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Super Bowl XLIX: Returning To The Scene Of The Crime

Paolo Uggetti |
January 28, 2015 | 11:31 a.m. PST

Associate Sports Editor

David Tyree's catch in Super Bowl 42's final drive. (via ESPN.com)
David Tyree's catch in Super Bowl 42's final drive. (via ESPN.com)
2:39. 

That was all the time left on the clock when Eli Manning and the New York Giants took the field in Super Bowl XLII, down 14-10 to the New England Patriots. 

Fitting that it was not 2:40 or even 2:35, but rather 2:39—a seemingly awkward and imperfect number—to cap off an unlikely game and an imperfect season. For the Patriots, that is.

The boyish-looking Manning, instead of being rattled during his first big-time rodeo, came on looking confident as well as composed, and in that span of 2:39, he manufactured the most important moments of his career to this day. 

It all began by the work of his hands when his first pass from the 16-yard-line found wide receiver Amani Toomer, in what seemed like triple-coverage no less, for an all-important first down to kickstart the drive. 

Two incompletions later, Toomer was once again on the receiving end of another Manning pass that left the Giants with a short fourth-down conversion to keep the drive and game alive. 

The Patriots stacked the box, but it was all for naught when running back Brandon Jacobs easily broke the imaginary red line and kept the drive flowing. 

READ MORE: LeGarrette Blount: New England's Key To Super Bowl XLIX Glory

Time was flowing too and with 1:28 left, Manning threw his worst pass of the drive to David Tyree that, instead of finding Tyree’s hands, found cornerback Asante Samuel’s fingertips. Had Samuel been an inch taller, the interception would have been his just like the subsequent title and ring that would have followed. 

But flashbacks don’t deal in the what could have been, but rather in what actually was. And what actually was on that night in Arizona was Manning, on another third down, moving, scrambling, shuffling and losing track of direction while three Patriots lineman grabbed him and pulled on his jersey to no avail. 

Yet Manning never fell, but instead hoisted a calculated 40-yard prayer toward—who else?—David Tyree.

Catching a receiver perfectly in stride was out of the question the moment this desperate drive began, and when Tyree leaped for the football flying through the air it seemed more like a kid jumping to hang on the monkey bars than a professional football player attempting to catch a ball. 

How hard Tyree pressed that pigskin onto his headgear may have given him a concussion that went undetected. Realistically, no, but watching one of the strongest safeties in the league at the time—Rodney Harrison—use his hands in an attempt to knock out the football by sheer force and seeing it not move, it certainly seemed that was the case. It should come as no surprise then that as he corralled the ball, he used the most readily available piece of equipment as his essential crutch: His helmet. 

In the span of one play, no one would have said it, but the chances of the Giants coming out victorious quickly went from improbable to probable to highly likely. When those types of plays are being made on your side, those opposite can only look on and shake their head in disbelief. Tyree retained possession all the way through the catch and never even grazed the turf as he fell, thus keeping the improbable drive alive by the most improbable of plays. 

But for the Patriots, it wasn’t disbelief over what had happened so much so as the realization of an inability to stop what was happening that was foreshadowing an inevitably tragic conclusion. 

And surely enough, two throws later that tragic conclusion came when Plaxico Burress became the certified recipient of another Manning toss that found the end zone in the Arizona desert and put the Giants ahead for good.

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It’s been seven years since that Super Bowl, that upset, that drive. 

It’s been seven years since the Patriots were 18-0, facing an unlikely adversary in the form of the New York Giants, the wildest of wildcards only to see it all crumble at its near-pinnacle. 

It’s been seven years since that gutting defeat, but Eli Manning’s scramble, his throw and ‘The Catch’ brought to you by David Tyree’s helmet is still vividly living in the minds of football fans everywhere. 

Seven years since the New England Patriots made that long trek from Foxboro, Massachusetts to Glendale, Arizona and on Monday, they made it once again. 

READ MORE: Super Bowl XLIX: Seahawks Defense Vs. Patriots Offense

As the Patriots returned to the scene of the crime for this Sunday’s Super Bowl, only three players on the current roster can call themselves physical eyewitness to being part of one of the biggest upsets in NFL history. 

For Tom Brady, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork and kicker Stephen Gostkowski, whether they recognize it or not, the trip back to the desert is one that will bring back haunting memories from what could have been to what actually was on that night of Super Bowl XLII. 

Sure, the opponent is different, but the site of that ill-fated Sunday has become a substantial part of the lingering memory in which the Patriots were one win away from perfection and their fourth championship in seven years, only to be robbed of it by their New York foes. 

Revisiting Super Bowl XLII is a painful memory for Patriots fans. It would have been one thing for the Giants to blow out or dominate the three-time champs, but the painstaking loss that came at the hands of one or two decisive plays going the other way, not to mention the final Giants’ drive and all its unlikely plays, remains a sensitive topic rotting deep in the hearts of Patriots Nation.

Couple that with a second loss to the Giants two Super Bowls later and Arizona has quickly become 'The City Where It All Began' and 'The City That Shall Not Be Named' in the northeast part of the country.  

Whether the Patriots acknowledge it or not, this Sunday is not only about slaying the giant (pun intended) that is the defending Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks. It is also about burying the negative connotation of Arizona. 

Nothing will satisfy or fill the void left from 2008 when the Patriots lost their grasp on a perfect season just 2:39 away from the finish line, but brushing aside “Deflate Gate”, beating Seattle and keeping them from repeating as champs (thus, retaining the title of the only team to do so in this century) while winning a fourth Super Bowl IN Arizona will come extremely close. 

This Sunday will not be about redemption. Whether there is 2:39 on the clock or 2:00 on the clock, this Sunday will be about finishing what this franchise should have finished seven years ago.  

Reach Associate Sports Editor Paolo Ugetti here, or follow him on Twitter at @PaoloUggetti.



 

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