The New England Patriots and the New York Giants gave us another classic Super Bowl, but when the dust settled and the smoke cleared, the result was very much the same as it was the last time, as the Giants captured their fourth Super Bowl Championship with a 21-17 victory.
Things got off to a bit of a rough start for the Patriots. On their first offensive play, after getting pinned at their own 6-yard line by a Steve Weatherford punt, Tom Brady threw a pass deep down the middle, and appeared to overshoot all of his receivers by about 15 yards. The officials on the field felt that they had sufficient reason to whistle Brady for an intentional grounding penalty, and the first points of the game came on a safety (since Brady was in the end zone when he threw the "grounded" pass), giving the Giants a quick 2-0 lead.
New York got the ball right back on a free kick, and took advantage of getting the ball back so quickly, going on a nine-play, 78-yard drive that ended with Eli Manning finding Victor Cruz in the end zone for a two yard touchdown pass, pushing the Giants' lead to 9-0.
Undeterred, Brady and company put together a drive that spanned the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second. They didn't quite get the result they wanted, however, as they had to settle for a Steven Gostkowski field goal from 29 yards out to make the score 9-3.
After Weatherford pinned the Patriots deep again with 4:03 left in the first half, the Patriots embarked on a Super Bowl record-tying 96-yard drive that took 14 plays and 3:55. Brady was masterful on the drive, completing all ten of his pass attempts, and Danny Woodhead was a key part of the drive as well, touching the ball seven times on the drive. Those two hooked up for a 4-yard touchdown pass with just 15 seconds left in the first half, giving the Patriots their first lead of the night at 10-9.
New England got the ball first to start the second half, and they kept the momentum going with another long touchdown drive, this one a 79-yarder that took eight plays and concluded with a 12-yard pass from Brady to tight end Aaron Hernandez. The extra point made the score 17-9, and the Patriots looked to be in control. But the Giants continued to chip away at the lead, getting field goals from Lawrence Tynes on two straight possessions, cutting the New England lead to 17-15.
Then, towards the end of regulation, the Giants put together one of their best drives of the season. It started from their own 12-yard line after Patriots' punter Zoltan Mesko pinned them deep, and Eli Manning was brilliant again, hitting Mario Manningham with an incredible pass to move the ball to midfield.
Following that, the Giants continued driving, moving the ball to the Patriots' 6-yard line with 1:04 left in the game. With the Patriots holding just one time out, it appeared as though they were simply going to let the Giants score. Giants' running back Ahmad Bradshaw figured that out. . .unfortunately, he figured it out just a little bit too late.
The gaffe by Bradshaw, which gave the Giants a 21-17 lead (the two-point conversion failed), also gave the Patriots 57 seconds and a time out with which to try to get downfield. The Patriots managed to get to midfield, but Brady's Hail Mary attempt fell incomplete as time expired, and the New York Giants walked out of Lucas Oil Stadium with their fourth Super Bowl championship.
Eli Manning was named the MVP of the game, and with good reason. He completed 30-of-40 passes for 296 yards and a score, and was cool and collected for most of the evening. Brady was brilliant as well, completing 27-of-41 for 276 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.
Patriots' tight end Rob Gronkowski, whose ankle was the talk of most of this week, was a relative non-factor in this one, catching just one pass for 20 yards while fighting a high ankle sprain.
And, with that, the 2011-12 NFL season has come to an end. We thank you for getting your coverage from us here at SB Nation Minnesota, and we look forward to bringing you more great coverage this off-season as well.