The wild-card weekend went pretty much according to script with the home teams winning all four games. The one surprise was in Denver where the Broncos beat last year’s Superbowl losers the Pittsburgh Steelers. This was another game to add to the “legend” of Tim Tebow, the Broncos quarterback, who had become a huge star by leading them to a series of unlikely victories. The Broncos had stumbled into the play-offs whereas the Steelers had an impressive 12-4 record. However, the Steelers famed defense dared Tebow to throw and he did successfully to give the Broncos a lead. Pittsburgh came back to take the game into overtime but on the first play a Tebow pass led to a touchdown run to win the game.
The Tebow fairytale came to a shuddering halt in the next game as the Broncos were soundly beaten by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The Superbowl favourites were the Green Bay Packers who had only lost one game in the regular season. They hosted the New York Giants who had been unimpressive for most of the season but seemed to be gaining momentum as they made the post-season just as they had in 2008 when they won the Superbowl. It was therefore not a huge shock, but still a surprise when they went to Lambeau Field and beat the Packers. The best game in the Divisional round came at Candlestick Park where the resurgent San Francisco 49ers hosted the New Orleans Saints. The lead changed hands several times culminating in a long drive from the 49ers at the end of the game to snatch the victory from the Saints who had themselves only just gained the lead.
The championship games were both very close with mistakes proving decisive. The Patriots hosted the Baltimore Ravens who had progressed smoothly the previous week against the Houston Texans. The Ravens had the last drive of the game.What would have been a game-winning touchdown pass was dropped by Lee Evans in the end-zone. It came down to a field goal attempt from the Ravens which would have tied the game and taken it to overtime. The kick should have been straightforward but was missed and the Patriots won.
The demise of the Packers gave the 49ers home-field advantage for the NFC game between two of the best defenses in the league. It appeared that the 49ers were on the way to their first Superbowl appearance in over a decade when they established a lead. A mistake when their kick returner touched the ball and the Giants recovered in great field position let New York back into the game, which went to overtime. The Giants punted after their first drive but the 49ers fumbled the return which gave the Giants a simple task to win the game.
So Superbowl XLVI in Indianapolis was a repeat of the match-up from four years earlier when the Giants had come late in the season and through the play-offs in similar fashion to this year. On that occasion a last-minute touchdown pass had denied the Patriots a perfect season in a huge upset. This time opinions were much more divided as to who the winners would be.
The Giants scored the first points when Tom Brady was collared in his own end-zone for a safety but the Patriots took a 10-9 lead into the break where Madonna performed the half-time show. Late in the fourth quarter the Patriots still led 17-15. Eli Manning then engineered a Giants drive to within yards of the Patriots goal-line. We then had the comic spectacle of the Patriots defense almost allowing the Giants in for a touchdown and the Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw trying and failing to stop himself falling into the endzone for the TD. The reason for this was that both teams knew that the Patriots had more time to win the game if the Giants avoided scoring for as long as possible. Tom Brady then took the Pats to midfield and threw a Hail Mary pass on the last play of the game. The ball went into the Giants endzone and could have fallen to a New England player. It didn’t and Manning took his second Superbowl, surpassing his more celebrated brother Peyton’s one, as well as the MVP prize.This was the Giants fourth Superbowl win.
Super Bowl XLVI:
New York Giants – New England Patriots 21-17
Conference Championship Games:
New England Patriots – Baltimore Ravens 23-20 (AFC)
San Francisco 49ers – New York Giants 17-20 OT (NFC)
Baltimore Ravens – Houston Texans 20-13 (AFC)
Green Bay Packers – New York Giants 20-37 (NFC)
New England Patriots – Denver Broncos 45-10 (AFC)
San Francisco 49ers – New Orleans Saints 36-32 (NFC)
Wild Card Games:
Denver Broncos – Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23 OT (AFC)
New York Giants – Atlanta Falcons 24-2 (NFC)
Houston Texans – Cincinnati Bengals 31-10 (AFC)
New Orleans Saints – Detroit Lions 45-28 (NFC)