winner: The legacies of Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning. Coughlin seems to spend the first 3/4ths of every season being “quit on” by his players and generally on the coaching hot seat, only to somehow get them to stop reviling him and pull it together just in time to make it into the playoffs and go on a tear. Manning has been the little brother of all little brothers, being laughed at when he described himself as elite, and barely able to avoid his older brother’s shadow even in doubling up on Peyton for Super Bowl wins in a game played in “the house that Peyton built” and in a week in which Peyton’s health continued to grab headlines. Still, Eli deftly avoided submitting to his brother, notably in Dan Patrick’s postgame, on-field interview, and he very undeniably has two Super Bowls to Peyton’s one, with nothing but the usual players-quitting-on-Coughlin to stand in the way of a third ring down the road. Coughlin is a two-time champion now too, and it seems harder to imagine he’ll face the same amount of job pressure going forward. And while Public Enemy’s legacy certainly has taken a hit due to Flava Flav’s more recent antics, the fact that he and Coughlin shared the coach’s first embrace following his postgame interview suggests that the public has accepted Coughlin’s commitment to timeliness.
Loser: The legacies of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. This is absurd, of course, as their legacies as winners and champions are firmly established. I had to stick with the binary organization of this post, though, and I do wonder how the Patriots’ losses last night and in Super Bowl XLII will shape the way we understand these two once they’re out of the game. You can’t say that either is on the decline, but the makeup and style of gameplay certainly has changed in New England. That doesn’t seem to explain it, though. It also isn’t as if the old guard ran into another juggernaut on a roll (these Giants are more 2011 St. Louis Cardinals than early 90s Cowboys or 80s 49ers) or some young, paradigm-shifting buzzsaw (Cam Newton hasn’t played in the Super Bowl…yet).
Winner: Madonna. I am not a fan of hers, but neither am an an anti-fan, and I thought she put on a great halftime show. Yes, during her introductory entrance, some kids may have been wondering who was ripping off Lady Gaga, and yes, some portions certainly evoked Gwen Stefani, but the whole thing made me feel like we finally had returned to that pre-Jacksonian era of glitzy, up-tempo Super Bowl halftime acts. The focus remained on the music, and her pipes sounded strong, but there was a ton of showy visual entertainment the whole family could enjoy. I liked Madonna’s willingness to share the stage with other pop stars, most successfully with Cee Lo Green. Phil Collins must’ve just missed the final cut. And yes, in case you weren’t positive what you saw, independent sources using video evidence have confirmed that M.I.A. flipped you the bird right before the camera cut away from her after her solo bit.
Loser: The commercials. At least two companies leaked their commercials (the ones that starred Matthew Broderick and Jerry Seinfeld) before the Super Bowl, and, before the game, I had been thinking that that was a good move. I still think it probably was a good move in terms of getting more views of those commercials, but it didn’t do a thing for the in-game viewing experience. The advertising slate lacked any real standouts, and what is Bud Light Platinum, or is it best I don’t know? The one exception was Clint Eastwood’s Detroit commercial, “It’s Halftime, America.” Made me want to drive my Jeep through a brick wall.
In other weekend sports…
Winner: Michigan State. After losing by one point to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, the Spartans dominated Michigan at the Breslin Center on Sunday afternoon. This may be Izzo’s worst team, but, on the back of tenth-year senior Draymond Green, he’s got them playing extremely well and, as usual, they appear to be peaking at just the right time.
Loser: Vanderbilt. They saved the meat of their conference schedule for the end, and it isn’t treating them kindly. After falling to Arkansas in Fayetteville, the Commodores took another road loss this weekend, this time in Gainesville. Their next two games are at home, first against LSU on Wednesday, and then a huge matchup that Bdoyk and I will be attending against Kentucky this Saturday night. After this week, Vandy has to play each of Florida and Kentucky once more in the regular season, so these home games become very important for the confidence of the sometimes mentally weak Commodores.
Winner: Los Angeles Clippers. Looking to add some muscle, they added Kenyon Martin. I agree that LAC needed to boost their toughness, but I actually am not too sure if this was the best way to do it. In support of the move, though, there’s always this.
Loser: Memphis Grizzlies. After starting pretty strong, the Grizz have lost two in a row and six of their last eight to settle in at 12-12, which has to be pretty disappointing for a team that was supposed to be a contender in the West this year, even given the absence of Zach Randolph.