INDIANAPOLIS - Musings and second thoughts on the day following Super Bowl XLVI:
* What a waste of ink, paper, time and energy it was for all the reporters and TV types who hovered around New England tight end Rob Gronkowski throughout Super Bowl week. The soap opera story leading up to the game was his injured right ankle and the will-he-or-wonít-he suit up for the Patriots and appear in the game.
While the Patriots were all coy and encouraging doubt about his injury the Giants believed it was just a load of bull and that he would start and play every down.
Well, Gronkowski started and received his usual amount of playing time but he was a complete non-factor as his ankle kept him slow, on the limp and cautious, as if he were tip-toeing through a mine field.
Gronkowski emerged this season as the major force in the Patriotsí passing game and when he could only operate at half speed, it took a big target away from quarterback Tom Brady.
On the day, Gronkowski caught just two passes and was Bradyís target in the fourth quarter on a deep route when the ball was intercepted by New York linebacker Chase Blackburn.
A healthy Gronkowski doesnít get easily boxed out by Blackburn and he certainly would be able to out-muscle and out-leap the Giantsí linebacker for the ball.
His injury hurt the Patriots big time.
* The battle between the two defensive lines was supposed to be a one-sided wipe job by the Giants. However at the end of the game, you would have to call it a draw. The Giants registered two sacks and eight quarterback hits while the Patriots defence totalled three sacks and six quarterback hits. Both units also played their best deep in their own end and contributed to keeping the points total on the low side.
Before the game if you told the Giants they would hold Tom Brady to 17 points theyíd be jumping up and down. Ditto for the Patriots if they knew they would hold Eli Manning to 21.
Both defensive teams may be incomplete units but this day both played as well as could be expected.
* The turning point in the game may well have been the dropped pass by usually sure-handed Wes Welker when he failed to rein in a pass that was a little high and behind him ó but one that he got both hands on ó with just over four minutes left in the game. If Welker makes the catch, the Patriots are inside the Giants 30 and the drive stays alive.
One incomplete pass later to Deion Branch they have to punt the ball and everybody knows the rest.
After the game Welker put it on his shoulders. ďItís one of those plays Iíve made a thousand times,Ē Welker said. ďI just didnít make it. It comes to the biggest moment of my life and donít come up with it. Itís discouraging. It hit me right in the hands. I mean, itís a play I never drop, I always make. Most critical situation and I let the team down.Ē
Welker, like the rest of the Patriots, manned up after the game.
* Punters are usually overlooked but what a weapon the Giants have in Steve Weatherford. On three occasions Weatherford pinned the Patriots inside their own 10-yard line and twice inside their five. Thatís precise bombing by any standards.
* I donít know what the Patriots will be looking for when they get to choose their first-round pick in this springís draft but my major recommendation would be to acquire a burner wide receiver, a guy who can take it deep and spread the secondary. Brady had nobody compared to the Giantsí trio of Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks.
The Patriots tight ends are great and so too is Welker but Brady needs help deep.
* Finally, everybody I know is asking me about Madonna. I thought her show was junk. It was all production and no delivery. She had no energy and moved around the stage as if she was suffering from a high ankle injury. On a scale of 1-10 Iíd give it a 3.