In the NFL these days, you have to leave nothing to chance. The Giants, down 17-15 with a little over a minute to play, had the ball on the Patriots' six-yard-line. The plan was to run the clock down as much as possible, force the Patriots to burn their timeouts and them kick a go-ahead FG. That would've have left the Patriots and Tom Brady only seconds to get up the field and into FG range.
They did not want to score a TD and leave Tom Brady a minute and a timeout and a chance to beat them in the last seconds.
But RB Ahmad Bradshaw did not understand. Until it was too late. He took a handoff from Eli Manning and knifed through the line untouched before he realized what was happening.
That was Bill Belichick's plan. He instructed his defense to give up a touchdown, citing that the clock and the odds were stacking up against him.
"Yes," admitted Belichick when asked if he allowed Bradshaw to score. "Yes we did."
"Ball was inside the 10-yard line, a 90 percent field goal conversion (in that territory),” the coach said deflecting any criticism that his team should have tried to stop the Giants.
Once Bradshaw realized he was being set up, he tried to stop himself from scoring, but his momentum carried into the end zone.
“Eli was telling me to go down,” Bradshaw said afterward in the Giants' locker room as per Brendan Prunty of the Star-Ledger. “He was saying, ‘Don’t score! Don’t score!’ I grabbed the ball and it really didn’t click at the 1-yard line, so I tried to put myself down. But my momentum just took me in.”
“I did not expect that," Giants' OC Kevin Gilbride admitted. "We were counting on just running the ball, milking it out and then it kind of caught us off guard. As it happened, we said, ‘Get down!’ and he thought he did. He thought he tapped down".
OL Chris Snee also did not know what was happening at the time. Then it hit him. He threw his arms up in frustration.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but when it parted like the Red Sea I saw it was their strategy," Snee said. "Right away, no, I did not know.”
It would prove to be moot. At the end of the day, the Giants' defense threw a monkey wrench in Belichick's plans by staving off the Patriots' last minute effort to pull out a victory, very much like they had done four years ago in this very game.
In 2007, rookie DL Jay Alford that sacked Brady on the final drive. Last night, it was captain Justin Tuck who put the Patriots' celebrated QB on the ground.
“I think our coverage made him hold the ball a little bit longer, and we feel very confident up front that if we get a little extra time, we are going to be able to get to anybody," said Tuck. "So, it was just an inside move where I was able to beat the guard, and I got to him.”
And the Giants went home champs again.