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It’s official: The Giants still own the Patriots.

For the second time in less than five years the Giants defeated the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Here are reactions from the G-Men’s 21-17 victory over the Pats in Super Bowl XLVI.

New York Giants quarterback and Super Bowl XLVI MVP Eli Manning celebrates on the podium at Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis. New York beat New England 21-17 to win Super Bowl XLVI UPI/Kevin Dietsch

- In order to fully appreciate how far the Giants came in order to be crowned Super Bowl champions, you really have to go back to the preseason when the franchise was a mess. The fans were upset because the front office didn’t have the cap space to make a splash signing during the offseason, all while the Eagles built what appeared to be a division-winning roster. Players were also dropping like flies because of a rash of injuries and then the team goes out and loses to the Redskins in Week 1. The defense stunk, the running game was non-existent, and it appeared as though Tom Coughlin was back on the hot streak. But Eli Manning put this team on his shoulders, the defense finally got healthy and then the Giants just caught fire down the stretch. I thought it was rather arrogant that the New York media talked about how this Giants team compared to the 2008 squad that upset the Patriots but lo and behold, they were absolutely right. Team of destiny? Maybe. But then again I just think that this was a very good team that knew what it was capable of if it could reach the postseason. And now once again, the Giants are Super Bowl champions after one of the better in-season turnarounds in NFL history.

- There’s really no debate any more: Eli Manning deserves to be called elite. What more do you want him to accomplish? He may not break NFL passing records like Tom Brady, Drew Brees or his brother, but this dude is just clutch. He was excellent tonight and once again proved that you can’t faze him, I don’t care what the situation is. He deserved another moment like this, especially given how good he was during the regular season. As I’ve written several times over the last month, without him the Giants wouldn’t have won nine games this year. Without his pinpoint throw to Mario Manningham in the fourth quarter the Giants probably don’t win tonight. And without him outplaying the likes of Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, the Giants don’t hoist their second Lombardi Trophy in less than five years. Is he kind of aloof? Yeah, but aloof now has two Super Bowl rings and two Super Bowl MVP trophies. New York fans will take aloof all day long and twice on Sunday.

- There’s not much more I can say about Mario Manningham’s catch that Cris Collinsworth didn’t already cover during the broadcast. Given the situation and the stakes, you won’t see a greater catch than that. While David Tyree’s helmet grab in Super Bowl XLII was more unbelievable, Manningham’s catch was still spectacular in its own right. The coverage was tight and yet Manning was able to put the ball in a spot that only Manningham could catch it, which he did – all while getting two feet in bounds and holding onto the pass as he crashed to the ground. What an incredible, incredible pass and catch.

- This win once again reaffirms how good of a coach Tom Coughlin is. He coaches in the toughest media market in the league, where he’s constantly criticized for every mistake he makes and has been on the hot seat too many times to count. But the Giants do things right and that’s in large part because of the work that Coughlin does. This team plays hard, is usually prepared and it never cowers to its competition. After two Super Bowl victories, Coughlin now writes his own ticket in my opinion. He’s bought himself another three or four years where people should just shut up and trust in his coaching ability. After all, the man has gotten the best of Bill Belichick not once, but twice in the Super Bowl.

- As a football fan I couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed following the game. It’s hard to complain when a Super Bowl isn’t decided until the final play but it was a lackluster first half and both of these teams essentially dinked and dunked their way up and down the field. (Outside of Manningham’s big catch, that is.) But the more I thought about it, the more impressed I was with the play of both defenses. Brady and Manning had to dink and dunk because the defenses took away the big play. It looked like the Giants were going to run away with the game early on but the Patriots deserve credit for taking away New York’s excellent passing game until late in the fourth quarter. The Giants pass rush was also as good as advertised, especially on the Pats’ first offensive play from scrimmage (when Brady was called for intentional grounding in the end zone) and on New England’s final drive of the game. While the Patriots’ tackling was piss poor throughout, there were plenty of big hits throughout the game as well. Have I seen better games? I think we all have, especially from an excitement standpoint. But you have to tip your hat to both defenses, especially when you consider how explosive both of these offenses were throughout the year.

- Although he got outplayed by Manning, it’s hard to criticize Tom Brady for his performance. He made a bone-headed decision the Pats’ first offensive play from scrimmage and it cost his team two points, but he caught fire in the middle of the game and played well enough for New England to win. Due to Rob Gronkowski being a non-factor, keep in mind that Brady didn’t have a dynamic threat in the passing game. I thought that in order for the Pats to win this game Brady would have to put together one of those Tom Brady-type performances. While he was certainly good, he wasn’t good enough as he once again played second-fiddle to Eli.

- That was definitely a drop by Wes Welker midway through the fourth quarter, but Brady deserves at least partial blame for the pass. Should Welker have caught the ball? No question. But if Brady hits Welker in stride that play may have gone for six and the Patriots probably win. It’s not like Welker was blanketed in coverage: he was wide open. No one play determines the outcome of a game but that was a costly misfire by Brady and a bad drop by Welker, who usually makes that catch nine out of 10 times.

- Some will call the Patriots gutless for allowing Ahmad Bradshaw to waltz into the end zone on what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. They’ll say that Bill Belichick gave up and will probably spew hypotheticals about how the Giants may have turned the ball over had the Pats played things straight up instead of clearing a path for Bradshaw to score. But I thought it was a smart move on Belichick’s part to preserve as much time as possible for Brady and his offense. Could the Giants have turned the ball over or missed the field goal? Yes, but it was doubtful that the Patriots got lucky like that for the second game in a row. How many times does a team drain the clock down to nothing and kick a game-winning field goal anyway? Granted, the move didn’t work out for the Patriots in the end but at least Belichick gave Brady a shot to put together one more magical fourth-quarter comeback. I liked the move, regardless of the outcome.

- Boy was I wrong about Rob Gronkowski or what? I thought he was healthier than the media led you to believe and that his ankle wasn’t going to be a factor. I even thought he would have a pretty big game. But it was clear that he couldn’t cut and move like he normally does and that made a big difference in New England’s passing game. Brady essentially didn’t have his best playmaker, even though Aaron Hernandez stepped up in Gronk’s “absence.” I’m not suggesting that the Patriots would have won had Gronk been 100-percent but when you think about how big of a weapon he was during the season, there’s no question that his injury factored into the outcome of the game. He basically limped around the field for three and a half hours.

- No matter what team you root for, it’s hard not to feel for Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft. That was a sad scene of him standing by himself watching the final play unfold knowing that his team just lost the Super Bowl. He just stood there in complete shock as the Giants began to celebrate. After losing his wife last year, my heart went out to him in that moment.

- I think Madonna could have used a couple of more minutes of stretching before she went on stage. She looked stiff in her first song and nearly fell off the back of those freaking bleachers in her second set. You’re not 25 anymore Madonna – make sure those hamstrings aren’t tight before you go hopping up and down on metal seats, woman!

- My vote for the best commercial was the NFL safety piece that went through the different years of equipment. That was very well done and the graphics were awesome. Outside of that, the pixy-dust ad was pretty good and Doritos made me laugh a couple of times. Overall the commercials weren’t that funny though and I think I’ve had my fill of babies and dogs being in every other Super Bowl spot…

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Fade Material: Super Bowl XLVI Prediction

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (L) talks to head coach Bill Belichick during the NFL AFC Divisional playoff game against the Denver Broncos in Foxborough, Massachusetts, January 14, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Technically the Giants aren’t favored for Super Bowl XLVI but they might as well be.

New York doesn’t have the most marketable player (that would be Tom Brady) or the most wins between the two teams this season, but the Giants are the hotter squad and have already proven that they won’t cower to New England in any situation. They have the pass rush to once again slay Brady, a vastly underrated passing game and a quarterback in Eli Manning that doesn’t get nearly the respect he deserves for what he does for this New York team.

From a betting standpoint things look awfully good for the Giants as well. They’re 5-1 against the spread in their last six games versus the Patriots, 8-0 ATS in their last eight playoff games as an underdog and 8-1 ATS in their last nine playoff games overall. New England, meanwhile, is 1-7 against the number in its last eight playoff games and 1-6 ATS in its last seven playoff games as a favorite.

Every bone in my body says that the Giants are going to win tonight. But I don’t think they will.

I think the Giants have managed to become overconfident the past few weeks and an overconfident Giants team is a losing Giants team. I think Rob Gronkowski is healthier than people think and he’ll have a big game. I think Bill Belichick will once again take away what an opponent does best and in this case, that’s the Giants’ passing game. I think Tom Brady will have one of those Tom Brady-esq games where he throws for 375 yards and three touchdowns all while being unstoppable in the fourth quarter. I think the Patriots will win.

I’m siding with my gut over my head: Patriots 23, Giants 20.

Outside of Gronkowski, injuries shouldn’t be a factor heading into Super Bowl XLVI

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) talks with reporters on Media Day during Super Bowl week on January 31, 2012 in Indianapolis. The Patriots will face the New York Giants on February 5 in Super Bowl XLVI. UPI/Brian Kersey

For all intents and purposes, the Giants and Patriots will both be healthy when Super Bowl XLVI kicks off on Sunday.

Rob Gronkowki’s ankle remains the biggest injury concern for the Patriots, as the team has officially listed him as questionable. But the Pats also list nine other players as questionable and none are in danger of missing the game.

Safety Patrick Chung, offensive tackles Marcus Cannon and Sebastian Vollmer, linebackers Dane Fletcher, Rob Ninkovich, Tracy White and Brandon Spikes, receiver Wes Welker, defensive lineman Kyle Love, and guard Logan Mankins were all limited in practice this week but are expected to play. Outside of Gronkowski, all of those players were also listed as questionable for the AFC championship game and they all played.

As for the Patriots’ counterparts, the Giants are relatively healthy as well. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw, receiver Hakeem Nicks, defensive end Osi Umenyiora, cornerback Corey Webster, and linebacker Jacquian Williams were all limited in practice this week but are expected to play. Bradshaw is perhaps the team’s biggest concern as he skipped the Giants’ final practice because of soreness in his right foot, but again, he’ll play.

Getting back to Gronkowski, at this point there’s no doubt that he’ll play. How effective he’ll be is another question, especially after halftime when he’s been off the ankle for 15-plus minutes.

Super Bowl XLVI By the Numbers

Helmets of the New England Patriots and New York Giants rest on both sides of the Vince Lombardi Trophy before a press conference at the media center 2 days before the Giants and Patriots meet in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, IN on February 2, 2012. UPI /John Angelillo

1 – Number of Super Bowls that Eli Manning has won. Ironically, it’s also the same number of Super Bowls that Tom Brady has lost.

3 – The opening point spread at most sports books of this year’s Super Bowl. (Patriots –3, that is.)

3.5 – Number of sacks that Osi Umenyiora has compiled this postseason, which ties him for the most along with Houston’s J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed.

4 – Number of defensive ends that the Giants can lineup at the same time. (Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Dave Tollefson.)

9 – Combined number of Pro Bowls that Manning and Brady have appeared in.

12.5 – The number that the Patriots were favored by the last time they played the Giants in the Super Bowl.

16 – Number of top-seeded teams from the AFC that have made the Super Bowl since 1977. (Only four were crowned champions, although the Patriots were one of those four in 2003.)

18 – Number of touchdowns Rob Gronkowski compiled during the regular season, second only to Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy (20).

20 – Teams that fail to score 20 points in the Super Bowl are 1-22 since 1977. The only team since 1977 to score less than 20 points and still win? The 2008 Giants, who beat the Patriots, 17-14.

46 – Well, this one is pretty obvious…it’s the number of passes Brady attempted in the Patriots’ Week 16 win over the Dolphins.

55.5 – The total that most sports books opened at for this year’s Super Bowl.

75.4 – Brady’s passer rating against the Giants in the Patriots’ 24-20 loss in Week 9 of the regular season.

199 – The pick that the Patriots used to select Brady in 2000.

335 – Number of receiving yards Hakeem Nicks has compiled this postseason (best in the NFL).

3,982 – Average price, in dollars, of one Super Bowl ticket.

13,000 – Hotel rooms in Indianapolis. All are booked for the weekend and some at a 1,700% higher price than the conventional fee.

68,000 – Capacity at Lucas Oil Stadium after it was expanded from 63,000 for the big game.

3,500,000 – The cost of a 30-second commercial for this year’s Super Bowl.

50,000,000 – Estimated cases of beer consumed by fans on Super Bowl Sunday.

1.25 Billion – Apparently this is the number of chicken wings that will be consumed on Sunday. God we’re fat…

Super Bowl XLVI: Three keys to victory for the Patriots

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady points on the line of scrimmage before a play against the Baltimore Ravens during their NFL AFC Championship football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts, January 22, 2012. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

On Wednesday I discussed the three keys to victory for the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. On Thursday, it’s the Patriots’ turn.

1. Brady has to be Brady.
We can talk until we’re blue in the face about whether or not New England’s defense will continue to play well. But the fact of the matter is that when Brady isn’t throwing for 400-plus yards and turning in one of those Tom Brady-type performances, the Patriots have looked very beatable this season. The week before the Pats lost to the Giants during the regular season, they lost to the Steelers 25-17 in Pittsburgh. In that game, Brady completed 24-of-35 passes, threw for two touchdowns and compiled a passer rating of 101.8. But he threw for just 198 yards as the Steelers kept everything in front of them and made more plays in the end. A week later Brady threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns but he also tossed two interceptions in a 24-20 loss to the Giants. Now, it’s not far to pin either of those losses solely on Brady and I’m not. But my point is that when he’s not Superman flying around in his red cape, the Pats look rather ordinary. Thus, this is Brady’s game to lose. He turned in a very lackluster performance two weeks ago in the AFC championship game versus the Ravens and privately promised owner Bob Kraft that he would play better in the Super Bowl. He better, because while the Patriots rely on him too much, if he isn’t Tom Brady then there’s a good chance that the G-Men will once again get the best of New England.

2. Pass protect or fall.
While they did allow two sacks, the Patriots’ offensive line actually did a very good job keeping the Giants’ front four in check when these two teams met during the regular season. (Jason Pierre-Paul had one sack but the other came from outside linebacker Michael Boley.) The Giants are most effective when they can generate pressure from the interior of their defensive line. When they get a push from up the middle, they don’t allow the quarterback to step up in the pocket and thus avoid pressure coming from the outside. The biggest concern for the Patriots is center Dan Connolly, who has struggled in pass protection all season. If he can’t raise the level of his play then the Patriots could have a mess on their hands when it comes to keeping Tom Brady upright. The other concern is Sebastian Vollmer, who was arguably the Pats’ best offensive lineman in that Week 9 loss to the Giants. Sidelined since Week 12 with back and ankle injuries, Vollmer is expected to be active this Sunday but how effective will he be? And will he start or will he serve in more of a swing role? New England can’t juggle its offensive line throughout the game and expect perfect results – especially inside a dome where noise could be a factor. That said, the Patriots have a top-10 line when it comes to pass protection so if Connolly can hold his own with Logan Mankins and Brian Waters in the middle, then New England might be able to neutralize New York’s fierce pass rush. Or at least they better play well or else the Pats’ offense could struggle all game.

3. The Pats must be solid on the back end.
For all intents and purposes, Kyle Arrington, James Ihedigbo and Patrick Chung struggled in coverage two weeks ago versus the Ravens. And while Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin are certainly respectable receivers, they don’t bring the same skill set to the field as Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. The thing that New England’s defense does best is stop the run. But the Giants aren’t coming into this game thinking that if they can just get Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw going that they’ll win. No, they’re going to throw the ball in the climate-friendly dome that the Colts call a home because that’s what they do best and that’s where they can take advantage of potentially mismatches. Thus, if the Patriots don’t play well on the backend then they’re going to be in trouble. Nicks and Cruz are serious vertical threats on the outside but Mario Manningham is also a danger to work the seam. Thus, all three levels have to be good in pass coverage on Sunday or else the Pats could be victimized through the air. Their pass rush has been inconsistent this season and if they can’t generate pressure then it’ll be up to Chung and Co. to step up. Granted, guys like Devin McCourty and Sterling Moore have played well throughout the season. But to borrow that old phrase: You’re only as strong as your weakest link. New England’s defense has steadily improved from the second half of the season up to this point. Now it’s time for them to put together their best performance of the year.

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