Super Bowl XLII
by John Delach
“On any given Sunday, any given team can defeat any other given team.”
Bert Bell: NFL Commissioner 1945-1959
February 7, 2008; my son and I witnessed our 12-7 Football Giants take on the 18-0 New England Patriots whose fans expected victory and the Pats coronation as the greatest NFL team ever.
The Giants started the game by keeping the ball for 9:59, a Super Bowl record for an opening drive. It ended with a field goal; Giants 3-0. Michael and I decided to forego our seats at the top of the upper deck to stand behind a handicapped seating area considerably closer to the field. A security guard confirmed we could stand there. “You just have to stay three feet from the last row of seats.” So that’s where we stood for the rest of the game.
Tension filled the day as the first half continued. Even though the Patriots scored in the second quarter; the score was only 7-3. It remained fixed at this number when the Giants forced Tom Brady to fumble at the end of the first half. I said to Michael, “I’m glad that we are standing. I’m too stressed to sit. This is insane. I think the key to this game will be the Patriots opening drive in the second half. If the Giants stop them, we have a chance.”
I looked around Phoenix University Stadium during halftime. The girders supporting the closed retractable roof are impressive, the sightlines were good and the field; first rate. But the scoreboard was garish and so busy with junk that it was hard to find the score, down or yards to go. The P.A. announcer was awful. His voice was a far cry from Bob Shepherd’s melodious voice.
What I saw in the Giants so far was complete focus and intensity. They retained it as the third quarter began, stopping the Patriots and forcing them to punt. And they accomplished this despite having a penalty called on them for having twelve men on the field for a previous punt gave the Patriots new life on that drive.
The score remained 7-3 at the fourth-quarter began. That was when the Giants seized the moment and scored on their first drive on a 5-yard pass from Eli Manning to David Tyree that Tyree caught in the end zone right in front of us; Giants 10-7.
Oh boy, oh boy. I thought I was going to explode. The Patriots stalled and punted on their next possession as did the Giants. Now 7:54 remained in the game as the Patriots started their next drive at their 20-yard line. Brady finally got his act together and engineered an 80-yard drive scoring on a third-down pass to Randy Moss with 2:42 left in the game, Patriots 14-10.
A Patriot fan standing near us pulled out a cigar held it in the air and announced, “This game is over.”
“I’m not so sure.” I said to Michael. “There’s a lot of time left on the clock and the Giants have all three time-outs.”
By now many of the stadium employees had stopped working and were watching the game. A big, bald security guard stood next to me. As the Giant offense returned to the field after they had run the kickoff out to the 17-yard line, I turned to him and said, “What do you think?”
He replied, “I think the kid can do it.”
And so, he did.
Manning put together a 12 play, 83-yard drive highlighted by his great Houdini-like escape from the Patriot linemen when they had him on the brink of ending the game. Manning escaped their clutches, sprinted away from them, turned and flung the ball 32-yards. At the receiving end, Tyree made an impossible one handed catch off his helmet. A few plays later, when Plaxico Burress put a move on Ellis Hobbs, all he had to do was catch Manning’s lob and get two feet inbounds – he did, Giants 17-14.
I kissed the security guard on the top of his head.
The Patriots had one last chance with 34 seconds and three time-outs left. When rookie tackle, Jay Alford, nailed Brady on second down, I had the hope that the Patriots wouldn’t reach field goal range, but I held my breath when Brady tried to hit Moss on a pass he must have thrown 75-yards. Corey Webster knocked the ball away at the last second. Ten seconds left on the clock and I was still holding my breath. When Brady’s next pass went incomplete, I lost track of the downs and Michael had to remind me that last pass was on fourth down and the Giants now had the ball for the one second remaining on the clock.
When Michael lifted me in the air, I knew the Giants had won. The fellow with the cigar stood in stunned silence. Michael yelled to him, “You know where you can put that cigar now.”
We couldn’t hear the trophy presentation and we were too far away to watch it, so Michael and I jubilantly exited the stadium to meet the drivers, wait for our mates and enjoy victory beers.
As we filed out past a sea of ticket hawkers now trying to buy used Super Bowl XLII tickets for souvenir re-sale, I asked Michael: “If we had to play these guys ten times, how many games do you think we’d win?”
“We just saw it, Pop.”
Our mates arrived in short order. We didn’t stay long and began the crawl out of the parking lot. The mood was overwhelmingly joyful. We had just seen the greatest football game any of us had ever seen. Then Michael noticed a young woman wearing a Brady jersey walk by. He leaned out the window and said, “Don’t worry, Tom, 18-1 ain’t bad.”
“F**k off.” came her reply.
Brilliant, Michael had nailed her!
(On the Outside Looking in will publish on Thursday next week.)