Monday, February 06, 2012

Super Bowl 46: Five times five

Unless there is a clear superiority in talent, the results of most athletic contests come down to mistakes. He who makes the least miscues usually wins. In Super Bowl 46, the team that resembled that remark was the New York football Giants, emerging with a 21-17 win and its second title in four years (both over New England).

The Patriots made five crucial mistakes during the contest, which led directly to the eventual outcome.

First, on its first offensive play of the game, New England was flagged for intentional grounding when standing in the end zone – a safety under the rule book when an offensive infraction happens in your own end zone. No argument there.

What constitutes “intentional grounding” should be better defined for the future. A quarterback is allowed to intentionally ground the ball to stop the clock (as important many times than avoiding a sack to lose yardage) and if he had heaved the ball out of bounds, 10 rows into the stands and 20 feet over the head of the nearest receiver, no call would have been made.

Such a call makes sense if the QB is actually in the clutches of a defender, but in this case, the pressure (from Justin Tuck) was imminent but not yet actually there. The rule simply needs to be consistent; it doesn’t excuse the brain freeze suffered by Tom Brady.

Mistake number two took place later in the first quarter as the Giants were driving for its first touchdown of the game. On third-and-3, from the NE 11, a pass to Victor Cruz was completed but the ball was stripped from Cruz by SMU’s Sterling Moore and recovered by Patriot Brandon Spikes. However, the turnover was nullified by a flag for too-many-men-on-the-field on the defense.

Two plays later, New York scored for a 9-0 lead. THAT non-turnover proved to be the most crucial play of the game that went overlooked. A later mistake by Brady, an interception at the Giants 8, did not result in any points, but it stopped a scoring opportunity.

To begin the second half, New England re-demonstrated its ability to methodically march down the field with Brady in the midst of a Super Bowl record 16 straight complete passes. A touchdown pass to Victor Hernandez pushed the school to 16-9, a seven-point margin.

I believe it was a mistake NOT to go for a two-point conversion to make it a two-score game at that point. As it was, NE spent the remaining time protecting an eight-point cushion, meaning New York could have tied the contest at any time with a touchdown and two-pointer of its own. The Giants chipped away with a pair of field goals to pull within two at 17-15.

An additional Patriot point would have forced everyone to rethink the game’s final three minutes. No Giant would have tried NOT to score and no Patriot defender would have played toreador defense to allow a free touchdown.

The final mistake came late in the game, early in the fourth quarter, with the Giants backed up within the shadows of their goalposts, at the 11. On a third-and 7, the Patriots defense forced an incomplete pass from Eli Manning to Cruz. But the Patriots were offsides on the play, and while New York did not score, the drive continued to eat up valuable time and yardage.

Of course, the two incomplete passes on New England’s second-to-final drive probably cost it the true outcome. Brady hit both Wes Welker and Deon Branch in the hands on potential long gainers. Both required adjustments to be made, but on the NFL level, a championship team makes those plays; New England’s receivers did not.

To be honest, New York, with the inferior record, had the strong squad. New England’s receiving corps, especially the wideouts, were the worst in Brady’s tenure; hence the over-reliance on tight ends. And for this game, Brady’s top receiver, Rob Gronkowski was so limited due to a high ankle sprain as to be neutered.

But excuses are only for whiners. New York made the fewest mistakes and deserved to win the game. Sadly, their fans won’t let anyone in the country forget it for years to come.


But many people tuned into the game with no natural affiliation, but simply to see the vaunted commercials.

For the most part, the Super Bowl commercial were … tiresome; at least to me. I am tired of commercials with talking babies, cute polar bears that don’t do anything, anything with has-been celebrities (Jerry Seinfeld STILL isn’t funny) or chimpanzees.

Only a couple of the movies previewed peaked my interest and they all looked to possess the same theme – something wants to blow up the earth and someone has to stop them (Bruce Willis, The Rock, Liam Neeson for the umpteenth time, the brooding, shirtless guy from “Friday Night Lights”).

For the most part, Bud Light shed all its humor (save for the clever “We Go” dog spot) and Budweiser parked the Clydesdales in favor of a history lesson on the end of Prohibition and a visual time warp that could have had “We Didn’t Start the Fire” as its soundtrack. Chevy attacked Ford in an apocalyptic manner, Audi’s headlights proved too much for those True Blood Twilighters out there, and since I hate Doritos, their spots had no impact on me.

My top five commercials, from ascending order were:

the Hondo/Ferris Bueller ad (except there might have been many young viewers with no clue as to the nostalgia factor at play …. not everyone watching had seen that 80s movie). And oh, my, how puffy and pudgy has Matthew Broderick gotten? It would have been nice to have seen this in a 60-minute format with others from the original cast (Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jeffrey Jones, Ben Stein) included. Still it was … interesting.

TaxACT peeing in the pool. Sorry, it was funny and it’s something ALL of us relate to – either as a parent or as a former child. Tax returns? That’s getting peed upon.

Skechers dog race – Very clever, very well-presented. Of all the dog spots, this one grabbed me the most (followed by the VW Beetle ad with the dog losing weight and Bud Light’s We Go ).

The second best spot was not for any product, but for “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” with Madonna in the elevator when his ringtone (“Like A Virgin”) goes off and to Madonna’s surprise. It drew an instant laugh from me, which is more than I could say for 90 percent of the other concepts.

But the commercial of the night was a repeat winner – Chrysler! The two-minute essay on “America’s Second Half,” featuring the closest thing we have to a John Wayne icon (Clint Eastwood) was beyond words! The ad agency that created the entire “Imported from Detroit” theme has done more to improve attitudes towards the auto industry as a whole, Detroit in general and Chrysler (on the verge of extinction in 2008) than anything else. Today, the U.S. carmaking industry has rebounded, Detroit is gaining jobs and a future and Chrysler is viable on its own two feet after a (needed) helping hand from the U.S. government.

And you KNOW someone did a great job when Karl Rove is really pissed off! (according to the Washington Post).
“I was, frankly, offended by it,” Rove told Fox News on Monday. “I'm a huge fan of Clint Eastwood, I thought it was an extremely well-done ad, but it is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising.”
As opposed to what, Karl? Corporations trying to buy elections??? It would be nice, for once, if partisan politicos started rooting FOR this country (and its major industries) instead of trying, with millions in their pockets, to tear it down in such an ugly fashion.
By the way, Eastwood filmed “Gran Torino” in the Motor City in 2000; he saw what the loan package meant to the city. And, yes, all the money has been paid back and at a profit to the U.S. Treasury!
That ad will be discussed in all circles for at least a year to come until Chrysler stuns us again with a new message, at Super Bowl 47 (will it finally be Lion Time?).

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