Game-opening safety a Super oddity -- unless you're a Viking

  • Article by: NEWS SERVICES
  • Updated: February 6, 2012 - 6:41 AM

On the first play for the Patriots, the Giants' Justin Tuck took matters -- and New England's star quarterback -- into his own hands.

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Tom Brady was called for intentional grounding and a safety in the first quarter when he threw the ball away to the middle of the field to avoid being sacked by Giants defensive end Justin Tuck. Officials ruled that there was no receiver in the area, which resulted in the penalty.

Photo: Doug Mills, New York Times

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INDIANAPOLIS - Justin Tuck called together his pals from the New York defensive line, gathering them in the end zone before the game for an impromptu pep talk and urging them to create some havoc for Tom Brady.

On the first play for the Patriots, Tuck took matters -- and the star quarterback -- into his own hands.

Tuck bounced off two blocks and pressured Brady into an ill-advised toss from the very same end zone that resulted in a safety, setting the tone in the Giants' 21-17 Super Bowl victory Sunday night.

Tuck sacked Brady twice, overcame an injury and rallied the Giants, living up to his image as one of their defensive leaders.

"They had a great scheme there and they had something going there to stop our rush," Tuck said. "But we changed our coverage, and the secondary did a good job so we could eat up front."

It was just the seventh safety in Super Bowl history. The most recent before that was by the Cardinals -- a team safety -- in 2009, when Pittsburgh's Justin Hartwig was called for a hold in the end zone.

How unlikely is a safety being the first score of a Super Bowl? One site taking prop bets had it at 60-1.

It had happened only once before Sunday night. In Super Bowl IX, a fumbled Minnesota handoff at the Vikings 10-yard line was accidentally kicked toward the goal line by Pittsburgh defensive end L.C. Greenwood. Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton fell on the ball and was touched down by Steelers defensive end Dwight White.

Brady breaks record

Tom Brady broke the Super Bowl record for consecutive completions previously held by his idol, Joe Montana.

The Patriots quarterback threw his 16th consecutive completion with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez on the opening drive of the second half. That gave New England a 17-9 lead over New York with 11:20 left in the third quarter. Brady threw an incomplete pass with 6:12 to go in the third to end the streak.

Brady broke Montana's record of 13 set in 1990 on a 5-yard completion to Wes Welker on the fourth play of the 79-yard drive.

Woodhead stands out

For a moment, no one was bigger than 5-foot-8 Danny Woodhead.

The New England running back's 4-yard touchdown reception in the final minute of the first half gave the Patriots a 10-9 halftime lead.

"I was able to get open, and Tom did a good job of putting the ball right on me," he said. "I had to do the easy part, and that was to catch it."

But the Patriots lost, and Woodhead's moment of glory didn't soothe him in the moments after the game.

"It's as tough of a loss as I think I've ever had," he said. "You get so close, and it doesn't end up the way you'd like it. It's a tough pill to swallow."

Woodhead finished with four catches for 42 yards and a touchdown and had seven carries for 18 yards.

The other tight end

Much of the talk surrounding the Patriots heading into the Super Bowl focused on All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski's high ankle sprain suffered in the AFC title game two weeks earlier.

New England's other guy, Aaron Hernandez, is pretty good, too.

Hernandez caught eight passes for 67 yards and a 12-yard touchdown for the Patriots.

Gronkowski finished with just two catches for 26 yards.

Flipping the bird

For all the pomp and excess of Madonna's Super Bowl halftime show, it is likely to be a single extended middle finger by guest singer M.I.A. that will be most remembered.

The gesture, accompanied by a barely disguised expletive, came during a performance of Madonna's new single, "Give Me All Your Luvin.'" At the end of her lines, M.I.A. appeared to swear, although it was hard to hear clearly.

The screen briefly blurred after M.I.A.'s gesture in what seemed like a late attempt to cut out the camera shot. The NFL, which produces the show, had no immediate comment.

"We apologize for the inappropriate gesture that aired during halftime," NBC spokesman Christopher McCloskey said. "It was a spontaneous gesture that our delay system caught late."

Coin flip flop

The Giants lost the pregame coin toss Sunday, ending a streak of 14 consecutive coin-flip wins by the NFC in the title game. Special teams captain Zak DeOssie called tails -- as he has all season -- and referee John Parry flipped the coin and it landed heads.

According to Archie

Archie Manning was impressed by how his son Eli handled himself during the Giants' latest championship comeback.

"He just hung in there," he said. "He was patient, and he had to be patient. He was sacked some early, and it wasn't easy.

"There wasn't anything easy out there. He played like a quarterback needs to play."

And how about Eli's Hall of Fame credentials?

"I don't know anything about the Hall of Fame," Manning said. "Eli's in his eighth year and I know one thing: He might have said earlier in the year that he belonged with the elite quarterbacks. He will not be saying that he belongs in the Hall of Fame."

Etc.

• Giants tight ends Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard suffered knee injuries in the Super Bowl. Beckum tore his right anterior cruciate ligament with 12:55 left in the first half. Ballard sprained his left knee in the fourth quarter.

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