February 06, 2012
Grogan's Grade: Super Bowl XLVI Review
BY: Steve Grogan
R.R. Marshall: Steve, it was another classic Super Bowl battle between the Patriots and Giants but once again Eli Manning and his boys had the final say and all of New England will have to wait ‘til next year for that elusive championship #4. What are your thoughts on the game?
Steve Grogan: I thought it was a really well-played game by both teams. Eli threw up another hope and prayer type pass like the last time the two teams played in the Super Bowl and instead of David Tyree catching the ball on his helmet Mario Manningham caught a ball between two defenders and got both of his feet inbounds. It's 50-50 whether he keeps both feet in on that catch, and five out of 10 times one foot comes down out of bounds. The throw was probably ill-advised with two defenders blanketing him but it worked for them. The breaks were definitely going the Giants' way and in the end the Patriots ran out of time.
RRM: You were pessimistic about the Patriots' chances going into the game if Rob Gronkowski wasn't at 100%, and given his limited effectiveness were your worst fears realized?
SG: Gronkowski not being healthy definitely hurt them. How much is hard to tell, but he was certainly not the threat that he was when he was going strong. They tried to make adjustments and some of them worked and some of them didn't. Wes Welker had that big pass late in the game that he catches 99 times out of 100 times. He didn't this time around, and how do you explain those things? It's just part of the game.
RRM: As you mentioned we've seen Welker make that catch time after time but he did have to turn his body to the ball because of where Tom Brady threw it to him. Did you feel the hit Brady took early in the fourth quarter reinjured his left shoulder and affected what turned out to be the crucial pass of the game for the Patriots?
SG: I don't think the shoulder had anything to do with it. Brady saw the safety coming over from the right side and was trying to protect Welker by throwing it to his back shoulder, and again Welker makes that catch all the time. You can't say that the Patriots would have won the game if he does come down with that ball, but it sure would have made things a lot more difficult for the Giants late in the game.
RRM: The intentional grounding penalty that resulted in the Giants getting a quick two points on a safety put the Patriots back on their heels for the entire first quarter. I think the fact that it was a delayed call really upset Patriots' fans, did you find it a bit strange that it was called in a Super Bowl?
SG: That was a strange play that came right at the start of the game, and it really helped to change the tone of the game early on. It gave the Giants some early momentum, and even though the Patriots went in at halftime with the lead it threw all the scoring off. They weren't up by three points but only one because of those two points, and that changes your entire decision making process. I've seen that kind of throw deep down the middle of the field with nobody around 100 times and they rarely call that, but it was intentional grounding and it was the right call but you just don't see it called that often. Not to mention it was a delayed call and the officials had to huddle up to discuss it first and then throw the flag which was kind of weird. Someone told me they thought they officials were getting together to discuss whether there was a roughing the passer penalty and Tom Brady got hit pretty low on that play, but that wasn't called. It was just bizarre.
RRM: Did you ever have that called against you in a game?
SG: Not that I can remember, no. Then again we were never allowed to throw the ball anywhere without getting intentional grounding so I probably would take the hit and get tackled for the safety [laughs].
RRM: All week long we heard about the Giants big, bad pass rushers and how they would win the game for them again just like they did four years ago. Didn't you feel the Patriots at least won that battle on the line of scrimmage?
SG: I think they only sacked Brady one time and really didn't knock him down that often. They batted a couple of balls down early in the game but that rush from the defensive front that everyone was so concerned about was not a major factor and I thought the Patriots' offensive line did a great job keeping Brady clean.
RRM: Were you surprised the game was such a low-scoring affair given the explosive nature of both of these offenses?
SG: No, actually I predicted it was going to be a low-scoring game although I didn't think it would be quite that low-scoring. Past history between these two teams is a pretty good predictor, and when these two teams get together they don't put a lot of points on the scoreboard against each other and I thought that would be the way it would be again in this one. I thought for sure the game would come down to a field goal at the end of the game, and if it wouldn't have been for that safety it may well have.
RRM: Everyone was concerned about the Patriots defense being lit up by Eli Manning but they put forth a pretty solid effort.
SG: The Patriots' secondary played pretty well in this game. They didn't give up any big plays until the Manningham catch down the sidelines. They kept everything in front of them and did what they needed to do. It was the Patriots' offense that was struggling to move the ball and score points, and this was a little surprising to me.
RRM: When you have three opportunities to turn the game in your favor by recovering a fumble and none of them go your way does that start to chip away at you psychologically during a game of this magnitude?
SG: The Giants fumbled three times and you had one recovery wiped out by a penalty which never should have occurred, but the other two balls bounced the Giants way. Things like that do affect you as the game goes along. In the back of your mind you start to think that is this telling us something about how this game is going to go for us? But you keep playing and hope the ball starts bouncing your way. Unfortunately for the Patriots it never did.
RRM: Were you surprised at how convivial Bill Belichick was during his press conferences during Super Bowl week? Why the relaxed attitude from him all of a sudden?
SG: He was a little more laid back than normal which was a little surprising to all of us around here that are used to listening to him. Maybe he's mellowing as he gets older, and I thought he had a lot of confidence in this football team and thought he was going to win the game. You would have to get in his mind to figure out exactly what he was thinking and I can't do that!
RRM: This point will be debated by all the football pundits across the nation so I will ask you, does this second straight Super Bowl loss to Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin at all tarnish the legacies of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady?
SG: I don't see how it can. They have enjoyed great success and you can't take that away from them no matter how many times they get to the Super Bowl and lose. They've won three in 10 years and been there five times in 11 years, and you have to be pretty good to do that. I don't think it tarnishes anyone's reputations.
RRM: Were you happy to see former Patriots running back Curtis Martin (I refuse to refer to him as New York Jet!) selected to the NFL Hall of Fame this weekend?
SG: In one respect you're happy for him but in another respect because he played for the Jets it's hard to be really happy for him [laughs]! He had a great career and it's a well-deserved honor for him. He may not be the first running back you think of when the list of great NFL running backs is discussed but you have to recognize seven straight 1,000 yard rushing seasons. If you look at a lot of the names on the list being considered for induction this year his is not one that jumps out at you as being a first ballot Hall of Famer, but apparently the selection committee thought differently.
RRM: Speaking of that the big shock had to be Bill Parcells not getting elected in his first year of eligibility. How come no love for the Big Tuna?
SG: If anyone on that list figured to get in this year it was Bill Parcells so I'm not sure what's going on there. I heard someone say they didn't want to induct him because they thought he might come back as a general manager but that's a poor excuse for not putting a coach of his stature in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Bill has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way over the years and it's possible some of the people on the committee had an axe to grind with him. It's kind of like what Jim Rice's situation was for many years. They made him hold his breath for over 15 years before they finally let him in. I don't think they'll make Parcells wait that long but I'm sure there are a few people that don't mind making him wait. I was happy to see that Chris Carter did not get in. I'm not a big fan of his, and I don't think he's a big fan of the Patriots either so I'm glad that worked out that way.
RRM: With two first round and two second round picks stored up for the upcoming NFL draft this spring what do the Patriots have to do to improve for next year and get back to the Super Bowl?
SG: I think they need to find a receiver that can stretch it down the field. They didn't have that this year aside from the two tight ends and you don't want to count on them to stretch the field for you. The Patriots' offensive line, especially the left side with Matt Light and Logan Mankins starting to get a little old, could use some younger players to give them some depth.
A guy no one talked much about was Brian Waters who they brought in from Kansas City. For a guy to join a new organization at the end of his career he played extremely well against that defensive line of the Giants. Hopefully he wants to come back and play another year, if not that's going to leave a big hole for them to fill.
Defensively they need to shore up that secondary, but they are playing well up front and they have some pretty good young linebackers. Every year the cry goes up from the fan base to find a pass rusher but you don't find players like that at the bottom of the first round where the Patriots are drafting year after year. There aren't a lot of them out there to begin with and Belichick has a history of not drafting a guy like that too high, so he will try to find one somewhere else.
RRM: For the final time this season I ask what are Grogan's Grades for the Patriots' 21-17 loss in Super Bowl XLVI?
SG: It's almost a pass-fail thing when you don't win the Super Bowl. You want to give them an F but I thought it was two evenly matched football teams. The Patriots played hard but couldn't get the breaks to go their way. They had chances to win the game but it just didn't work out. I gave them all a B+ for their effort. Years from now this game will be remembered as a game where the Giants made one big pass play in the fourth quarter and the ball didn't bounce the Patriots' way. At the beginning of the season I thought that this was perhaps a playoff team but I would not have bet anyone they would go to the Super Bowl and that's where they wound up. They played a good team and played them very well but like Vince Lombardi once said they didn't get beat they just ran out of time.
I think New England fans can take heart in the fact that this team overachieved this year and showed that this run they've been on over the last decade could go on for another couple of years. Brady starting to get banged up a little bit with that left shoulder bothering him but if he's stays healthy and they get some good young players on both sides of the ball this team will be a factor the next few years. We'll just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope we get some luck to go along with the talent.
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