INDIANAPOLIS—Bill Belichick saw the New York Giants at the 6-yard line and a clock with only 64 seconds left on it.
Let the Giants score, and New England gets the ball back with enough time for a game-winning drive. Stop 'em, and the Giants were going to run the clock down before bringing Lawrence Tynes on for a game-winning field goal and the Lombardi Trophy.
There really wasn't a choice — not with the Patriots clinging to a two-point lead.
"Right," Belichick said when asked if the Patriots had let Ahmad Bradshaw score on the 6-yard run that gave the Giants a 21-17 lead Sunday night.
"It was better than not having a chance at all," Tom Brady said. "He made a good decision. We left ourselves with a little bit of time."
Just not enough.
Belichick's gamble backfired when none of the Patriots could get their hands on Brady's desperation heave, making New York Super Bowl champions for a second time in the last five years. Both titles have come at the Patriots' expense.
"We just couldn't quite make enough plays," Belichick said.
One, however, they never intended to.
It wasn't so much a question of if the Giants would score as how when they were at the 6. With the Patriots down to only one timeout, New York wanted to burn as much time off the clock as it could before letting Tynes do his thing, just as he did at the NFC championship two weeks ago when he kicked the Giants into the Super Bowl. Tynes was already warming up on the sidelines, in fact, when Bradshaw got the handoff.
But then Eli Manning saw the New England defense back off, practically ushering Bradshaw into the end zone, and realized what Belichick and the Patriots were up to. He screamed at his running back to stop short of the goal line.
Ahmad Bradshaw couldn't keep himself from falling into the end zone and scoring what turned out to be the game-winning TD. (AP Photo)
"I had the feeling they might do that," said Manning, voted the game's MVP. "I should have got to them and told them not to score. When I got the snap I saw their defensive line ease up. I was telling to Ahmad not to score, not to score."
Except Bradshaw didn't hear Manning until it was too late.
He slammed on the brakes, did a half turn and put his fingertips on the ground in hopes of stopping himself inches in front of the goal line. Instead, his momentum kept carrying him toward the end zone and he plopped backward, looking more like a toddler learning to walk than a skilled NFL player as he fell over the goal line.
"I thought I heard Eli yelling at me to fall down," Bradshaw said. "I tried, but I couldn't do it."
It wasn't the first time a defense traded a touchdown for time in the Super Bowl.
In 1998, Green Bay allowed Denver's Terrell Davis to score from 1 yard out to give the Broncos a 31-24 lead with 1:45 left. But Brett Favre couldn't take advantage of the final chance.
Brady and the Patriots didn't fare any better, unable to get into Giants territory because of New York's relentless pressure.
On the game's final play, Brady eluded the rush and threw a high pass into the scrum of white and blue jerseys in the end zone. Defenders grabbed at receivers, who tried to snatch the ball in the fray. The ball fell just beyond the reach of All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski and skittered away.
"Knock the ball down! I couldn't yell it loud enough," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
And Brady could do nothing but watch, helplessly, from midfield.
"We got to the 50 and kind of ran out of time," said Brady, who completed a Super Bowl-record 16 consecutive passes but couldn't connect on the final one. "You come down to one play at the end. If we make it, we're world champs. If we don't, we're wishing we were."
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