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The first three quarters were boring


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Ugly duckling Super Bowl turns on Swann-like catch



Gregg Doyel Feb. 3, 2008

By Gregg Doyel

CBSSports.com National Columnist



GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For most of it, this game was garbage. It was bad passes and dropped passes and ineffective running backs. It was false-start penalties and dumb coaching moves and Tom Petty looking old at halftime.


That's the way it was for three quarters, but that's not a fair time to assess a work of art. Imagine someone taking away Leonardo da Vinci's paintbrush after he had finished just 75 percent of the Mona Lisa. Think of what we'd have missed.


Now go back to this sloppy Super Bowl after three quarters. Imagine turning the channel. Reading a book. Going to bed.


Think of what you would have missed.


You would have missed Eli Manning and Tom Brady going one-on-one. Manning driving the Giants 80 yards for a go-ahead touchdown. Brady driving New England 80 yards for a go-back-ahead touchdown. Manning getting the ball with 2 minutes and 42 seconds left, 83 yards from the end zone, most of this pro-Patriots crowd wanting him to fail.


Manning refusing to fail. The Giants winning Super Bowl XLII 17-14. The Patriots losing 19-0. The 1972 Dolphins winning their sole claim to Super Bowl perfection.


Think about what you would have missed if you'd given up on this God-awful Super Bowl after three quarters, or even after 57 minutes when Brady gave the Patriots their final lead, 14-10, or after 58 minutes when the Giants faced fourth-and-1 from their 37 and the game was one tackle from being over. The Patriots didn't get that tackle. Brandon Jacobs powered for 2 yards. Drive alive.


Three plays later we saw one of the most incredible plays in NFL history. That might seem like a mouthful right now, but mark my words. What happened next will live as long as The Catch by Dwight Clark, The Immaculate Reception by Franco Harris and the Music City Miracle by the Tennessee Titans.


Miracle is the wrong word to describe anything on a football field -- which is too bad, because there were two miracles on this one play. It was Manning refusing to be sacked on third down even though half the damn defense had him in its hands. Manning stepping out of a sack, spinning out of a sack, the play dead and then not dead, Manning sacked and then not sacked. Manning now in the clear, now spotting David Tyree almost 40 yards down field, now throwing the ball up for grabs. No other way to put it. Manning saw Tyree, saw Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, and threw the ball in between both of them. May the better man win.


Tyree won. He won with the kind of catch we've never seen in the Super Bowl, a unique catch from the family of catches Lynn Swann was making in Super Bowls in the 1970s, juggling and falling and somehow channeling Tchaikovsky. Tyree pulled one of those when he pulled in Manning's prayer, leaping at the 24 and grabbing the ball with the fingertips of both hands and then being reduced to the fingertips of one hand because Harrison was clawing at the other one. Tyree then used the fingertips of that one hand, that right hand, to pin the ball to his helmet as he was falling down. It was the kind of catch most people couldn't make with a Nerf football in their front yard. Tyree made it with a pigskin at the 24-yard line with 59 seconds left in the Super Bowl.


"What can you say about that play?" Harrison said. "We have the quarterback sacked, and then he steps out of it. And then (Tyree) makes an incredible catch. It's just unbelievable."


At that point it was over. We just needed an ending. Eli Manning was too comfortable, too confident, and the Patriots defense was too battered. After holding the Giants to a single field goal for three quarters, New England's defense had caved in. New York was nearly finished with a 172-yard fourth quarter. Manning waited until third-and-11 to hit Steve Smith for 12 yards, and then on the next play he stared down a blitz and found Plaxico Burress behind Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs for 13 yards and the game-winning touchdown with just 35 seconds left.


The worst Super Bowl in forever had become one of the best. Maybe the best. If that's an exaggeration, forgive me. Blame it on the mind-altering juxtaposition of this fourth quarter with the miserable three that came before it.


The first three quarters had Patriots genius Bill Belichick refusing to kick a 48-yard field goal, instead going for it ... on fourth-and-13. And failing. Think Belichick would like those three points right now?


The first three quarters had Smith bobbling an easy catch into a New England interception. It had Brady throwing above, behind and below open receivers. It had Burress backing up his big talk earlier in the week by dropping two passes. It had Manning and running back Ahmad Bradshaw botching a simple handoff, resulting in a fumble that 6-foot-5, 250-pound New England linebacker Pierre Woods couldn't grab because the 5-9, 198-pound Bradshaw wanted it more.


It was hideous, this game.


And then it was historical. It was beautiful. It was a football Mona Lisa, and make no mistake: In that painting, she's smiling.


Some of the comments available through that link sum it up best. This moron is a casual fan at best who doesn't appreciate real football and just wants a score-fest.

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I hate people who think defensive football is boring.


Yeah, its usually the bandwagonners or the ones that get into football for the parties that want score fests. I like an occasional blowout, but defensive football is so much more pure football. Interesting to the die hard fan.

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