Second Super Bowl loss to the Giants hurts Belichick's, Brady's legacies
By Mike Freeman | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider
INDIANAPOLIS -- Tom Brady looked nervous. Wait. That's not right. Tom Brady looked ... scared.
As the Super Bowl pressed on and the Giants pass rush intensified, Brady's dropback became sloppier, his patience shorter and his feet happier.
The Giants were inside his head especially after Justin Tuck sacked him. The Giants pulled up a chair, popped a six-pack and began rummaging through every neuron that wasn't nailed down like gremlins on a sugar high.
This was both Brady's finest moment and his worst. The same could be said for Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Both are among the best in history. Both have forgotten more about their craft than most will ever know but there is no question about the following: their impressive legacies take a hit. A pretty good sized one, too.
There are some already reassessing the Patriots legacy. Noting that the Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl since the Spygate scandal, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison tweeted just minutes after the game: "Told you, cheaters never win!!!!!!!!!"
Brady has been beaten twice now by Eli Manning in the biggest of spots and Belichick has lost to Coughlin the same. That's not great for legacies. That's what you call rebuttal material.
"Drew Brees is a good [quarterback] and he's at home," said Giants running back Brandon Jacobs. "Aaron Rodgers is good [quarterback] and he's at home. Eli beat Brady twice."
Jacobs added this: "We decapitated them."
Those are not words normally used when talking about Belichick and Brady. Not ever. Those are two men who usually do the head chopping.
Brady has been compared to Joe Montana. Montana didn't lose in the Super Bowl. I've called Belichick the greatest coach of all time. The great ones -- the Bill Walshes, the Lombardis -- don't lose two straight Super Bowls to one guy. Just doesn't happen.
"It all comes back to making plays," Brady said. "You make [them] you're celebrating. You don't, you don't sleep for a week."
There is a major message here, and maybe it's this one. The Patriots are bullies and when they run up against a team that can kick right back to the ribs, take a punch, inflict their own damage, they get scurred.
For decades, the Giants have been about toughness. Nothing fazes them. They don't get intimidated and they don't give a damn about Brady or All-Universe tight ends or Vince Wilfork. They ... don't ... care. Punch them, you get punched back.
The combined regular season record of the teams the Giants beat in the playoffs is 51-13. That's toughness. This was a case of toughest team maybe in recent Super Bowl team versus a team they seem to intimidate. New England's Super Bowl defeat means that now the Patriots have lost four of their past six playoff games.
Maybe this Patriots team isn't as mentally tough as we have long thought. Maybe, just maybe, we need to take a little more time in evaluating where Brady and Belichick stand.
When meeting with the press later Belichick was asked if he second-guessed himself: "Sure, could have done a better job in a lot of things."
The Giants talked smack all week, confident and nasty, knowing they could get inside the cranium of the Patriots with success, and they were right. At one point, Brady was 20 of 23 for 203 yards, two scores and a 132.1 passer rating. Of his three incompletions at that time, two were batted down and one was intentional grounding. This does not suck.
This normally means a defense is reeling. Not the Giants. Not Manning. I watched Brady wilt and Manning flower. If Brady is as great as we've all said, that should be reversed.
Manning won the game on the final drives. In one, he hit three consecutive third-down passes for first downs -- all coming as he was getting smashed. That set up the field goal that cut New England's lead to 17-15. Brady's response? On his drive, he tossed a pass high to Wes Welker. It wasn't horribly off target, but it was high (Welker mistimed his jump). On third down, he missed Deion Branch.
Manning was so much cooler and accurate under pressure when it counted the most. His throw to Mario Manningham will go down in history. It was David Tyree Part II.
One guy was cool exactly when he needed to be while the other was not. It was fascinating to see. These were the types of games Brady usually captured.
The response of the Patriots at times before the game and during it wasn't toughness but something else. After the coin toss, Justin Tuck stuck out his hand to shake the hands of Patriots players and they refused.
There were various Patriots linemen getting in scrums with Giants linemen. It was as if the Patriots were attempting to demonstrate they were infallible to New York taunts and smack talk.
Belichick is as good as it gets but this is the second time in the Super Bowl he has been out-coached by Coughlin. The Patriots also at times didn't look ready.
They had a silly 12-men-in-the-huddle penalty early on and the brilliance that is Belichick couldn't find a way to stop Manning when it counted or prevent Brady from being constantly harassed.
Again, to be clear, Brady and Belichick remain eternal talents. Yet this moment, losing to the Giants, again in the Super Bowl, is a head-shaking and maybe history altering moment.
Because, once again, the Giants are in their heads. Now, they might never leave.