51 for LI: Imperfection in Super Bowl XLII
[lead align=”default”]Six weeks until Super Bowl Sunday, better known as 42 days. This brings up memories of Super Bowl XLII, one of the most memorable in the game’s history.[/lead]
The theme entering the game was perfection. Eighteen straight wins to begin the season had the New England Patriots in need of one more. That game was Super Bowl XLII, and at stake were the title of NFL champion and best NFL season in history. This team was so close to perfection that it still burns the people of New England to this day.
Super Bowl XLII: How They Got There
New England won their first game of the season. Then the next, and the next, and the next, until they were 15-0. On a Saturday night on the Meadowlands, the Pats came back from two scores down against the New York Giants to win that game and become the NFL’s only ever 16-0 regular season team. Many have tried, but only one has done it.
Of course, this team had Spygate in between, but having a mid-season scandal doesn’t really distract New England, as we saw with Deflategate.
As for the Giants, they always had this thing under Tom Coughlin where they’d look great in the first half of the year and then not so much in the second. This team managed to go 10-6 and get the NFC’s five seed, which they wrapped up in Buffalo the week before the New England game.
The Pats’ march to destiny cut them through Jacksonville in the divisional and San Diego in the AFC title game. New England was 18-0 with one team left to face.
Their opposition went on the road and beat Tampa Bay handily in the wild card round. This got them a date with Dallas, who beat the Giants twice during the regular season. Capped off by a late interception, New York beat the Cowboys on the road to advance to the NFC Championship. There, they forced overtime against Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers, and a Corey Webster interception set up the game-winning Lawrence Tynes field goal.
Super Bowl XLII: The Game
One more team stood in New England’s way, and it was a team they had recently seen. In that Week 17 meeting, the Giants played their starters for the win, despite having clinched a playoff berth already. That was a hard-fought game, and anyone in their right mind should have expected the same in Super Bowl XLII.
New England led the game 7-3 at halftime, but early in the fourth, the Giants took a 10-7 lead. David Tyree (remember that name) caught a touchdown pass for the lead with 11:05 to go.
Tom Brady and the Pats struck back. He marched New England down the field and with just 2:42 left, the Pats took a 14-10 lead on a touchdown toss to Randy Moss. It was then up to Eli Manning and his Giants.
In one of the most memorable Super Bowl winning drives ever, Manning led the Giants to victory. On a 3rd & 5 play, Manning escaped what would have been a devastating sack and threw to David Tyree. With Rodney Harrison on him, Tyree pinned the ball with one hand against his helmet to get the first down. “The Helmet Catch” extended the drive, and with a first down later on at the New England 14, Eli Manning threw a pass to the corner of the end zone, caught by Plaxico Burress to win it all.
Super Bowl XLII: The Aftermath
Super Bowl XLII is regarded today by some as the biggest upset in NFL history, and one of the most momentous NFL games ever. This game lived up to the hype and delivered a major — you could say Giant — result.
As a result, the Giants got their third Super Bowl title, and set the stage for another similar run four years later. The Giants went on to beat the Pats again in Super Bowl XLVI following a similar, but more imperfect script.
The playoff run established Eli Manning in the NFL and saved Tom Coughlin’s job with the Giants, which he kept until 2015.