A Backwards Look at the Giants' Super Bowl Finish
A piece by Jim Trotter in this week's Super Bowl issue of Sports Illustrated puts the Ahmad Bradshaw ass-first game-winning touchdown run in new perspective. With the Patriots leading 17-15 and a little more than a minute to play, the Giants had the ball on 2nd-and-6 at New England's six-yard line. Bradshaw, you'll recall, was free and clear on a run into the end zone when he stopped and spun around at the two-yard line; he got his touchdown only when gravity took its course. (And forgive me for pointing this out, but in Bradshaw's case gravity had a great deal to work with.) Bradshaw tried to keep from scoring but, literally, fell into the end zone to score the first ass-backwards TD in Super Bowl history.
Eli Manning and probably a few other Giants yelled out "Don't score! Don't score!" thinking that a better strategy might be to run some time off the clock and kick the winning field goal, giving Tom Brady even less time to move the Patriots into scoring position. "I don't even know why he did that," said Brandon Jacobs of Bradshaw's decision to try to stop. "We score touchdowns, we don't burn the clock. You try to be a team player, but our job is to score touchdowns."
Well, no, Brandon, it isn't. Your job is to win football games, and the question is what strategy had the best chance of producing that result.
Trotter offers one scenario: "Why not stop, take a knee, and run the clock down. Lawrence Tynes' gimme field goal would have put the Giants up 18-17 and Tom Brady would only have had about 20 seconds to get his team into field goal range."
Well, maybe yes, maybe no, and then again maybe. It may well be that it was asking too much of Bradshaw (or of Jacobs, if he had been the ball carrier) to keep his ass out of the end zone on what amounted to a free TD ride. The Patriots, after all, admitted that they laid down on the play, hoping Bradshaw would score and Brady would get the ball back with a minute and one timeout to work with to score a TD and win.
But the Giants' brain trust -- and this includes Eli Manning -- should have worked out the math in advance. It shouldn't have been left to Bradshaw to decide the best strategy as the tonnage of his pants was pulling him over the goal line. Here's one possibility: Eli takes a knee at about the eight or nine-yard line to run 20-25 seconds off the clock, then takes another knee at around, say, the 12-yard line, and Tynes takes his shot.
Nothing is a sure thing, but how do you like your chances of making a field goal from the 12? This would have left Brady perhaps 10-20 seconds to move the ball from (you must assume) their own 20 to around the Giants' 30 -- and he can't use his only timeout on the drive because he would need it to set up the field goal try.
But -- and here's another possibility -- New England uses their last timeout after either the first or second Manning knee. This would leave the Patriots more time -- maybe 25-30 seconds -- to get into field goal range, but no timeout to set up for the field goal.
There are other possibilities, but I'm making myself dizzy trying to think them through. About the only thing I'm sure of is that however the situation should have been handled, the way the Giants did it was the most likely to give Brady and the Pats a chance to win. Why were the Giants even handing the ball off to a running back in that situation? Does the name Joe Pisarcik ring a bell? Jog your memory here.
And while it may be true, as Trotter writes, that "The decision wasn't costly -- in the remaining 57 seconds Brady could only move the Pats to their own 49-yard line and his Hail Mary fell to the turf as time expired." But who the hell wants to leave the fate of the Super Bowl on a Tom Brady pass into your end zone? The Giants, of all teams, should know this after their own sensational time-expired TD pass just before halftime in the divisional championship against the Green Bay Packers.
Luckily, the question can now be regarded as hypothetical. But I'd still like to know one thing: is there conclusive evidence that Ahmad Bradshaw's ass broke the plane of the goal line before the ball did?