Mistakes dictate Super Bowl XLVI participants
Over the years, most of the stories about the teams making the Super Bowl have been about positive occurrences—a circus catch in the end zone, a defensive stop at the goal line or something similar.
But for the upcoming Super Bowl XLVI the two teams—the New England Patriots and the New York Giants– that will vie for the 2012 world championship got there because of something their opponent in the conference championship game failed to do.
The teams making the mistakes that vaulted this year’s opponents into the Super Bowl at Indianapolis on Feb. 5 were coached by brothers—Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers and John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens.
A couple of mistakes in the latter portions of both conference championship games prevented National Football League history from being made where two brothers would be coaching against each other in the Super Bowl.
In Sunday’s first game—the AFC Championship—between the 13-4 AFC North Division champion Baltimore Ravens and the 14-3 AFC East Division champion New England Patriots the missed 32-yard field goal that put the Patriots into the Super Bowl actually would have only tied the game and probably sent it into an overtime period.
But in the NFC Championship nightcap between the 14-3 NFC West Division champion San Francisco 49ers and the 11-7 NFC East Division champion New York Giants, a 49er muff of a punt in the overtime period led directly to the Giants’ game-winning 31-yard field goal for the 20-17 upset victory.
The weather for both championship games was less than ideal, but if one wants to play football, it must be played under whatever conditions exist at the time. And in the fourth week of January, the weather nationwide normally is not nice UNLESS the game is being played in a nice cozy enclosed dome.
During the early game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA. a day after a snowstorm, temperatures were in the middle-to-upper 20’s which isn’t really that bad for this time of the year. But at Candlestick Park in San Francisco it was rainy and windy and the gridiron was becoming muddy and slippery as the game progressed.
The AFC game was full of irony. New England won its division title with the second-best offense in the NFL by merely outscoring most of the opponents, with quarterback Tom Brady connecting with his talented receiver corps on touchdown passes. The Patriots’ defense was ranked second-to-last in the entire NFL.
And the Baltimore Ravens boasted the third-best defense in the league and only the 15th best offense and yet they ended up with 398 yards of total offense to New England’s 330 yards.
But the Patriots’ defense shut down running back Ray Rice, the league’s total yardage leader, and made quarterback Joe Flacco beat them. And he almost did, except that New England’s defense rose to the occasion. “We stepped up,” Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork pointed out. “We all stepped up, big-time.”
But the Pats’ defense didn’t have much to do with Ravens’ kicker Billy Cundiff pulling his easy 32-yard field goal attempt to the left to tie the game with 15 seconds left in the game. The missed field goal made the New England Patriots a 23-20 winner.
The Patriots’ win was Brady’s 16th career postseason victory to tie Joe Montana for most in NFL history. And Brady and Head Coach Bill Belichick are the first quarterback-coach combination to win five conference championships in the Super Bowl era.
In the NFC Championship game the 49ers came into the game as the NFL’s best defense against the rush while the Giants were second in rushing offense but 27th in total defense. Sometimes these statistics don’t mean that much, especially during inclement weather conditions.
Both the Giants and 49ers played the game as if there was no love lost between them in this decades-old post-season rivalry with both defenses making several stops in key situations.
And in a game like this one it’s usually the team that makes the fewest mistakes that wins. Or the one which makes the last mistake that loses. Both of these statements proved to be true. San Francisco put the ball on the ground four times and lost two of the fumbles while the Giants recovered their only fumble.
Both of the 49ers lost fumbles were by fill-in return man Kyle Williams and ironically both miscues were recovered by back-up wide receiver Devin Thomas who was playing on the Giants’ special teams.
Williams’ first muffed punt early in the fourth period led to Eli Manning’s second touchdown pass, this one to wide receiver Mario Manningham, putting the Giants ahead again 17-14. But 49ers’ veteran kicker David Akers booted a 25-yard field goal with 5:39 left that eventually sent the game into overtime.
After exchanging punts in the overtime period, the Giants punted again and after Williams caught the ball cleanly enough, it was stripped from him by Giants’ rookie Jacquian Williams and recovered by Thomas deep in 49ers territory.
The Giants blasted their way inside the 10-yard line before setting up Lawrence Tynes’ winning 31-yard field goal with 7:06 gone in the overtime. Ironically it was Tynes who kicked an overtime field goal that sent the Giants to the 2008 Super Bowl, which New York won over the New England Patriots, 17-14.
These two teams will clash in Super Bowl XLVI Feb. 5 in Indianapolis with the Patriots being an early 3 ½-point favorite.
Again, this Korner is not convinced that New York should be the underdog. After all, the Giants seem to be playing better football than New England so far this January. But will it continue into early February???
KWICKIES…Don’t forget to watch Orange’s Earl Thomas play in Sunday’s Pro Bowl. He’s starting at free safety for the NFC. The game is scheduled to be televised on NBC-TV (Time Warner Channel 11) beginning at 6 p.m.
Sunset Grove golfer Sid Caillavet hit his career fifth hole-in-one Thursday on the Par-3, no. 3 hole. Sid used his three-wood for the ace, which was witnessed by Bill Van and George Davis.
And while on the subject of Sunset Grove golfers, Craig Couvillion fired a two-under-par 69 gross score to win the Men’s Golf Association’s One-Man scramble Saturday morning.
JUST BETWEEN US…It’s a crying shame that the winningest major college football coach in history will be buried with so many questions still unanswered. The Penn State scandal involving Joe Paterno’s long-time assistant Jerry Sandusky cost Joe Pa his job and put a smudge on his brilliant 46-year coaching career in which his Nittany Lions won a record 409 games. Paterno set a record for longevity, surpassing Amos Alonzo Stagg’s 41-years at the University of Chicago and spanning 12 U.S. presidents and 690 Penn State football games.