- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2008

GLENDALE, Ariz. It was a football game that turned into a tractor pull. Old-school NFL returned to the Super Bowl last night at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Defense reigned. The quarterbacks were pounded. The deep-threat receivers turned into nonfactors. Tough guys like Wes Welker (11 catches) and Justin Tuck (two sacks) were the standouts.

But then came the final five minutes and the time for Tom Brady and finally Eli Manning to shine.

First it was Brady who rallied his New England Patriots with an 80-yard drive, capped by a 6-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss with 2:42 remaining.

Then it was Manning, who drove his New York Giants 83 yards, capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds remaining to give the Giants a 17-14 win in Super Bowl XLII.

The Monday Morning Quarterback will attempt to deconstruct what the heck happened last night.

Q: How impressive was Manning on the fourth-quarter scoring drive that gave New York a 10-7 lead with 11:05 remaining?

A: He looked like a franchise quarterback. The first-down pass of 45 yards down the right seam to rookie tight end Kevin Boss was perfectly thrown and gave Boss a chance to keep his stride. The third-and-4 throw to Steve Smith for 17 yards needed some extra velocity, and Manning delivered. And the touchdown pass (5 yards to David Tyree) also had to be pinpointed on a crossing pattern in confined space.

Q: When Brady found Moss for the 14-10 lead, were you ready to say it was over?

A: That’s what the MMQB wrote. He had a couple of paragraphs explaining how the Patriots weren’t dominant enough to move ahead of the 1972 Miami Dolphins for Greatest Team Of All Time honors.

Now that they finished 18-1, the Dolphins and their 17-0 record are safe.

Q: Manning was sensational on the final drive. But until the Patriots’ final drive, what was up with the New England offense?

A: It stunk until the final five minutes, that’s what. The offensive line couldn’t keep Brady upright. Laurence Maroney wasn’t all that effective, and that allowed the Giants to ignore play-action. Moss couldn’t be found with the consistency that allowed him to catch 23 touchdowns this year. Welker didn’t make the kind of plays that allowed him to catch 112 passes.

Most of all, though, it goes back to the offensive line. Left tackle Matt Light showed he’s overrated. Reserve right guard Russ Hochstein was a downgrade from Stephen Neal, who was injured in the first half.

Q: Why was Brady under so much duress? Bad protection? Good defensive game plan? Both?

A: Both, but the MMQB will focus on the Giants’ plan because it involves coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who is scheduled to be interviewed by the Redskins this week. The Patriots’ first drive should have been a concern — 12 plays and a touchdown. But from there, Spagnuolo adjusted and was able to pressure at just the right time and from just the right spots to create maximum heat on Brady.

Q: Dan Snyder said the other day the Super Bowl result would not sway his decision one way or the other. But shouldn’t it?

A: Absolutely it should, and definitely it shouldn’t. Bear with the MMQB for a second. It should because it showed Spagnuolo can game plan for one of the best teams in NFL history and make one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks look average. It shouldn’t sway it because The Danny can’t get too giddy about the Giants’ defensive performance. The Redskins have a different scheme and different personnel.

Q: But now, isn’t it more of a question of how interested is Spagnuolo and not vice versa?

A: After talking to those around the Giants all week, the vibe the MMQB got was that Spagnuolo felt he needed more time to prepare for a head coaching opportunity and even the interview process. One insider said the coordinator was “relieved” when the Giants would not allow Atlanta to interview him before the Tampa Bay wild card game.

But now things might be changing. The last month has raised Spagnuolo’s profile and should have jacked up his belief he can do a good job as a coach. Plus, the Redskins’ situation — regardless of all the warts — is better than the dead-end proposition in Atlanta.

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