The best and worst of Super Bowl XLVI …
Best play: Mario Manningham’s sideline-avoiding catch of an Eli Manning pass with 3:39 to play. Maybe the Giants still win if the receiver bobbles the ball, or is unable to get both his feet down inbounds, or turns jittery in the teeth of double coverage. We’ll never know. All we know is that Manningham’s acrobatics elevated a sometimes sloppy contest into a Super Bowl classic.
Worst play: Ahmad Bradshaw’s “are you really going to let me ramble into the end zone without tackling me?” touchdown in the final minute.
The strategy of Patriots coach Bill Belichick was sound – the three-point difference between the chip shot field goal and a TD weren’t as important as assuring quarterback Tom Brady an extra 30 seconds on the final drive – and Bradshaw was too late to realize his score played into the hands of the Patriots.
In any case, it was a Super Bowl first: A game-winning touchdown that found the guy who scored it sheepishly hanging his head as he made his way back to the bench.
Best replay: The booth review of Manningham’s reception was mercifully brief, because the NBC camera shot provided overwhelming evidence of a clean catch. Instead of belaboring the decision, the officials made a decision based on superior camera work. Terrific work by all involved.
Second-best replay: The “Hail Mary” pass Brady heaved into the end zone as time expired. As broadcast commentator Cris Collinsworth pointed out, ailing tight end Rob Gronkowski – pretty much a non-factor with an ankle sprain that reduced him to a decoy – was in position to nab the ball if it had hung in the air for another instant.
Best glimpse of a fan in the stands: Kudos to NBC for tracking down the whereabouts of Jean Pierre-Paul, blind father of Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Collinsworth’s anecdote about Jean Pierre-Paul serving as a baby sitter for his young son was touching.
Best sideline shot: The attempt of Giants tight end Jake Ballard to run and stop moments after suffering a fourth-quarter knee injury. Ballard collapsed, but his determination to play in pain underscored the resilience of coach Tom Coughlin’s team.
Worst prediction: That Madonna’s halftime show would be completed in 10 minutes. Heck, the first song took 10 minutes. How long was the show? Put it this way: Madonna was 53 years old when she appeared, and almost 60 when she disappeared.
Best commercial: The Chevy Silverado post-apocalypse ad, to the tune of Barry Manilow’s “Looks Like We Made It,” was laugh-out-loud hilarious. “Where’s Dave?” set up the punch line of the year – “he drove a Ford” – and the Twinkie bit at the end clinched it for me.
Second-best commercial: The Hyundai ad with the befuddled office clerk hearing an impromptu chorus singing “Gonna Fly Now” from the original “Rocky.”
Worst commercial: The marrying-bacon bit for Jack in the Box might’ve been the single most stupid 30 seconds of television since the hey-day of the Gong Show.
Speaking of commercials, are there any plans for a movie to be released this year that doesn’t contain an explosion? Are there any plans for a comedy, say, or an intelligent adult drama?
Best Collinsworth sound bite: Wes Welker’s drop of a Brady pass, which cost the Patriots a first down in the fourth quarter, was a catch he makes “100 times out of 100.”
Welker’s drop was typical of the Patriots’ performance. A veteran squad supposedly comfortable in the spotlight, they committed a number of unforced errors – both physical and mental – unusual for a Belichick-coached team.
Best evidence that Al Michaels has curbed his temptation to make cryptic references to gambling: The play-by-play announcer didn’t mention the proposition-bet aspect of the game’s first score recorded by a two-point safety.
The intentional-grounding penalty Brady sustained for throwing to no apparent target downfield was (to borrow Michaels’ favorite adjective) huge – and not just because it turned the early momentum in favor of the Giants. Millions of Super Bowl corner-bar matrix boards were affected when the first quarter ended 9-0 for the Giants.
Best summation: Collinsworth, after a punt gave the Giants possession at their 12 with 3:46 remaining: “Wow, they should just have these two teams play all the time.”
Seven seconds later, Manning found Manningham on the sideline. Or more precisely, Manningham found the ball on the sideline, where his display of soft hands and magic feet already are on the short list of most memorable Super Bowl catches, making the last four minutes worthy of a Hollywood script.