Moment that mattered: Super Bowl XLVI’s accidental touchdown
This year’s Super Bowl was an incredible spectacle – it was the most watched programme in US history, with 117.7 million viewers, and the most tweeted-about, with 12,333 tweets per second – but you could argue that most people watch it for the hoopla, the half-time show and the glitz and the glamour, rather than the actual game. But this one contained a bizarre bit of history, a genuine first – a touchdown that the attacking player didn’t want to score.
The New York Giants were losing to the New England Patriots 17-15 with one minute and three seconds to go before the end of the game. Thanks to an incredible 80-yard drive, however, they were three yards away from the end zone. The tactical thing for the Giants to do would be to bide their time, let the clock run down and then kick a relatively easy field goal to win the game by a point. The Giants kicker, Lawrence Tynes, hadn’t missed a kick of less than 30 yards in four years. The fans knew it was the right thing to do: the coaches knew it was the right thing to do, even I knew it and I was 4,000 miles away from the game being played in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indiana. I’m just not sure anyone mentioned it to the New York running back, Ahmad Bradshaw.
When the play happened, New York quarterback Eli Manning handed the ball to Bradshaw. In Bradshaw you have an athlete who had probably spent his entire waking life dreaming of scoring the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. He had the ball in his hands and the end zone in his sights: instinct bit and he surged forward. I think it was somewhere around the two-yard line that he realised nobody was trying to tackle him – that’s also when he heard his quarterback yelling at him not to score, something surely every bone in his body was urging him to do. Still, you could see him trying not to cross that line. He slammed on the brakes and you could almost hear the screeching and the smoke rising. His feet were planted on the goal line, but his momentum (he’s over 200 pounds) was too much. He turned, fell slowly backwards, and bumflopped over the line. Hardly the most ceremonious way to live out your lifelong dream.
Sure, he celebrated – he had scored, after all and put his team up in the Super Bowl – but he had done wrong. His moment of glory meant the ball was going back to New England’s Tom Brady – perhaps the greatest quarterback ever – with a minute to go. And a minute can be a very long time in American football. The best way to beat Brady is to not let him on the field and Bradshaw had handed him an opportunity.
Had Brady inspired a comeback win, Bradshaw would have been to blame. Luckily for him, the Patriots’ receivers helped him out and dropped nearly every catch of that last drive. Bradshaw let out a sigh of relief, and his “tush-down” went into the history books as a bizarre sporting highlight rather than the moment that cost New York the Super Bowl.
Adam Goldstein is the author of ‘Tailgate to Heaven: A British NFL Fan Tackles America’, published by Potomac Books in July. www.tailgatetoheaven.com
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