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“Those plays like that don’t happen too often in a game and we didn’t capitalize on the opportunities,” wide receiver Deion Branch said.

The worst of those missed chances came when Brandon Spikes recovered a fumble by Victor Cruz with 4:14 left in the first quarter. But the Patriots were penalized for having 12 men on the field. That gave New York the ball at the New England 6.

Two plays later, Eli Manning hit Cruz for a 2-yard touchdown and a 9-0 lead.

Then Brady got hot, completing a Super Bowl-record 16 straight passes, and the Patriots surged to a 17-15 lead. They had a chance to make it a two-possession game when a mix-up on the Giants defense left Welker alone.

On a second-and-11 at the Patriots 44, the sure-handed receiver had a chance to score. All he had to do was catch the ball and, perhaps, make it to the end zone. Amazingly, the ball went off his hands.

“It’s one of those plays I’ve made 1,000 times,” he said.

But there were a lot more plays that cost the Patriots their fourth Super Bowl championship in 11 years.

“I think every guy in the locker room wishes they could have done a little more,” Brady said.