Skip to main content

Super Bowl blog: Analysis from Brandt and Kirwan

Editor's Note:'s Pat Kirwan and Gil Brandt are live on the scene at the Super Bowl, passing along their thoughts and observations as the action unfolds.

Final Thoughts
8:10 PM MT
Kirwan: There are three main storylines here for the Giants: Tom Coughlin, whose job was basically over after an 0-2 start to this season. Eli Manning, who continued the progress that he made all year and played one of the best Super Bowls I've ever seen a quarterback play; and Steve Spagnuolo, whose defense had five sacks and never let Brady get into a comfort zone with the exception of the one late drive. ... Unsung heroes are the offensive linemen of the Giants, who gave Eli the time to throw the football -- or at least escape. The scramble play and subsequent 37-yard play to David Tyree has to go down as the greatest play in Giants history. If there was ever a game in which a coach should win MVP, it's Spagnuolo and the defense. They held Brady to one TD pass in 43 attempts. ... Cornerback Corey Webster singled up Randy Moss more times than I could count and did a great job. ... The Giants have their quarterback for the next 10 years, and these teams may very well meet again sometime in the near future for another title.

For Tom Brady to give us his classic 12-play drive for the go-ahead TD and then see Manning counter with his own 12-play drive for the winning TD may have been the most enjoyable finish to a game I've ever seen.

Brandt: I think this game proves what has been said about the competitive balance in the NFL. Some of the most unlikely stars emerged today -- David Tyree was known for his special teams play rather than his receiving -- he made an unbelievable catch to keep the winning drive alive. Eli Manning was not known for his scrambling ability, and he made a play that will be seen on highlight reels for many, many years to come. The offensive line of the New York Giants was just unbelievable in protection, especially on the last drive -- giving Manning time to throw. The last pass to Burress was a classic. ... Without question, to me, this has to be the biggest upset in Super Bowl history, surpassing the Jets-Colts or Rams-Patriots -- a game we'll talk about for years and years to come. ... Finally, former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi deserves much praise -- not only did he draft many of these players, but he is justified for the trade that brought Eli Manning to New York.

Plax For Six
7:56 PM MT University of Phoenix Stadium literally begin to shake when Manning connected with Burress with :35 remaining for the go-ahead touchdown. It was the loudest the stadium had been at any point in the game.

Ball Control
7:49 PM MT
Brandt: We talked before the game about how the Pats took a chance on having just seven offensive linemen active -- because they wanted to keep some guys active who can help on special teams. Sure enough, after they scored the go-ahead touchdown, Giants dangerous kick return specialist Domenik Hixon got taken down hard by rookie Ray Ventrone -- New England's third-strong strong safety and a guy who easily could have been inactive in this game.

The Hardware
7:48 PM MT Former Redskins quarterback and Super Bowl XXII Doug Williams is on the sidelines holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Ball Control
7:43 PM MT
Kirwan: Down 10-7 with a little less than eight minutes to play, Brady -- the passing surgeon -- went to work. Against a pass rush that looks out of gas, he's driven the Pats down the field with no pressure. He's standing in the pocket with time and hitting receivers mostly in the middle. The Pats ran once and passed 11 times on the drive -- completing seven. Moss, Welker and Faulk caught all of them while the tight ends were in to block.

Brandt: In the Week 17 game, New England put the game out of reach with a fourth-quarter drive that started with a little over nine minutes to play and lasted over five minutes. This time, the Patriots got the ball with 8:24 and have moved the chains and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:42.

Butler Down
7:38 PM MT That was Giants safety James Butler who left the game with 2:49 remaining in the fourth quarter. Butler was able to run off the field under his own power. Patriots starting right guard Stephen Neal, who left the game midway through the second quarter, is on the sidelines in street clothes.

Under pressure
7:29 PM MT
Brandt: Without question, this is the most pressure anyone's gotten on Brady. Philadelphia and Baltimore both put a lot of pressure on him, but not like this. Justin Tuck has really disrupted everything, not only with his two sacks. He's not overly big for a defensive lineman and very light on his feet.

Grinding it out
7:26 PM MT
Kirwan: The Giants are averaging almost four yards a carry running the ball. It's in play now. If they can keep that up and avoid the long third downs, this could be a crippling drive for the Patriots.

Giants Stopping the Rush
7:22 PM MT
Kirwan: What was impressive on the Giants' touchdown drive was the ability to block the Pats' pass rush. Eli was just sitting there, giving him time to find the likes of David Tyree. ... This has been an emerging problem for the Patriots: During the playoffs, Mike Vrabel and Adalius Thomas had no sacks, and as we're in the fourth quarter, they have one between them. Kevin Boss has become a terrific blocker when needed, and smart enough to go out for a pass when there's no pressure.

Brandt: There have been two kickoff returns for the Patriots in which they've been called for penalties, forcing them to start drives inside the 10-yard line. They've dug out of the hole both times -- but were forced to punt both times.

Told Ya So
7:12 PM MT
Kirwan: Remember what we said about the Giants throwing long with a two-back set during pregame warmups? Manning hit tight end Kevin Boss for 45 yards early in the fourth quarter -- the Patriots should have been watching!

The third quarter was sloppy. Neither team has come out very sharp in the second half -- penalties, mental mistakes. That can happen sometimes after the long halftime. ... The Patriots are no longer using the four-receiver sets. They need Kyle Brady in there to help the pass rush. ... Eli has been able to do whatever he wants throwing the ball, but they haven't been able to score. Still, the Giants couldn't have asked for much more than this -- being down by just four going into the final quarter, they don't have to abandon the running game.

Brandt: The 10 points total through three quarters is not the lowest-scoring Super Bowl at this point. The Steelers led the Vikings, 9-0, at the end of three quarters in Super Bowl IX. The final score of that game was 16-6.

Shot Gun Not Working
7:00 PM MT
Kirwan: New England has basically been playing this second half in the shotgun. With a limited running game, the pass rush can stop what's there. I think Brady's going to have to get back under center soon, because this plays into what the Giants are doing.

Brandt: There is a lot of coaching going on from both sides of the field, in terms of personnel changes on offense and defense. .. It's hard to believe, watching the Giants' defense play, that they gave up 80 points in their first two games.

Patriots On Offense
6:43 PM MT
Brandt: Back to that Week 17 game: In the first three series of the second half, the Giants only ran a total of 15 plays, and that's when the momentum changed. The Patriots on offense are getting into a much quicker rhythm.

Respecting the Rush
6:36 PM MT
Kirwan: First apparent halftime adjustment by New England: Let's respect the rush. The passing game is becoming quick routes to Faulk and Welker. Twice I saw Moss singled up, and they didn't take a shot at him downfield. They'll try to dink and dunk until they get settled down… And the giants love that idea.

Field Position Battle
6:34 PM MT
Brandt: Usually when teams start out positive the way the Patriots did on the first drive of the second half, it's a good sign. Even though they were stalled, it sets up field position, as the Giants will start inside their 20-yard line. I have to admit: Wes Welker is better than I thought he was.

First Half Review
6:08 PM MT
Kirwan: The story of the first half is the Giants' ability to limit a New England offense that has averaged 20 points in the first half during the season. They've got this game under control. How are they doing it? Pressure. Three sacks and three QB hits. … Secondly, the Giants are playing well to their scouting chart about where the Pats' run game wants to go. They have corralled Maroney, who ran for 122 yards in each of the Pats' playoff games. As the Patriots go to the locker room and think about the second half, I anticipate more blitz pressure from Belichick and a short, quick passing game with slant routes -- accepting the fact that the Giants' pass rush is too much to handle.

Brandt: I didn't think it was possible for these two teams to only score 10 points in the first half. I think the Giants have really surprised everybody with the pressure they've been able to put on Brady. They only sacked him once in the Week 17 game. The one key against Brady: When he's been sacked three or more times in his career, his record is 8-6 -- a long way from his overall winning percentage. Key plays: After the Hobbs INT, they failed to convert. The Pats had second-and-2 and then third-and-1 and failed to convert. The Giants have taken Moss out of the game and were able to shorten the game by controlling the ball with the run game. My feeling is that in the second half, you'll see the Patriots make some adjustments in the protection to help Brady get more time and stay on his feet. One other thing: The halftime in Super Bowl is a little longer than usual, and that will help Belichick as he plots his moves.

Brady Under Pressure
5:59 PM MT
Kirwan: Two smoke screens in a row -- one to Stallworth and one to Welker. The Giants are taking them out of their vertical game because of the pass rush. So they have to go to the quick receiver screens.

Brandt: On at least two plays in Patriots' last drive, the Giants have gone with three down linemen, trying to mix up Brady with blitzing pressure.

Making Moves
5:45 PM MT
Kirwan: Nice job by Tom Coughlin of getting Bradshaw and Smith right back into the game after their rookie mistakes. No brow-beating on the sidelines. Just get them back into action where they can help. ... The Giants will go to the locker room frustrated because of missing their chances to score. At this point they should probably have 10 points. ... On that critical third-and-long, it was strange to see Reuben Droughns in the game -- and he was the player Manning looked to. ... Before the drive stalled, it was clear that Kevin Gilbride has made a nice adjustment by using a "G Power" running scheme, pulling the guards and running inside.

Nice Move
5:41 PM MT
Kirwan: Let's talk about the two sacks the Giants had. They now have two sacks in 11 pass plays. The first one, by Strahan, was a great call by Spagnuolo. TE Ben Watson looked like he was going to be open, but Umenyiora dropped into coverage to take it away. Brady hesitated, and Strahan got the sack.

Two-back Set
5:40 PM MT
Brandt: After the first 23 minutes, 15 seconds, the Giants have accomplished a lot. They overcame an interception, a near fumble, and they have maintained good field position after the turnover. The Giants are using a new formation with both Jacobs and Bradshaw in the backfield. When Jacobs isn't carrying the ball, he's blocking for Bradshaw.

Rookie Mistakes
5:37 PM MT
Kirwan: Rookie mistakes are starting to mount for the Giants -- Ahmad Bradshaw fumbled, and the interception came when Steve Smith couldn't hold onto the ball ... and we saw our first sack of the game in the Giants' third series. … What's interesting to me is that the Giants did a nice job of setting up third-and-shorts in their first drive, but have only run the ball three times since then. Look for the Giants to come out in their next possession and get Brandon Jacobs busy -- just to make third downs more manageable.

Gay Leaves with Injury
5:33 PM MT cornerback Randall Gay left the game after he injured his left arm early in the first quarter.

Giants Adjust
5:28 PM MT
Kirwan:Giants defensive adjustment after the first series: They started to move the front to their right side, the Pats' left side. That side had dominated the first possession for New England running the ball, but this time the Giants got the three-and-out. Nice adjustment by Steve Spagnuolo.

Brandt: Ellis Hobbs, who intercepted Manning, was the last player to intercept a Manning pass after the Giants' QB had no picks in the playoffs. The Giants' stop following the interception is big. Takes away any momentum and confidence the Patriots could have gained from the turnover.

Patriots hard to stop
5:08 PM MT
Kirwan: The first quarter the Patriots have run the ball four times, all to the left -- they are attacking Osi Umenyiora in the running game. On passing plays, they are keeping TE Kyle Brady in to help protect Brady ... Kyle Brady was in on seven of the 11 plays in New England's TD drive. ... In review, a big kickoff return to the 50 and the pass interference call in the end zone set up the TD. The Patriots offense did not look that sharp. Incomplete passes -- really, Randy Moss has not been able to get free from the coverages.

Brandt: They love to throw the ball to Welker toward Moss' side ... Kaczur is doing a good job on Strahan -- so just as we mentioned, that gives TE Ben Watson the chance to be a factor in the passing game. Not surprisingly, they threw to Watson in the end zone twice on their opening drive. ... It's highly unusual to see just two possessions in an entire quarter. The Giants have thus far accomplished their goal of controlling the clock, but the Pats are hard to stop.

Opening thoughts
5:00 PM MT
Kirwan: What strikes me about the first drive: The Giants rolled through five different personnel groupings, used Ahmad Bradshaw, and Eli must be seeing Plaxico doubled which is why Steve Smith is being used more. There were seven passes on that drive and eli was not sacked once. He had time to throw versus three 4-man pressures and two 5-man pressures. The giants blocking scheme understands where the Patriots are going to come from.

The Giants running game hasn't really been impressive, 8-for-21, but it has set up manageable third downs. Three of the five third downs were from five yards or less.

Brandt: The nine running plays in the Giants opening drive were more than they had in the entire first half of the Week 17 game. ... The opening drive, resulting in a field goal, ate 10 minutes off the clock.

A good matchup to watch when the Patriots have the ball is Nick Kaczur vs. Michael Strahan. Kaczur missed the Week 17 game and his backup needed help. If Kaczur can handle Strahan, that's good news for the Patriots.

Giants control the clock
4:58 PM MT
Kirwan: The No. 1 thing the Pats want to do is force the Giants' runners to cut back inside so they can stuff it in the middle with Vince Wilfork ... It happened on first two offensive plays of the game. ... As we talked about in the scouting report, the Giants are throwing the ball from the two-back set. They know they get three-deep coverage from that formation. ... In the two third-down sets, the Giants go with four WRs and one RB. The first time, the Pats had four-man pressure, and it didn't work. On next one, they went with five-man pressures. In Week 17, the four- and five-man pressures didn't work. It won't be long before the Patriots start going to six-man pressures.

Brandt: The Giants used four different formations in the first four plays of the game ... Steve Smith converts on third down -- like we said earlier this week, look for Smith to play a big role in this game. The Giants have run the ball more on their first possession than they did for most of the first half in the Week 17 game.

Popular Patriots
4:38 PM MT
Brandt: We're on the Patriots side of the stadium and, judging by the fans in the stands here, Tedy Bruschi is almost as popular as Tom Brady. Those were certainly the two most commonly seen jerseys.

Kirwan: No. 1 thing the Pats want to do is force the Giants' runners to cut back inside so they can stuff it in the middle with Vince Wilfork… It happened on first two offensive plays of the game.

More pre-game notes
3:59 PM MT
Kirwan: What's very interesting in the Giants' pre-game warmup is how much passing they 're doing from two-back sets. When they do it, the look team puts Rodney Harrison down in the box. They're practicing deep balls from a two-back running set -- and they are boldly doing it while the Patriots are right there on the field!

Brandt: It's kind of unusual to see seven officials and five alternates on the field prior to the game. I don't think we've had five alternates in the Super Bowl before. The officials were introducing themselves to the coaches and players. Mike Carey, the ref, was the referee in their Week 17 game.

Note on Tom Brady: When he was blitzed this year he threw 17 TD passes and 2 INTs.

Kirwan Watching Tom Brady warm up was probably the most important thing pregame. I saw him throw about 25 balls -- he had little discomfort on his three-step drop, shifting his weight on the throws, and he had a lot of zip on the ball. I'm comfortable saying he's 100 percent.

The Patriots still have not brought out their whole team, but the Giants were all out there. They were gathered near the end zone and Michael Strahan gave them impassioned speech. He looked pretty fired up -- probably told them he was ready to go out on top.

As Brady warmed up, I could not help but notice how many Giants coaches stood and watched. I'm sure the Giants will start out with a conservative defensive game plan. As much as they'd like to get after Brady, I'm expecting off coverages to they can keep the big plays to a minimum. On the other hand, it would not surprise me if the Patriots come right out and attack the secondary vertically.

Special Teams Strategy
3:36 PM MT
Brandt: One reason the Patriots might have stuck with only seven offensive linemen is so that those roster spots could go to faster players who will help on special teams.

Patriots Up Front
3:26 PM MT
Kirwan: Most interesting notes on Pats inactives ... By deactivating offensive linemen Wesley Britt and Billy Yates, the Patriots come into this game with seven offensive linemen -- which is risky business if they get injuries. The Giants, by comparison, come in with nine offensive linemen.

Maybe the most disappointing reality of the inactives: Sinorice Moss of the Giants and Chad Jackson of the Patriots. Both were high draft picks and should have been stars on their teams by now. Also, with the Patriots deactivating their third tight end after having such a good three-tight end package against the Chargers… If they want to go back to that, they'll use FB Heath Evans as the third TE.

Moss Inactive
3:20 PM MT
Brandt: First tip we get from looking at the Giants' list of inactives for today: WR Sinorice Moss is inactive and that means two things: First off, it says that Plaxico Burress is ready to go. Secondly, it probably means the Giants will be using less multiple-receiver sets -- and thus plan to run the ball more.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.