After Giants’ big win, there’s a collective ‘Wow’

Published 12:31 am Monday, February 4, 2008

GLENDALE, Ariz. (MCT) — Across the continent, from Long Island to Fox’s vast compound outside University of Phoenix Stadium, what likely will be the largest TV audience in the history of American sports was losing its collective head.

Was this really happening? Oh, my goodness gracious.

Inside the Fox booth Sunday night, though, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman managed to describe one of the greatest upsets of all time with calm intensity that did the frantic final minutes justice.

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They resisted the temptation for sappiness, both about the Patriots’ quest for perfection and the Giants’ extraordinary accomplishment.

“The Giants have won the Super Bowl,” Buck said simply when it was over, then let the pictures tell the story.

“Wow,” lip-readers saw Tom Coughlin say.

Soon, Plaxico Burress was crying after an interview with Pam Oliver and Jeff Feagles was telling his family, “Just take it all in, boys.”

“Wow,” host Curt Menefee said to start the postgame.

“Wow,” added Jimmy Johnson, who with Howie Long picked the Giants to lose all four playoff games.

The only time Aikman expressed marvel was after the game’s most remarkable play, Eli Manning’s mad scramble on a third-and-long to find David Tyree, who caught the ball against his helmet. “Oh, my gosh,” he said. “Wow.”

There’s that word again.

Buck and Aikman could have done a better job explaining in detail exactly how and why the Giants were able to shut down the Patriots’ record-breaking offense, especially Randy Moss.

They also should have been more specific about the mad shuffling on the Giants’ defensive line as their players succumbed to fatigue during New England’s go-ahead drive.

But given the chaos around them, the two got through it with no major mistakes or misfires.

Aikman set up the drama of the Giants’ final drive, saying: “Every quarterback dreams of being in this position, Super Bowl on the line, down four points, trying to take your team down and win the game.”

As he often does, Buck stayed silent for a long time after the Giants’ go-ahead score, then focused on the Patriots’ last, desperate drive.

Buck is less afraid to dip his toe into the X’s and O’s waters than many play-by-play men, and showed why when he noted early in the game that the middle might be open for tight end Benjamin Watson because of all the attention paid to Randy Moss.

Soon thereafter, the Patriots’ first score was set up when Antonio Pierce was penalized for interfering with Watson in the end zone.

Aikman restated a theme from earlier this season when he expressed frustration with Manning for taking a delay-of-game penalty. “It’s unbelievable,” he said. “The quarterback has to be able to know where the play clock is and how much time is left.”

Fox followed with an excellent shot of Peyton Manning in a suite twirling his finger, urging his little brother to hurry up and call for the snap.

Coughlin told Oliver at halftime that the Giants needed a game-changing play on special teams, and they soon got it, but it benefited the Pats.

As Buck first noted, Chase Blackburn did not make it off the field in time on a punt, and after Belichick challenged the play, the Patriots got it back.

“Mark this time down in your diary,” Buck said with 11 minutes left in the third quarter. But another impressive stand by the Giants’ defense rendered Blackburn’s gaffe irrelevant.

When it finally was over, Fox’s Chris Myers drew the unenviable task of interviewing Bill Belichick, somewhere deep within the stunned stadium.

It wasn’t easy. “We’re disappointed,” Belichick mumbled before walking away.

Thus ended a TV drama that surpassed anything striking writers could have conjured.