His brother might be on his way to potentially retiring, but it appears that Tom Brady and the Patriots have a new nemesis with the last name Manning.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning got them again on Sunday night, engineering a scoring drive in the closing minutes that ended up being the difference in the game as New York handed the Patriots their second straight Super Bowl loss.

Here are some quick thoughts on this one:

- Mistakes were critical in this game: Looking back at the stats in this game, both quarterbacks were pretty much even. However, it was two plays that really made the difference in the game:

The safety that was called on Brady on the first play of the game cost them because it gave New York two points and possession after New England’s¬†defense had already been on the field for nearly six minutes. ¬†From there they spent another 5:28 on the field after the Giants marched 78 yards on 9 plays en-route to a touchdown to go up 9-0 early in the game. ¬† The Giants closed the quarter having held the ball for 11:28 compared to just 3:32 for New England, and that possession swing really hurt them. ¬†In the end those two points ended up playing a key factor since it could have potentially forced New York into a situation where they would have had to score a touchdown instead of a field goal to win the game, which would have likely changed the sequence of how the end of the game was handled defensively.

The interception to start the fourth quarter was also big, because again, it put the defense back on the field after they had just spent five minutes on the field while managing to hold New York to a field goal. ¬†You could make the argument that it was like a “long punt”, but the problem with that rationale is the fact that Brady made the throw on 1st down – not third down. ¬†Granted the defense ultimately held the Giants to a punt, but not until New York ate up another 5 minutes and ran another 10 plays (excluding penalties). ¬†¬†New England did manage to put together a six minute drive after that, but that sequence essentially left their defense more or less out of gas by the time New York attempted their game winning drive.


With Gronkowski injured, the Patriots really needed another receiver to step up and have a big game. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

- Their lack of a 3rd receiver really hurt them: Somewhere Bernard Pollard must be pretty happy with himself. ¬†Thanks to his injury on¬†Rob Gronkowski, New England needed someone else to step up tonight and pick up the slack. ¬†They finally started getting some production late in the game with Aaron Hernandez, but it’s clear that the Giants defense really only needed to key on he and Wes Welker because New England didn’t really have anyone else. ¬†Chad Ochocinco made his token 21 yard grab, but from there he was virtually invisible and Brady found himself trying to buy additional time on multiple occasions to find an open receiver. ¬†Deion Branch looked slow and the drop at the end of the game could potentially force New England to take a good hard look at that position after the season.

They’ve got at least two good years left from Hernandez and Gronkowski before their rookie contracts expire and one from Welker should they elect to franchise him. ¬† One would have to believe they’ll at least try and bring in one or potentially two players to compliment them.

- It’s tough to put this one on their defense: By the time the game was over, it was obvious that we saw a tremendous effort defensively by a group that in all honesty should have just been happy with being in the position they were in. ¬†They essentially gave up 19 points in a game where it was up to their offense to play well enough to win the game, and unfortunately the Giants simply made a few plays to win the game. ¬†Granted some offseason moves are going to be necessary, but there seems to be a lot more to work with than most fans originally thought.

- Welker’s Missed a chance to shine Sunday night: With Gronkowski ailing they really needed Wes Welker to step up and have the game of his life against New York Sunday night, and it just didn’t happen. ¬†In fairness to Welker, their lack of one more threat prevented him from exploiting too many bad match-ups, but he had a couple of key drops that really could have turned the game and also potentially given them some momentum. ¬†His contract situation will be the biggest topic this offseason, and if they are able to keep him, they’ll need to finally bring in some younger and better players to compliment the talent they have with Welker, Hernandez, and Gronkowski.

- Not much¬†negative you can say, it’s just a tough loss - Other than the fact they lost to a Manning, it’s tough to feel too terrible about this game. ¬†In the end they won 15 games with a bunch of unknowns on defense and some guys who were at the tail end of their careers in Branch and Ochocinco on the offensive side of the ball. ¬†What they managed to do was unbelievable, and the biggest problem is simply the fact that they were so close to what was ultimately a big missed opportunity. ¬†But as Belichick said after the game his players gave it all they had, and it just came down to a couple of plays that ended up being the difference in the game. ¬†This one will sting for a while, but they have a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball that – if nothing else – should put them in great position heading into next season.