The Super Bowl is just 6 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 6 years ago to honor this not that significant occasion!
Indianapolis hosted Super Bowl XLVI on February 5, 2012. The game pitted the NFC champion New York Giants against the New England Patriots of the American Football Conference. This, of course, was the rematch of probably the most intense of all the Super Bowls, Super Bowl XLII when the Giants prevented the Patriots from going undefeated.
New York Giants 6 Years Ago
The Giants did not have a particularly strong 2011 season, but they did have a breakout defensive star in Jason Pierre-Paul. Joining Pierre-Paul along the line were Chris Canty, Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck. This was a true strength of the team that started the season at 6-2. However, the defense slumped down the stretch to finish 27th in the NFL.
In week 9, the Giants defeated the Patriots in New England 24-20 on a last-second drive led by Eli Manning. The Giants’ best players on offense were wideouts Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Although the Giants went on a 4-game midseason skid, the Cowboys and Eagles could not catch them in the NFC East. Cruz and Nicks played outstanding football in the Giants’ late-season sweep of Dallas that clinched the division.
New York really seemed up against it heading into the playoffs. The Packers had an extraordinary 15-1 season and the top seed. The 49ers and their punishing defense and the Saints and their high-octane offense also had superb regular seasons. And, the Giants finished dead last in running the ball. Nobody had ever made it to the Super Bowl with such difficult odds. But, these were the Giants captained by Tom Coughlin that made history by defeating the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII ending their undefeated season. So, they believed.
Giants Upset Pack & Niners
In the opening round, the Giants outclassed the Falcons, 24-2 in the Wild Card round setting up a clash with the Pack. In the regular season, the amazing Aaron Rodgers helped the Packers come back to win a thriller at the Giants’ MetLife Stadium. This time, Rodgers never had a chance. The Giants looked like the 15-1 squad while the Packers played like a team that barely finished above .500.
Manning found Nicks for an exciting 66 yarder early and on a “Hail Mary” on the last play of the first half. Michael Boley, Chase Blackburn and the wily Osi Umenyiora tormented Rodgers in the second half as New York shocked the football world with a 37-20 victory in Lambeau Field. The Giants had another very challenging matchup ahead of them. The 49ers had knocked off the Saints in an absolute beauty and would host the NFC championship game.
San Francisco jumped ahead, but New York just kept hanging around. They managed to get the game into overtime where it turned into a punt-fest. New York benefited from a blown whistle on a fumble in their own red zone and a fumble by Niners’ punt returner Kyle Williams. The Giants prevailed 20-17 and were on to their 5th Super Bowl.
New England Patriots 6 Years Ago
The New England Patriots got back to the big game with the second-ranked offense and the second-worse ranked defense. Brady started with a bang collecting 500 yards passing on opening night in Miami. Following that week 9 loss to New York, the Pats finished the season on a 10-game winning streak.
In the Divisional round, Brady was on fire as he threw 6 touchdown passes. Tim Tebow was on the other side for Denver and he completed nine total passes. New England routed the Broncos twice in 2011 by a combined score of 86-33!
Pats Survive Gutsy Ravens
The AFC championship game between New England and the Baltimore Ravens was a completely different beast. Baltimore challenged the Patriots all day. Brady struggled, and the defensive backfield was so depleted, New England was using punt returner Julian Edelman as a cornerback. The lead see-sawed back and forth until Brady snuck in on a 4th down to put the Patriots ahead 23-20. Then, the fun reached a climax.
The Ravens got the ball back with about two minutes to go and easily moved the ball into field goal range. On a second down, quarterback Joe Flacco fired a perfect throw toward Lee Evans in the end zone. Evans caught it. Then, Sterling Moore swiped it away. After another incompletion, Billy Cundiff came in to attempt a game-tying field goal. He hurried on to the field and missed wide left. The Patriots advanced to their seventh Super Bowl. By the way, nose tackle Vince Wilfork played a game for the ages.
Even First Half
The Patriots did not get off to a great start in the Super Bowl. On their first offensive series, Tom Brady got flagged for grounding in the end zone. The Giants then drove to a Victor Cruz touchdown and a 9-0 lead. The Pats settled down and kicked a field goal early in the second quarter.
The Giants had something brewing in response but received an extremely questionable holding penalty on a third and one. Punter Steve Weatherford came on to punt and pin the Patriots deep. Weatherford, for the record, was outstanding in the most important game of his career.
Brady then embarked on a record-setting streak. Interestingly, this may have been his worst overall performance in a Super Bowl, but for what it is worth, over the course of two drives in the second and third quarters, he connected on 17 straight passes. The first scoring drive came with eight seconds left in the first half. Brady surveyed the field for eternity before firing a dart to Danny Woodhead for the touchdown.
Patriots Drop the Ball
In the second half, Tom connected with Aaron Hernandez. The score was 17-9 for the Patriots midway through the third quarter. It was now the Giants turn to strike back. For NY, the going was slow but steady. Two field goal drives cut the lead to 17-15. Brady also threw an interception on a promising Patriots drive. And, one other crazy thing about this game is the Giants fumbled three times but recovered all of them.
New England moved the ball well again in an effort to put the game away late in the fourth quarter. However, on a second and 11 at around the Giants 40 with four minutes to go, disaster struck. Brady had Wes Welker open in the seam. The pass was slightly high and behind Welker but was definitely catchable. Welker went up for it, got both hands on it and dropped it. On third down, Deion Branch missed what would have been a first down over the middle.
Manning to Manningham
New England punted. Then, Manning hit his third wide receiver Mario Manningham on a gorgeous throw and catch along the sidelines. New York drove into field goal range. So, Bill Belichick advised his team to let New York score. Ahmad Bradshaw endeavored to stop short of the goal-line but accidentally fell into the end zone for the 21-17 lead. Subsequently, the Patriots desperate last drive failed. They dropped a few more passes, converted a fourth and 20 and missed on two bombs. The Giants were champions for the fourth time.
New England would be back at it three years later while the Giants have fallen on some down times. They will always have the distinction of beating the dynasty Patriots not once, but twice in Super Bowl action.
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_bills