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Sunday, February 03, 2008

One Instant In Time



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On a hot, humid desert evening
as millions of pairs of eyes watched intently, a ball hung suspended in the air…a ball held aloft by one hand and the crown of one helmet. For one instant the world watched as that ball was held higher than every player on the field and within it, the very football hopes and dreams of every player on that field.

The Giants weren’t supposed to win this game, Super Bowl 42. They were the background for the banner of achievement that was to be hung for a team that could not and would not be beaten. That Patriot team had already copywrited the phrase, “19-0.” They had scored more points than any team in NFL history. They had been the first to 18 and 0. They were the team of destiny, the juggernaut that would knock the 1972 Miami Dolphins from their lofty perch in history.

Somehow a brave and determined Giants team stayed close. Wonderfully, a competent officiating crew stayed out of the way of the teams. It was a death-cage battle. Clashing time and time again in the middle of the field, rarely did either team threaten to score as defenses ruled the day. Then came Eli Manning and the Giants to the end zone to take a 10-7 lead with just 11 minutes to go in the game. Then came the Patriot’s turn.

As always, the Pats had an answer. Tom Brady took them down the field in short bursts, looking for Welker and Faulk and handing off to Maroney. The Giant defense, dominant most of the game, began to tire. Players headed to the sidelines. Players were flung prostrate to the turf, unable to move. The Patriots favorite play – Brady to Moss – Touchdown!

Finally, it was down to this. Eli Manning and the Giants. 2:42 left on the clock and 83 yards away from a touchdown, down by four. A field goal did nothing. It was touchdown or else. For every other Patriot opponent this was how the story would end.

Then came the defining instant of the game. 1:15 left. Third down. 5 yards to go, but still on their side of midfield stood the Giants. The Patriots blitz charged through Manning’s line and he was grabbed and pawed and about to be wrestled to the ground when suddenly he was another player from Giant’s teams past. Suddenly he was Fran Tarkenton and like a weasel he wriggled and struggled and evaded a certain sack and spun around and away and, breaking clear of his pursuers, flung a pigskin far downfield and up above his intended target, David Tyree. The ball, the hand, the helmet, and Rodney Harrison smashing him to the turf. What did David Tyree think in that fraction of a second before he hit the ground?

Then came his other hand to grasp the ball and then came the ground and Harrison’s attempt to knock him free of the ball, but his arms reached out and in his hands firmly grasped was that pigskin. All of a sudden, the Giants had a first down on the New England 24 instead of being downed somewhere around their own 30 and facing
4th down. Eli Manning had defied belief to throw it and Tyree found a way to catch it and both the field and the clock advantage had been turned upside down.

The Giants won the game when their offensive line held off a blitz and Manning threw a perfect pass to Plaxico Burress in the left corner of the end zone. The Patriots lost because the Giants won the battle for the line of scrimmage and Eli Manning outplayed Tom Brady. And one instant, one ball and one hand and one helmet and one outcome will remain suspended above the Arizona turf forever in our minds. The New York Giants are the NFL Champions!

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2 comments:

lava said...

amazing game last night.

Mark K. Sprengel said...

Good to see you're back to blogging :)