GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -Let's cap things off with a feel-good story: Ever wonder what happens to all those shirts and caps that are printed up in advance of the Super Bowl, but turn out to be worthless because they tout the losing team?
Well, I just got an e-mail from the group World Vision, which partners with the NFL to take that memorabilia and distribute it to needy families around the globe.
``It's not whether you win or lose, it's where the shirts go after the game!'' the group says, looking forward to handing out clothing that proclaims the Patriots as Super Bowl champions.
I'm reminded of a shirt that's still tucked away in my closet: a sample I was given before the '99 title game which would have been handed out had the Atlanta Falcons. They didn't, of course, so I've got a collectors item.
find. We still have the delivery room photo prominently displayed in our home: me holding my only child while wearing a T-shirt that says: ``Atlanta Falcons, Super Bowl Champions.''
With that, let's bring to a close Super Bowl Blog II. From the antics of media day to our tour of Sheriff Joe's Tent City Jail, it was quite a ride. And what a way to end it, with one of the greatest championship games ever.
I can't wait 'til next year.
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GLENDALE, Ariz. - As the night winds down, I want to point out one crucial play in the Super Bowl that is likely to get overlooked when everyone's talking about David Tyree's spectacular catch and Eli Manning's winning throw to Plaxico Burress.
On New York's game-winning drive, Manning threw an errant pass toward the sideline with a little over a minute to go. There was no receiver around, but New England cornerback Asante Samuel was in position to save the Patriots' perfect season.
The ball went right through his hands. If he makes the pick, the Patriots likely run out the clock on another Super Bowl title and a 19-0 season.
``If I want to call myself one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, I've got to make that play,'' Samuel says afterward. ``I didn't make it.''
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GLENDALE, Ariz. - The New England Patriots won more games this season than any team in NFL history. Now, it's just an interesting footnote.
second.
I'm reminded of my hometown Atlanta Braves, who put together one of sport's most amazing streaks by winning 14 straight division titles, but tainted their ultimate legacy by winning only one World Series title during that run.
Granted, the Patriots don't have to worry about those sort of shortcomings, having already won three Super Bowl rings over the last seven years. But this year's team fell short of putting the ultimate capper on the New England dynasty with a 19-0 mark.
Who remembers 18 wins when you come up short in the last game of the season?
``It's not worth talking about now,'' linebacker Tedy Bruschi said after the game. ``It's over. It didn't happen.''
Teammate Richard Seymour is just as blunt.
``We had an opportunity to be special, and we let it slip away,'' the defensive lineman said. ``We came so close to being special. Now, we're second class.''
To both the Giants and the '72 Miami Dolphins, who are surely drinking champagne by now, as they do every year when the last unbeaten team loses.
A toast to the Fins: They're still in a league by themselves.
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GLENDALE, Ariz. - Next time I'll listen to Plaxico Burress.
Just before kickoff, one might recall, I went out on a limb and picked the unbeaten New England Patriots to finish off their perfect season with a 34-20 win. What was I thinking?
Burress had it right all along, predicting at the start of the week the Giants would pull out a 23-17 win.
Although his score was a little off, we'll let him slide. Joe Namath, step aside - there's a new Super Bowl prognosticator for this generation.
Burress made his pick a reality by hauling in a 13-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds left that gave New York a 17-14 win over the mighty Patriots.
``Congratulations to Plaxico,'' teammate Antonio Pierce says with the biggest of smiles. ``I think he might have a second career.''
I'd better stick with the one I've got.
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GLENDALE, Ariz. - Mr. Perfect wasn't so perfect, after all.
Tom Brady walked off the field with one second left in a stunning Super Bowl defeat, a rather classless move by a quarterback who, it seemed, could do no wrong.
Sure, the game was over after Brady's last incomplete pass in New England's 17-14 loss to the New York Giants. And plenty of people had stormed the field, thinking it was done, though the clock still showed 0:01 left.
Brady unbuckled his helmet and walked slowly toward the locker room, never bothering to look back. Once the field was cleared, Eli Manning took a knee and it was over - one of the biggest upsets in sports history.
New England comes up one win short of a perfect season - 35 seconds short, as it turned out. That's how much time was left when Manning threw a little 13-yard fade to Plaxico Burress for the winning TD.
hung around and at least congratulated his fellow quarterback. Eli Manning earned a championship of his own just one year after his big brother, Peyton, led the Colts to a Super Bowl title.
From his luxury box, Peyton threw up his arms, pumped a fist and let out a scream that could be heard all the way back to Indy on that last touchdown. Never has a big brother looked prouder, and he had reason to be.
Eli was brilliant in the fourth quarter, going 9-of-14 for 152 yards and two touchdowns to earn the MVP award his brother got last year. But the real stars of this win were the Giants' defensive line, which kept the heat on Brady, and David Tyree, who caught Manning's first TD pass and made a leaping, acrobatic grab to set up the winning score. He literally snatched the ball off the top of his helmet, as improbable a catch as I've ever seen.
As for Brady, he was sacked five times and hurried a dozen more, never getting into any sort of comfort zone on his ailing ankle.
Co. - take a bow. Y'all earned it.
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GLENDALE, Ariz. - That Tom Brady is something.
Battered and beaten-up, he's rallied the Patriots to a 14-10 lead that leaves New England 2 minutes from a perfect season.
s left. Short pass right. And, finally, a little 6-yard TD throw to Randy Moss, who was left wide open when cornerback Corey Webster, a star of the NFC championship game, slipped and fell.
Tired of getting hit, Brady kept firing passes before the Giants could get to him. Plus, the Giants' D-line looked a little tired from getting after the New England quarterback with a vengeance all game.
But New York will have one more chance to pull off the upset. They've won five games this season after trailing in the fourth quarter, more than any other team.
Stay tuned.
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GLENDALE, Ariz. - I can't believe what I'm seeing.
With just over 11 minutes to go in the Super Bowl, the New York Giants have set themselves up to pull off one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
They just went ahead of the unbeaten New England Patriots 10-7 on a brilliant drive engineered by Eli Manning, Peyton's little brother. He went deep down the middle to Kevin Boss - Jeremy Shockey's injury replacement - for a 45-yard gain. On third-and-4, Manning calmly hit Steve Smith over the middle for 17 yards. Finally, Manning froze the Patriots with play action and rifled a pass to David Tyree cutting out of the slot for a 5-yard TD.
t all - you think his ankle is bothering him? - and it's hard for anyone to throw from his back.
This was everyone's key to the game: Could Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Co. cope with New England's offensive line and its three Pro Bowlers?
So far, it's no contest.
Peyton Manning, the MVP of last year's Super Bowl, is cheering on his little brother from a luxury box. If this keeps up, there might be another title in the family.
Amazing.
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GLENDALE, Ariz. - Bill Belichick sure didn't look a like genius on this one.
The Patriots coach decided to go for it on fourth-and-13 from the New York 31 with about 7 minutes to go in the third quarter, apparently deciding Tom Brady had a better chance of throwing for a first down than Stephen Gostkowski had of making a 48-yard field goal.
Granted, Gostkowski has mostly punched through chip shots during his 22-of-26 season, hitting only three longer than 40 yards and none beyond 45. But he does have a career long of 52 yards and getting passed over can't do a lot for his confidence the rest of the way.
Besides, in a 7-3 cliffhanger, the Patriots may regret they didn't at least take a shot at the field goal, especially when Brady's deep pass on fourth down sailed harmlessly out of bounds.
land punt earlier in the drive, resulting in a Giants' penalty for too many men on the field.
Belichick actually made a good call on that one. The officials failed to pick up Blackburn racing off the field, so the coach threw his challenge rag. The video replay resulted in a New York penalty that allowed the Patriots to keep the drive going.
It didn't matter. Belichick's next move got Blackburn off the hook.
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GLENDALE, Ariz. - Whew. The NFL made it through another halftime show without a costume malfunction.
Of course, that might have something to do with the average age of the performers since Janet Jackson showed a little too much skin being, what, 80 years old? Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Prince and, now, Tom Petty.
I kid, I kid.
The 57-year-old Petty and his graying Heartbreakers ripped off a four-song set that had the crowd on its feet, singing along. The screens behind the stage, which showed graphics and lyrics, were a nice touch and visually pleasing for the television audience, though I couldn't see them in person - I'm behind the stage.
Petty kept it familiar, starting out with ``American Girl,'' followed by ``I Won't Back Down'' and ``Free Fallin''' before ``Runnin' Down a Dream'' closed the show.
young enough to be Petty's children. It's likely that some of them have never even heard of the singer, but they danced right along as instructed by their handlers.
At the end of the set, Petty and his five-man band walked arm-in-arm toward the end of the stage, but the kids were already being shooed off the field so it could be readied for the second half.
No word of whether Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who proclaimed himself a Petty fan earlier in the week, was able to catch any of the show.
With his high-scoring team leading just 7-3 and having managed all of 81 yards in the first two quarters, he might have been crawling around in the air ducts, trying to videotape whatever the Giants were going over in their locker room.
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GLENDALE, Ariz. - New England goes to halftime at the Super Bowl clinging to a 7-3 lead, hardly looking like the highest-scoring team in NFL history.
Yep, New York is right in this game against the perfect Patriots, who are having trouble protecting quarterback Tom Brady and have largely bogged down since scoring the lone touchdown of the first 30 minutes.
But one thing would trouble me if I were a Giants' fan: New York has spent a good chunk of the first half on New England's side of the field, but only has three points to show for it.
By my count, the Giants have run 23 plays in Patriots' territory. That should be worth more than a field goal.
ight regret that come the second half.
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GLENDALE, Ariz. - The NFL put together a supposedly all-star officiating team for the Super Bowl, but the officials already have blown three calls by my count. And it's not even halftime.
On New York's first possession of the second quarter, Eli Manning threw a pass that appeared to be in Plaxico Burress' possession before cornerback Ellis Hobbs III knocked the ball away. The Patriots scooped it up, but the refs whistled the play dead, ruling an incomplete pass.
On the very next play, Manning hurled a deep ball to Amani Toomer, who clearly jabbed his left hand into Hobbs' facemask to push him away before the receiver made a diving, 38-yard catch falling out of bounds at the Patriots 19.
(In a bit of karma, Hobbs picked off a deflected pass on third down to end the drive, preserving New England's 7-3 lead.)
Then, on New York's next possession, Ahmad Bradshaw botched a handoff from Manning and New England linebacker Pierre Woods fell on the ball. Patriots ball, right? Wrong. Bradshaw managed to sneak in, roll Woods over and steal away the ball. Inexplicably, the officials let New York keep it.
Come on, guys, this is the Super Bowl.
Let's tighten things up.
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GLENDALE, Ariz. - A nice drive by the Giants right out of the box, though they couldn't punch it in.
n Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw bullied the New England defense with punishing runs. Manning had plenty of time to throw, as the Patriots chose to back off in coverage rather than one safety blitz.
Most important for New York: The 16-play drive kept New England's explosive offense off the field for nearly the first 10 minutes of the game. That's the best defense against the Pats.
The Giants stalled at the 14. Manning got away with an ill-advised throw into double-coverage in the end zone, Jacobs was thrown for a 1-yard loss and Manning, despite having plenty of time, dumped off a short pass that had no chance of getting the first down.
Of course, the Patriots promptly marched right back down the field. Antonio Pierce yanked down Benjamin Watson for an obvious pass interference call in the end zone and, as the first quarter ended, the Patriots had second-and-goal at the 1.
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GLENDALE, Ariz. - The national anthem is done - good job, Jordin Sparks - and the flyover is complete (hmmm, I'm not sure why a formation of jets just buzzed a domed stadium).
With kickoff looming, I've got just enough time to get in a pick.
I think the Patriots will play much better than they did late in the season, with Bill Belichick no doubt getting some motivational venom from the renewed debate over Spygate in the days leading up to the big game. Besides, Tom Brady is dating Gisele Bundchen, not Jessica Simpson.
York finally blinks in the Super Bowl spotlight.
Let's go with New England, 34-20.
Nineteen-and-oh has a ring to it.
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GLENDALE, Ariz. - Glad I brought my wallet.
Although the NFL provides journalists - and even bloggers - with wall-to-wall food (a pregame brunch, a boxed lunch at the stadium, another bash with food and drink afterward) I headed to the concession stand with a hankering for a hot dog.
I passed by the stand selling pints of beer for $14 (domestic) and $15 (imported). After all, I've got to work today (if blogging qualifies as work) and I'm trying to hold down the rip-off factor.
I've already been advised to skip the $7 dog and go for the foot long. Good call. The ``Az Dog'' is well worth an extra two bucks: Fun to order (try saying ``Az Dog'' without at least smirking) and it certainly helps my self-esteem when I walk proudly through the corridor, drawing plenty of admiring glances.
Well, I must confess to dropping my original Az Dog before I was hardly away from the counter. The cheery guy who sold it to me tossed it in the trash and gave me another one, free of charge. Then again, I had just forked over $21 for my original hot dog, a salty pretzel ($5) and, of course, a soft drink in the commemorative souvenir cup ($7), made out of NFL-sanctioned plastic.
r their concessions? I understand there's got to be some markup, but $15 for a Corona? Puh-lease.
After paying up, the cashier asks, ``Are you on an expense account?''
Yes, I am.
Good times. Good times.
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GLENDALE, Ariz. - Settling into my upper-deck seat at University of Phoenix Stadium, overlooking a corner of the Giants' end zone, I finally get the sense we're all about to watch something truly special.
Frankly, I don't get this sort of excitement as much as I used to. When you've been in the business for 23 years and then some, it's easy to get a bit jaded, to take it all for granted, even when you're covering a major event such as the Super Bowl.
But here we are in the Arizona desert, about to watch New England try to complete a perfect season. NINETEEN STRAIGHT WINS. Until this moment, I don't think I truly realized what a momentous accomplishment that would be, Spygate or no Spygate.
Either way, this is going to be a game for the ages. The Patriots make history, or the Giants pull off one of the most momentous upsets in sports history. That sounds like a win-win for those of us fortunate enough to be in the stadium, certainly a candidate for my personal Top 10 events I have witnessed in person.
as in Daytona that tragic day when Dale Earnhardt died on the final turn.
(I also was in St. Louis when Mark McGwire hit home run No. 62 to break Roger Maris' record, but that has lost a little luster amid all of baseball's drug revelations and Big Mac refusing to come clean in retirement).
Anyway, a couple of off-the-cuff observations as we close in on kickoff:
- Why does the NFL, after going to all the trouble of bringing in big-time entertainment and setting up a stage in the middle of the field, put on a pregame show that's nothing more than a glorified medley? I wouldn't have minded Alicia Keys actually singing a few songs in their entirety.
- Two colleagues of mine were downstairs when the Patriots arrived. They watched two busloads of players filing into the stadium, and no one said a word to each other. Yep, these guys mean business.
- Tom Brady just ran - yes, ran - on the field for pregame warmups. He sprinted to the middle of the field, as it trying to show everyone his sprained ankle is doing just fine. We'll see how it holds up when he's got Michael Strahan in his face.

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