Judgements: Manningham's catch review surprised him a little

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist
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1. It's always something with the New York Giants. I mean, one game it's David Tyree's head that saves them; the next it's Mario Manningham's feet. No matter what happens, there's always a receiver there to rescue them from New England in the fourth quarter ... with Super Mario that guy in Super Bowl XLVII. Not only did he pull a Tyree with a marvelous over-the-shoulder catch between two defensive backs; he somehow, some way, kept his feet inbound before getting crushed. Oh, and like Tyree, he held on to the ball. "After I caught that, I figured we're going to win," he said. What he didn't know, he conceded, was how officials would judge it -- and consider this a shot at New England, the NFL or both. "I kinda figured [I was in]," he said, "but I didn't know what the ref was going to do. Knowing who we were playing against and how things operate around here." Excuse me?

2. I guess you really can't spell elite without Eli. It was only last summer we snickered when Manning put himself in the same company as Tom Brady. Then Manning went out and beat New England twice this season. Looks like somebody got the last laugh.

3. That makes Eli Manning 2-0 in Super Bowls, with two Super Bowl MVPs. He's also 8-3 in the playoffs, and I mention that because big brother Peyton is 9-10 in the postseason, with one Lombardi Trophy and one Super Bowl MVP. So whom do you take? It's still Peyton because of those four league MVP trophies, but the gap between these two guys just narrowed considerably.

4. There were three quarterbacks who threw for over 5,000 yards this season ... and none won the Super Bowl. Yeah, I think that means something, and what it means is that defenses still win championships -- with the Giants as proof. They didn't allow more than 17 points in any of their final six games, all victories, and snuffed New England on its final four second-half possessions.

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5. Look at it like this, Rex Ryan: At least you launched one New York team to the Super Bowl.

6. Tom Coughlin is tied Bill Parcells with two Super Bowl victories, and while that won't help Parcells' Hall-of-Fame campaign it will help Coughlin's. Like it or not, you can make the argument he's now the best coach in Giants history. "There's not one coach in the league I'd trade Tom Coughlin for," co-owner John Mara said.

7. Coughlin may be 65, but he has no plans to retire. Not now, anyway, and if you don't believe me you weren't listening when he told a reporter afterward that he's coming back for another season. "I don't think there's any question," he said.

8. I'm with Tom Brady. I have no problem with coach Bill Belichick's order to let Ahmad Bradshaw score with 57 seconds left, either. I mean, they were at the New England 6 and almost certainly going to win with a last-second field goal. So why not give Brady a chance to win when you can -- especially with a minute left? Green Bay tried it in Super Bowl XXXII against Denver and failed, and New England missed here, too. But it wasn't that play that sabotaged the Patriots; it was the previous eight -- with one in particular: Manningham's 38-yard catch.

9. As I said, New England didn't score in its last four series, and you have to wonder just how much Brady's left shoulder was bothering him. I know, he said it "didn't affect me at all," but he always minimizes injuries. Brady landed on the shoulder when he was sacked by Justin Tuck midway through the third quarter and was 7 for 17 afterward, with one interception and one big incompletion -- with Brady failing to connect with a wide-open Wes Welker with four minutes left. If he makes that throw, maybe, just maybe, the Patriots win.

10. Great quarterbacks are measured how they perform under pressure, and nobody performed better than Manning this season. Not only did he set an NFL record with 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes; he completed his seventh come-from-behind victory in the fourth quarter this season, including the playoffs. "He's at the top of his game in clutch situations," wide receiver Hakeem Nicks said.

11. Obscure but meaningful note: The Giants are the first team to be outscored in the regular season and win the Super Bowl. They're also the first team to allow 400 points in the regular season and the first to overcome a four-game losing streak. "Tom Coughlin deserves all the credit in the world for getting us back on track," said defensive end Justin Tuck.

12. Now you know why Gisele Bundchen asked friends and family to pray for her husband. In his past three games vs. the Giants, he's been sacked nine times, had as many turnovers (5) as touchdown passes (5) and gone 0 for 3, including two Super Bowl losses.

13. If Peyton Manning doesn't play another down for the Colts -- and I don't see it happening -- it seems appropriate that at least one Manning won a Super Bowl in the house that Peyton built. "It just feels good to win a Super Bowl," Eli said. "It doesn't matter where you are." It does when it's Indianapolis.

14. Nice touch to have former Colts great Raymond Berry carry the Lombardi Trophy to the post-game award ceremony, walking through a line of Giants to get there. I've heard people call Cris Carter the game's greatest boundary receiver, but apparently, they never saw Berry. Never, ever, anyone better on the sidelines.

15. Somewhere, someone is going to mention it ... so I'll cut in line: This makes Bill Belichick 3-0 in Super Bowls pre-Spygate; 0-2 post-Spygate.

16. Look at it this way: At least Belichick stuck around for the end of the game.

17. Memo to Giants.com: The coast is clear to once again post that image declaring you Super Bowl champions.

18. It was almost as glorious an afternoon in New York as it was in Indianapolis, and you can bet the NFL is hoping for an encore in two years. That's when the Super Bowl goes au naturel at MetLife Stadium.

19. I'll tell who likes the Giants' win most of all: Wall Street. When old NFL teams wins, meaning the NFC, it's bull market; when it's old AFL teams it's a bear market. That's not my opinion; it's based on something called the Super Bowl Indicator (SBI), and it's been correct 33 of 41 times.

20. Running back Brandon Jacobs was right. When the Giants said what they said last week, they were -- as Jacobs put it -- "confident and not overconfident." I know Chris Canty told us to "get ready for a parade on Tuesday." Well, guess what? He was right. And he nearly hit the final score when he predicted 28-17 Giants, prior to Sunday's game.

21. Mark it down. That was New England's first loss, sans Albert Haynesworth.

22. New England's next move: Sign soon-to-be-free-agent Wes Welker. I don't care how you do it. Just do it. The guy has more catches than anyone the past five years, for crying out loud, and is Tom Brady's security blanket. "He seems to get better and certainly has a better understanding of our offense," Brady said last week. "He's a great player on this team." So keep him.

23. Great job by John Parry and his officiating crew. They called only nine penalties and made the right call on Brady's intentional grounding call that resulted in a safety on New England's first snap. Basically, Parry let players determine the outcome, and where's the surprise? In his past three games, he and his crew called a total of 14 penalties -- including three in a semifinal contest. The bigger the stage, the fewer the infractions, which is another way of saying Parry and his crew -- an all-star group for Super Bowl XLVI -- let the players, not officials, decide the outcome.

24. Michael Irvin claims there's a vendetta against wide receivers making the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he's wrong. There are three candidates splitting votes, nothing more. Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Andre Reed cannibalize each other when it comes to voting. For one to move forward, two are going to have to step aside and clear the jam at wideout. Simple as that.

25. This is how difficult the Hall of Fame selection has become: There were seven All-Decade players left out this year, as well as a player (Charles Haley) and owner (Eddie DeBartolo) with five Super Bowl rings each and Bill Parcells. And it only gets worse next year when offensive lineman Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden, defensive end Michael Strahan and defensive tackle Warren Sapp -- all of them All-Decade players -- become eligible.

FIVE THINGS I LIKE

1. Brady's post-game news conference. The man is a class guy, crediting the Giants for making "more plays than we did" and saying, "It just wasn't our day." But it was what he said about losing that struck me most: "I'll keep coming to this game and keep trying. I'd rather come to this game and lose instead of not being here." Amen.

2. The play-calling of Giants' offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. He wasn't afraid to take that shot to Manningham down the sidelines and called a terrific series. "He called a great game plan there at the end," Manning said. "Guys made some big-time plays." And calls.

3. Patriots' tight end Rob Gronkowski gutting it out on a badly sprained left ankle. No, he wasn't the same, but he still made a couple of catches, and he was around the ball for that Hail Mary at the end. "I was good," he said later. "I was 100 percent out there doing everything they asked me to do." No, he wasn't, and when you take 90 catches, 1,327 yards and 18 touchdowns from the lineup it can handicap an offense.

4. Madonna's halftime show. Good choice of songs and visually stunning. Me? I'll take Todd at City Winery in NYC next month.

5. Everything about the past week in Indianapolis. The stadium was close. The teams were closer. You could walk everywhere. The weather was pleasant. People were nicer. And the game was terrific. Memo to Roger Goodell: Put Indy in the rotation every four years; it just earned the right to be there.

FIVE THINGS I DON'T

1. Ahmad Bradshaw not stopping at the goal line with 57 seconds left. By scoring he gave Brady one more chance to win -- never a good idea, no matter how much time is left. "I should've told him not to score," said Manning. I know, you still run the risk of missing a field goal, but Lawrence Tynes isn't Billy Cundiff.

2. The Giants having to burn two timeouts on the same series early in the fourth quarter -- both to avoid delay-of-game penalties. I thought it could cost them. It turns out it didn't. They got lucky.

3. New England releasing wide receiver Tiquan Underwood on the eve of the Super Bowl. It's not uncommon; it's simply not done. I mean, releasing a guy at the bottom of the roster is going to make a difference? Please. If he was good enough to be here why is he suddenly not good enough to play? "That organization should be ashamed," tweeted Jacksonville kicker Josh Scobee. "Awful." Well, at least he has a point of reference.

4. Welker dropping that fourth-quarter pass when he was wide open. Granted, the ball was thrown behind him, and it required a marvelous catch. But Welker makes marvelous catches, and he could've ... should've ... come down with that one. "It's right there," Welker said. "It hits me right in the hands. It's one I'll have to live with." Just my opinion, but if he makes that grab, the Patriots win the game.

5. The Patriots caught with 12 men on the field when Sterling Moore stripped Victor Cruz of the ball late in the first quarter. New England should've had the ball; instead, the Giants scored their first touchdown. Ouch.

JUST ASKING BUT ...

  Does Osi Umenyiora play another game for the Giants?

  How much did Tom Brady's non-throwing shoulder bother him?

  When does Bill Parcells make the Hall of Fame?

  A Super Bowl share for Kyle Williams?

  Downtown Abbey or the Super Bowl?

NUMBERS THAT MEAN SOMETHING

3-1: Manning vs. Brady

4: Super Bowl losses for New England, tying the Bills, Broncos and Vikings for the most

5-1: Tom Coughlin vs. Bill Belichick, including the regular season

7: Safeties called in Super Bowl history

9: Straight Eli Manning completions to open the game

11: Quarterbacks to start and win multiple Super Bowls

16: Straight Tom Brady completions, a Super Bowl record

21: Yards, the longest play for New England

$46,000: Amount paid at a Saturday NFL Experience auction for a Tom Brady-worn game jersey

SUPER BOWL XLVI'S BEST

Play: Manningham's catch. This one was easy. It was reminiscent of David Tyree's miraculous grab in Super Bowl XLII, only Manningham didn't use his helmet to catch the ball. "They’re both spectacular catches," said Coughlin. "The way [Manningham] kept his feet in bounds and held on to the ball going out of bounds ... [that] was a remarkable thing. Of course, David's is forever, and that's the history. That's never going to change anything. His was incredible. This just continues along in that fashion."

Offensive player: Eli Manning. The guy just keeps making fourth-quarter comebacks against the Patriots. He did it in Super Bowl XLII. He did it on Nov. 6. And he did it here. For the record, he's now beaten Tom Brady the last three times they met -- including twice in the Super Bowl.

Defensive player: New England linebacker Brandon Spikes. The guy was everywhere, with a team-high 11 tackles and one forced fumble. OK, so the Patriots lost. It wasn’t because of anything Spikes did.

Coach: Coughlin. He's two for two in the Super Bowl, both over Belichick, and 5-1 vs. the New England head coach. Plus, Coughlin made one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history this season. Two months ago, he was going to get fired. Now they're throwing a parade for him.

Quote: "We are the kings of New York. There's no second guessing it." -- New York Giants’ kicker Lawrence Tynes.

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