Stomach’s fomenting. Hands won’t stop trembling. Can’t focus or listen for more than a few seconds. That can only mean one thing:
I choose Sweet Caroline’s on Boylston St. by Fenway because a) the song’s as much a part of Boston sports culture as dudes from Southie, b) the lyrics are happy and upbeat, and c) they had an open table, and I was scrambling. I settle in amongst the packed crowd of Patriot jerseys and get ready.
The Giants outplay the Patriots in the first quarter. Tom Brady follows up a Patriot defensive stop with an intentional grounding penalty in his own end zone, putting the Giants up 2-0 on a safety. The Giants get the ball back, and Eli Manning caps the drive with a touchdown pass to Victor Cruz:
With just over three minutes left in the first, it’s 9-0 Giants. They’ve run 19 plays for 113 yards over 11+ minutes of possession. The Patriots have run one play, and it cost them two points. Oh God, here we go.
The Patriots get on the board with a field goal following the TD, and then the defense forces two punts. After the second Giants punt, Brady finally pulls his head out of his ass, going a perfect 10-for-10 on a 98-yard drive. A 20-yarder to Rob Gronkowski gets a huge cheer in the bar, because he’s essential to the team.
But they can’t touch Brady at all, and with eight seconds left in the half he threads the needle, hitting Danny Woodhead in the end zone with Giants surrounding the running back on all sides.
The touchdown gets the crowd dancing. Yeah-dudes at a nearby table send very mixed signals when one of them pretends to ride a horse, then spikes the imaginary football. So what, did you catch the touchdown pass riding a horse?
The Patriots go up 10-9 heading into halftime, and it seems like the tide might be turning. The Patriots have contained the pass-rush, the defense isn’t totally sucking, and Brady’s become a sniper on the field.
Following a halftime show that’s not too bad, except for the parts where Madonna sang, Brady gets back on the field and goes right back to work. A 21-yard pass to Chad Ochocinco opens the second half, eliciting a fairly mocking cheer from the crowd. Meanwhile, my stomach hurts so much I start wondering if I’m going to stress-barf for the first time since my AP math final in high school.
Following Ochocinco’s catch, Brady hits his next three receivers, plus gets 25 rushing yards from BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Then, on second-and-2 from the 12, Hernandez easily slips linebacker Chase Blackburn, Brady hits Hernandez and he gets to the end zone before another Giant can reach him. 17-9 Patriots.
Blackburn looked pretty stupid on that play, but remember the name.
The Giants respond to the touchdown with a field goal, then they force a Patriot three-and-out and get another field goal. The Patriots take over up 17-15, but on second-and-3 from the Patriot 43 Brady dodges a few potential sacks, then unloads. He targets Gronkowski, but Blackburn catches up to Gronkowski, out-jumps him and hauls in an interception.
Every so often, Brady just loses all common sense. Up until that point, Gronkowski had caught exactly one pass. His media-obsessed high-ankle sprain is clearly limiting both his speed and his jump. Brady gets points for not taking a sack, but if Gronk’s your only target deep, go underneath or throw it away.
The Patriot defense bails out Brady again, and Brady regains his composure, marching into Giant territory. But Welker and Deion Branch both drop first-down catches, and the Patriots have to give the ball back to Manning with 3:46 left in the game. Meanwhile, the crowd has gone stone-faced silent, and any attempt to interview anyone would be preposterous, if not dangerous.
I can joke about how Eli’s dad will never love him as much as his brother Peyton. I can call him ugly, stupid, or even nastier things. But I can’t say he’s bad, shrinks under the spotlight, or can’t get it done late. Because Eli torches the Patriots on his next drive.
Manning breaks the defense’s back with a 38-yard pass to Mario Manningham along the sideline. Bill Belichick has to challenge, but it’s clearly a catch inbounds at midfield.
Manning then picks apart the defense, marching all the way inside the Patriot 10. The Giants could run the clock basically to nothing, but running back Ahmad Bradshaw makes a mistake: he scores.
Because of the score, Brady will get 57 seconds and a timeout to prove he’s still the bigger-game quarterback. Branch and Hernandez drop the first two throws, however, and then Justin Tuck sacks Brady for the second time. But on fourth-and-16, Branch makes up fro the drop with a huge pickup.
The Super Bowl comes down to a Hail Mary from the New England 49. Here’s how it comes out.
The Giants win, 21-17. Eli passes Peyton for championships and Super Bowl MVPs, and he does it on Peyton’s turf. I’d laugh if I wasn’t so pissed off.
The trudge back home is nothing like the riot Patriot fans had hoped for and Boston Police had game-planned for. Instead, people walk in small groups, heads hung low in sadness. The only sounds are the loud but not particularly creative combinations of “Eli Manning,” Giants” and “fuck” that echo through downtown.
To the city’s credit, we don’t behave like Canucks fans and burn the city down following a loss. We do, however, still behave like Massholes.
Ultimately, Gronkowski’s injury limited a Patriot passing attack too much to put up the points necessary to overcome a shaky secondary. The defense played at or maybe slightly above their capabilities, the offense play somewhat below them. Special teams? Who cares.
I slink home, head into my room and barricade the door. This win would have been really, really sweet. But if all else fails, I do own several championship DVDs from seasons past. They usually do the trick.
Matt Goisman is going to write about a game each and every week from America’s #1 city for sports: Here. We’re calling it 52 Games, because that’s what we’re going to end up with. Last week, he watched a Celtics game at Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Clubhouse. This week, Goisman watched a rather disappointing Super Bowl at Sweet Caroline’s on Boylston Street. Next week, it’s live coverage of the 2012 Beanpot! Keep up with him here.