Debates on the Strategy: The Lomdus of the Last Minute of the Superbowl


super-bowl-footballBy Shmuel Borden

On a night that featured a variety of surprising moments, the most bizarre moment surely was Super Bowl XLVI’s final touchdown.

The setup seemed standard enough. The Giants were trailing by 2 points, there was just over a minute remaining, and the Giants had the ball on the New England Patriots’ 6-yard line. Quarterback Eli Manning took the snap, handed the ball off to running back Ahmad Bradshaw, and as Bradshaw began his surge, the game suddenly turned on its head.

It was like opposite day. The Patriots defenders, trained their whole lives to try to push and claw and fight to bring down the ball carrier, stood up and opened a double-wide hole for Bradshaw to reach the end zone.

Bradshaw, trained his whole life to sprint into the end zone whenever he could, pulled up just short of the goal line and tried to fall down.

Even the players and coaches on the Giants’ sideline, who had spent their whole lives cheering when their team scored, did not know what to do when Bradshaw failed to slam on his brakes in time and fell, almost dejectedly, into the end zone for a touchdown.

The scene was surreal; the Giants had just taken a 21-17 lead in the Super Bowl and no one was celebrating. Bradshaw did not even know whether to spike the ball.

“It was a little strange,” offensive lineman Kevin Boothe said.

“It was definitely weird,” running back Brandon Jacobs said.

“It wasn’t exactly what we were looking for,” tight end Bear Pascoe said. “But it worked out great.”

The reason for the incongruous sequence was simple: the Giants were concerned about leaving the Patriots, who had quarterback Tom Brady and one timeout, too much time to score a decisive touchdown. That is why Manning screamed, “Don’t score! Don’t score!” as soon as he saw the Patriots’ defenders standing up instead of rushing.

His hope, he said Monday, was that Bradshaw would stop at the 1-yard line and wait until he was tackled, allowing more time to run off the clock and forcing the Patriots to use their final timeout.

Still, Manning acknowledged how difficult it must be for a player, on perhaps the biggest play of his career, no less, to suddenly do the exact opposite of what he has always done.

“I know it’s tough for a running back,” Manning said. “They see a big hole right there going for a touchdown. I think something almost had to pop into his head like: Something was up. This is a little too good to be true.”

In his postgame news conference, New England Coach Bill Belichick said that his rationale for letting the Giants score was based on how short a potential game-winning field goal attempt would have been. With the ball inside the 10-yard line, Belichick said, it is “a 90 percent field-goal conversion” rate for N.F.L. teams.

Not all of the Patriots players seemed to agree with the call, however. Boothe said that after the play was over he asked New England defensive tackle Vince Wilfork if the Patriots had purposely laid back, and Wilfork nodded ruefully. Linebacker Brandon Spikes told reporters after the game that it “killed” him to let the Giants score, saying, “When the call came in to let them score, I kind of was like, ‘What?’ ”

Spikes added, “It definitely was tough.”

Looking back a day later, the Giants’ views on the play, and on the concept over all, seemed to vary. Coughlin said he did not instruct Bradshaw to stop short before the play, preferring to take the guaranteed points and not play for a last-second game-winning field goal when something – a bad snap, a shanked kick – could go wrong.

The running backs coach Jerald Ingram said Bradshaw did the right thing, though he had hoped he would linger on the 1-yard line as long as possible and only fall into the end zone when the Patriots went to tackle him.

“We rehearse a lot of situations and he understood the clock,” Ingram said. “He just had too much momentum.”

One significant factor that made taking the touchdown more attractive was the fact that it gave the Giants a 4-point lead, meaning the Patriots would need to score a touchdown – as opposed to just kicking a field goal – to win the game.

That was why Jacobs was not concerned. The Giants scored with 57 seconds remaining, and Jacobs said that while quarterbacks like Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers or New Orleans’s Drew Brees had the firepower to go the length of the field that quickly, he did not think Brady and the Patriots could do it.

They would need a lot more than 57 seconds to win the game, Jacobs said, “so I wasn’t worried about it.”

The play was just the latest example of an age-old debate among football players, coaches and fans over what strategy is best in those endgame situations. In Super Bowl XXXII, the Packers allowed the Denver Broncos to score with just under two minutes remaining, hoping it would give them time to rally. As with the Patriots on Sunday, however, their plan did not work.

The former Giants linebacker Harry Carson said Monday that he recalled discussing situations just like that one with his teammates during the 1980s. Carson said that the general consensus among players then was that the strategy was a poor one and that he and his teammates found it distasteful.

“On some level, I understand it,” he said. “But it just seems wrong. It goes against everything that we are taught to do as a player.”

{NY Times/ Newscenter}


  1. I guess this is here to teach us about “betachbulos yaasseh milchamah” which refers to the yeter hara. The same debate would apply in how we fight our yetzer hara.

    Thank you Matzav!

  2. nu, so where’s the mussar here?
    the godol hador is battling for his life, and you’re reporting about such shtussim?

  3. Quote:
    4. Comment from Thinking about it
    Time February 6, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    whats it nogea to unzere velt?

    The answer is, they put Lomdus in the subject line, so that makes it okay
    Sorry, bot to NY’s it seems nothing stands in the way of a super bowl win.

    Truly sad

  4. I looked at this post assuming that there would be a point. This is past the guidelines of a news item, game analysis on o kosher news site?

  5. Klal Yisroel is in a panic about the welfare of the Gadol HaDor and this is even on your radar?!

    Good thing you put the word ‘Lomdus’ in the title. Otherwise we would think you’re slipping.


  6. Wow! It takes a real lamdan to klehr such deep chakiros on such mundane matters. Go back to the Beis Medrash and use your brain for what it was created to analyze!

  7. I agree with the other posters. I saw the headline and said how could this be posted when right next it you wrote about the desperate situation of Rav Elyashiv, shlita, then I read it assuming there would be an important mussar haskel at the end…but there isn’t any. I don’t know what to say… Very surprising matzav

  8. Hey all you who are concerned about the appropriateness of such shtusim as the superbowl (“and especially when the Gadol hador is battling for his life!”).
    If you are concerned about this, I don’t think an article like “Queen Elizabeth II Celebrates 60 Years On the Throne” would be much better, nor would an article about Mitt Romney’s favorite websites… Point being that all you people have some bias against sports, but you have no rational problem with this article…
    Don’t use the “torahdig” thing, or “gadol hador” thing, to try to bring out your point!
    (FYI I don’t think I saw more then a minute of the Superbowl yesteday. I’m not writing this because I am in favor of sports, as I really couldn’t care less for the SuperBowl)

  9. Who really cares ? Are we so desperate to be like goyim that we have to buy into this garbage? People are suffering in everyway and this is what heilige yidden are busy with ?

  10. Comment #3 is right on target. Any reason the article is still posted? Mind you the only thing to add is that this should never be posted under any circumstances.

  11. i think it is great to have it on matzav because people also come for shtussim even though you can just have a Super Bowl party

  12. I saw the headlines and thought to myself “what debate” of course he should have let him score, in matter of fact they shouldve let him score the play before and not burned the second timeout..I figured why rehash this (I’m a bitter Jets fan, and have been avoiding any sports websites today), then I thought, there is no way this is a “sports article” it must be some lesson with a torah spin..i guess i got the wrong matzav.

  13. This is just as bad as listening to “sports talk” on the radio. BORING! Who cares? The stupid game is over already! Let’s move on to basketball.

  14. Actually I think the mods and staff care more about the Superbowl than about the life of Rav Elyashiv. Oops I just said some truth there I know that’s illegal on this site.

  15. Yes the Gadol HaDor is fighting for his life, and yes they are reporting on the Superbowl.
    Grow up. Dont be a bunch of kevetches!
    Sure, maybe question why Matsav has to report about the superbowl at all, but dont get all mixed up and bring up we shouldnt because the Gadol HaDor is fighting for his life. What is that all about?
    Good grief!

  16. I thought I gave a very valid reason in #2. The Posuk in Mishlei sates ???????? ???? ?? ?????. War/competition strategies are very relevant in how we should battle our yetzer.

    I mean this with sincerity (that is after that I have already read the article. Don’t know if I would have sought this out otherwise). It’s a lesson learnt. Every lesson learnt is cherish-able!

  17. for all truly amazing Yidden that posted above: yes, those that never are bitul zman and/or are busy reciting tehillim for the Gadol hador how is it that you came to even read this article in the first place and comment on it afterwords. If you concern is so deep – you never should have seen it nor wasted time commenting on it. I think the cries of “disgrace” against Matzav for publishing the article is disingenuous at best and hypocritical at worst.

  18. if you want ti call yourself a kosher site then stay kosher and if not eventualy the articals will get more and more seculat all in the name “kosher” you gotta set some standards and it doesent bother me to read about the superbowl but on a kosher site it does

  19. It’s very, very simple. I’ll break it down for y’all. This site, like millions of others, generates revenue from advertisements. The more page hits, the more mulla. 50 comments and counting, ka-ching! Zehu