This game would've been much different early on if the Patriots' defense had been able to hold on to the football. Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw fumbled in the second quarter, but wrangled the ball away from Pats linebacker Pierre Woods to maintain possession at the New York 30-yard line. The Patriots also couldn't recover a fumble that another New England linebacker, Adalius Thomas, forced after sacking Manning later in the quarter. Finally, Pats cornerback Randall Gay dropped what looked like a sure interception of an errant Manning pass intended for Steve Smith.
Sure, Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs intercepted Manning early in that period, but New England thrives on converting turnovers into points. It simply couldn't come up with enough of them.
The Giants didn't have anything positive to say about Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour after their Super Bowl win. Apparently, Seymour told some New York offensive players that they "should be ready to go home" before their last drive. That comment irritated Toomer, and it still bothered Giants running back Brandon Jacobs in the locker room.
"I'll give you a quote on Seymour," Jacobs said. "You can write that he's a soft [expletive]. He said we should get ready to go home. Well, now he's on the team that went 18-1."
The Giants clearly learned a thing or two about defending the Patriots offense after losing their regular-season finale to New England. One essential key was to contain Moss, especially if you want to limit the big plays. In that first meeting, Moss produced six receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns. On Sunday, he continued to be the same nonfactor he was throughout the postseason. Although he scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:42 left, he finished with only five receptions for 62 yards.
"We had a game plan, and we just didn't execute it," Moss said. "We don't point fingers around here. We just didn't play well as a unit."
New England coach Bill Belichick obviously doesn't need spying tactics to see everything. His decision to challenge a punt play on the Patriots' opening drive of the second half -- he alleged that Giants reserve linebacker Chase Blackburn didn't reach the sideline in time to avoid a penalty for 12 men on the field -- allowed the Patriots to maintain possession at a critical point in the game.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, the Giants' defense wasn't going to cave in the face of that momentum. New York managed to force New England into another fourth-down situation that ended with another interesting choice by Belichick (he went for it on fourth-and-13 from the Giants' 31-yard line instead of attempting a 48-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski). Note to Belichick: Those three points could've helped your team in the end.
New York's third-best defensive end looked like a future Hall of Famer in this game. In the first half alone, Tuck led the team with six tackles, sacked Tom Brady twice and forced a fumble on the second takedown. Before Tuck started taking over, the Giants seemed to be feeling their way through the early moments of the game. After that turning point, it was apparent the Patriots would have protection problems throughout the contest.
"We just tried to keep him off his timing," Tuck said. "That's what you have to do against a quarterback that good."