Coronation Interruptus

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There was supposed to be a parade in Boston Tuesday.

A coronation commemorating the New England Patriots’ victory in Super Bowl XLII to cap the single-greatest season in NFL history. A Beantown send-off for the 19-0 brilliance of Bill Belichick and his pupil, Tom Brady, the record-setting QB with the supermodel girlfriend, seated in the luxury box at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Instead, there might be a cortege near Copley Square. 

In Manhattan, ticker-tape and confetti will be hurled Tuesday along its “Canyon of Heroes" to celebrate the New York Giants’ 17-14 upset of the Pats in the desert.

For the second straight season, a Manning is the king of the pro football realm. Aw shucks Eli followed in the footsteps of older brother Peyton, who had rallied the Indianapolis Colts from a 21-3 deficit past the Pats in last year’s AFC title game, before going on to maul the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. (Do you think ESPN should reshoot that SportsCenter spot with the brothers behaving like kids in the hallways in Bristol?)

Coach Tom Coughlin, evidently no longer a martinet, is part of Eli’s court, the head of state, a position of importance underlined by New York’s NFL best-ever 11 straight road victories.

Herald Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan and Fred Robbins as Manning’s ministers of defense.Indeed, it was the ferocity and tenacity of New York’s defensive line that rattled the breastplate of Sir Tom throughout Super Bowl XLII.

The Giants repeated breaching of New England’s heretofore impregnable front five got inside Brady’s heart and helmet. After Plaxico “The Prognosticator” Burress forecast a 23-17 Giants victory, Brady during one of his interviews last week, said you’d think the Giants wide receiver should have given the highest scoring team in NFL history some credit, at least picking them to lose by a 45-42 count Well, as it turned out Burress gave Brady three points too much credit.

And what of Belichick the brain and heir apparent toVince Lombardi? The bully in the hoody, who dismissively revels in shunting the press, had a consult with the officials about whether a player straddling the sideline was ruled to be on the field. After a commercial timeout, the Patriots retained possession on their first drive of the second quarter because the G-men were penalized for having too many men on the field.

Seems former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs didn’t get advice about the rules, when he tried to ice Buffalo Bills field goal kicker Rian Lindell with a second timeout. The infraction reduced the 51-yard-attempt to 36 yards and a Redskin loss. Needless to say, it’s absurd that a call can be pondered during a commercial pod and then a red challenge flag thrown after the game returns from the break. Jeez!

Despite the penalized reprieve, Belichick and his braintrust still botched matters rather badly. At fourth and 13 from the Jints’s 31, he opted to forego a 49-yard FG attempt and a potential seven-point advantage for what amounted to an out-of-bounds end zone heave. More on that in a moment.

The Giants finally took the lead early in the fourth quarter on a David Tyree (he’s New York’s fourth or fifth wideout, depending upon whether Sinorice Rice is active) TD. Could this monumental upset actually happen?

Following another Pats’s punt, the G-men and Manning didn’t yet take destiny into their own hands. Scampering away from pressure to his left, Manning missed a wide-open Burress in the left flat. A pass to Amani Toomer came up a yard short; yet the clock inexplicably stopped (check a replay, there were at least three occasions when the second hand either moved or shouldn’t have).

Surely, Brady would rise to the occasion and lead the Pats down the field like he had done so many times before, and supplant Joe Montana as the best-ever Super Bowl QB in the process. Well, he did. Finally getting Moss involved, Brady continued to work with the weasel-like Wes Welker underneath to great effect.

With cornerback Corey Webster slipping in man coverage, Moss slanted for an easy TD to give New England a 14-10 with 2:45 left.

But here came Eli.Against Belichick’s senescent defense, the Giants converted a fourth-and-one and then a pair of third-down conversions, including Tyree’s leaping grab with the pigskin pinned against his helmet as Pats’s safety Rodney Harrison gouged at the ball and the receiver’s back. Arguably the Super Bowl’s greatest-ever grab came only after Manning evaded a double-sack attack from New England linemen Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green. 

Then, an overmatched Ellis Hobbs was toasted by Plax the prognosticator for the go-ahead score.

Belichick, the defensive genius and architect of the Giants’s brilliant scheme that topped Jim Kelly’s high-powered Bills back in Super Bowl XXV, was bullied on his side of the ball. 

Brady came back on the field with 35 ticks and three TOs left. Not a lot of time, granted, but hey, he’s the greatest, right? In my local watering hole, there was still a palpable dread that the Hatriots would find a way to tie it at 17 and then cement their greatness in OT.

But rather than going underneath to Welker a few times, Belichick and Brady panicked. Three long balls to Moss fell incomplete — although it could be argued he did have a step or two, particularly on the first play. To add to the sweetness, Jay Alford delivered the last of New York’s five sacks on New England’s second down, driving his helmet into the chest of the terrific one.

So, all that’s left is the legacy, or lack thereof for the 2007 Patriots. The 1972 Miami Dolphins finally got to break open that bottle of bubbly as another NFL season passes as an ode to their 17-0 perfection. For New England, one of their many moniker is 18 and done.

Belichick’s classless act was on full display. Although he did head directly to congratulate Coughlin, his sprint onto the field with a second left is construed by many as upstaging the Giants and Manning’s kneel-down euphoria. He offered faint praise at best in his post-game comments. Perhaps he’ll be more effusive and less smug if the Spygate saga escalates under the scrutiny of Sen. (R. Penn.) Arlen Specter.

Strahan, a natural for the broadcast booth, may or may not return. It might be the same for Toomer. He and Strahan were the only Giants remaining from the Super Bowl XXXV squad of 2000, when then Giants QB Kerry Collins looked like he didn’t belong against thuggish Ray Lewis and his Baltimore Ravens. Who could blame Toomer for wanting the thrills of Super Bowl XLII to be his final NFL memories?

As for Eli, he certainly belonged. He was the best QB on the field in Glendale, as Brady is left to console himself with Giselle Bundchen. If he never throws another scoring pass, the younger Manning is now a New York legend.

And finally, it should be noted that Manning and the G-men’s feat was witnessed by the largest Super Bowl audience of all time. Fox reported that 97.5 million watched the game on average, punting Super Bowl XXX out of the record books. That’s a lot of witnesses to a game for the ages,