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The wrong MVP

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network

Now that Eli Manning has reached professional football puberty (PFP), the confetti has been swept away, the din of the crowd has passed and he is basking in the glory of the Giants? Super Bowl win over New England, it is time for one last look at the result. A fantastic achievement would be an understatement and he, Manning, except for an aberration of a series early on, stepped up and more than earned the NY he will wear proudly for the 2008-2009 season upcoming.

Eli Manning
Eli Manning's MVP effort in the 4th-quarter sealed the win for the Giants.

But, other than a few incredible plays on the field and a take charge attitude that was the antithesis of anything displayed before New York?s playoff run, the MVP trophy really belonged to the defense, specifically the guys in the trenches. But, do the folks who vote ever consider that, a group? Don?t they believe that the NFL can afford multiple copies of some of the spoils of victory, in this case the Pete Rozelle Super Bowl MVP prize?

Twenty-two quarterback winners of the years and just a smattering of defensive stand-outs. It is, after all, the glamour position.

Considering what athletes are paid these days and the baubles that quarterbacks often foist upon their offensive teammates, the ones that keep them from dismemberment each week, little things like a Rolex for each, it seems that Manning could go one better. How about a Cadillac Escalade for everyone ? together with miniature trophies that replicate the one given to him? Thinking of next season, these guys will go out and tear people apart after a gesture like that. Heck, they might do it anyway.

Steve Spagnuolo, the team?s defensive coordinator, choreographed a brilliant plan and he, with Tom Coughlin, completely out-coached Bill Belichick, the eventual classless coach given his instant departure and less than candid and responsive post game press conference. Spags should not entertain a head coaching job for Redskins owner Dan Snyder. Do that and he will be prowling around for a new position in two years, maybe three. Let Jim Fassel have that one, forget the title, ask New York to match whatever you are being offered financially and stay in East Rutherford at Giants Stadium.

Let?s go to the video tape with a nod to Warner Wolf. On the Patriots' second possession of the game (the first having resulted in a touchdown), the defense gained confidence by stopping Maroney on a 3rd-and-1 from the 42-yard line to force a punt.

They followed that on New England's next possession when Tom Brady is sacked by Kawika Mitchell and Justin Tuck on back-to-back plays to force a punt. New England took the lead, 7-3 late in the second quarter after a magnificent first quarter drive by New York who had to settle for a field goal. .

About now is when Manning should be wondering how much it would cost to make copies of the keepsake that will grace his mantle, while calling General Motors about discounts for group purchases. Actually, the Giants? ownership should be major contributors as well. But, onward. By the numbers, the third key stop for the Giants occurred just before the half when the Pats had driven to the NY four yard line. It might soon be 14-3 but, while driving down to put those extra points on the board inside Giants? territory, Tuck sacks Brady who fumbles, Osi Umenyiora recovers and there is no further damage. Close but a call to 911 is put on hold.

After an interminable pause for the halftime festivities, the annual Super Bowl ritual, and a pretty bad one this year, New England's first drive is into Giants territory before having to punt. However, as you recall, after reviewing a 12 man on the field penalty, the Patriots get a new life and a first down. But New York holds again and there is a 3rd-and-7 at the Giants 25. That is when the defensive leader of the team (okay, we need more trophies and SUVs), Michael Strahan, sacks Brady forcing 4th-and-13. Enter the uncertainty of Belichick, the confusion on the sidelines as the decision is to pass on the field goal attempt (how is that for a display of lack of confidence in your place-kicker?) and they opt to go for it. Brady's pass to Jabar Gaffney falls incomplete, possession to New York and momentum changes.

Maybe a Rolex should be waiting on the seat of every Escalade?

With the game clock winding down after an improbable pass by Manning and a remarkable reception by David Tyree (the Meadowlands Miracle, even with the game being played in Arizona or, better yet, The Giant Catch) that gave the Giants the lead at 17-14, a play that would have been the expected had it been New England but was deemed everything from lucky to extraordinary when it is the other guys, there is the final stop. On a 2nd-and-10 play from the New England 26 with 25 seconds left, New York erased any realistic possibility of a game-tying Patriots drive when tackle Jay Alford sacked Brady on second down for a 10-yard loss making it 3rd and 20 with only 19 seconds left.

The Pats? quarterback, by this time, was feeling more like a grounds-keeper checking the field than the man who had led his team to an 18-0 record heading into Glendale.

What happened to what has been tabbed the most prolific scoring machine in NFL history, headlined as the possible ?greatest ever? with more weapons than the U.S. Armed Forces? The New York defense. This was an offense that averaged over 37 points a game and was held to only 14. Brady, who was sacked only 21 times all year, was sacked 5 times in the Super Bowl. His longest completion of the game was only 19 yards and his team rushed for a paltry 45 yards. New England had averaged 411.3 yards of total offense per game and only gained 81 in the first half of this contest. They also averaged 36.8 points per game during the regular season, 35.6 including playoff games, and were held to 14?noting that the first TD was the eventual result of an interference call in the end zone and the second when the defender slipped and left Randy Moss standing alone.

The Patriots? running back, Laurence Maroney, rushed for 244 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per rush over his first two 2007 playoff games, and the Giants held him to 36 yards on 14 carries (2.6 yards per rush). I can hear the engines of those cars warming up right now. Randy Moss had five catches, 62 yards, 1 TD. Throw out the Patriots' go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter, and Moss had just two receptions.

Michael Strahan
Michael Strahan had one of the team's five sacks in Super Bowl XLII.

But the guys who should have trophies, who should be the cumulative MVPs of this game, had five sacks of Brady, four by the combination of defensive linemen Tuck, Strahan, and Alford. Linebacker Mitchell had, perhaps, the best game of his career while the team, posted eight tackles and a sack. New York was also credited with nine quarterback hurries of Brady, a player who had been sacked just 21 times in 16 regular season games.

And, lastly, the boys from Foxboro had averaged 6.2 yards per offensive play (best in the league). during the regular season but, against the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, only 4.0 yards per offensive play (the worst in the NFL for the 2007 season was 4.1 by the 49ers).

Lucky win? You gotta be kidding!

Ed note: When will someone out there start selling shirts displaying a graphic with just the hands or the entire bodily battle and a headline, The Giant Catch ? Super Bowl XLII.