I am reminded of the words of Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who was asked after the Patriots defeated the Eagles, 24-21, in their Super Bowl meeting, what he thought of the Patriots dynasty.
"Dynasty?" he snarled. "They only beat us by three fucking points."
Since the Eagles game, the Patriots have been living dangerously, slumbering through most of their games, and then waking up at the last minute to do just enough to win. Tonight, it bit them in the ass.
Sure, there were extenuating circumstances. Tom Brady clearly wasn't able to get any zip on balls more than ten yards out, and had nothing in his ankle that would let him evade the Giants' carnivorous pass rush. Then again, two weeks ago the best the Chargers could trot out was a one-legged Phillip Rivers and zero Ladanian Tomlinson, and you don't see the Pats offering to replay that one when everyone's healthy.
What it came down to was that Brady didn't have enough time or arm to pick apart the Giants' defense, and the the Patriots aging, slow linebackers didn't have quite enough on the ball to shut down the Giants medium passing game when it counted. Credit the Giants receivers for making some spectacular catches when it counted, and for overcoming some horrid drops and misplays. Credit the limping Plaxico Burress for staying out there to the bitter end, and finally making a difference at the end. Credit the Giants' kids, who came up big when bigger-name players were falling short. Credit Eli Manning, for his Randall Cunningham-esque evasion on the final drive and solid play. And most of all, credit the Giants defense, which got taken apart on the Pats' opening drive, and then bottled up Brady all night long.
There was, of course, weird stuff. Fox seemed unable to get their game clock right, though they weren't doing that much worse than the actual officials. Seriously, when so much is riding on how many seconds are left on the clock, you'd think someone would get wise to the long-running farce that is "Tweet - tick - tick - tick - tick - clock finally stops". Bill Bellchick has cemented his reputation as the Watergate-era Nixon of the NFL, starting his season with mysterious tapes and ending it by disappearing before the official end. (ESPN.com's coverage has him going out onto the field with one second left to concede; during the game it looked an awful lot more like he was demanding that final kneeldown.) And it may just have been me, but on that last, desperate heave by Tom Brady toward Randy Moss on the final drive of the game, it looked an awful lot like Moss had the old Ricky Watters alligator arms going.
But that's enough of that. There will be endless analysis written of how the Giants slew their own Goliaths, how they pulled off the biggest upset in Super Bowl history, and so on and so forth. For tonight, it's enough that the only prognosticator who came close to getting it right...was Plaxico Burress.