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Super Bowl XLVI is an American football game between the American Football Conference (AFC) champion New England Patriots and the National Football Conference (NFC) champion New York Giants to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 2011 season. It will be the 42nd annual championship game of the modern-era NFL and is scheduled to be played Sunday, February 5, 2012, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. Kickoff time is scheduled for approximately 6:30 p.m. EST. This will be the first Super Bowl to be played in Indianapolis, and the first time in the history of the game it will be played in consecutive years in a retractable roof stadium. This will also be only the fourth time that the Super Bowl is played in a cold-weather city, after Detroit's hosting of XVI and XL as well as Minneapolis's hosting of XXVI. Downtown Indianapolis, the home of Lucas Oil Stadium, will feature an outdoor Super Bowl Village and other programs at the Indiana Convention Center.
Per convention as an even-numbered Super Bowl, the Patriots as the AFC representatives will have the home team designation. Super Bowl XLVI will be the sixth Super Bowl in which the two teams had competed in a previous Super Bowl match up, as the Giants and Patriots had previously met in Super Bowl XLII. Both head coaches (Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick) and both starting quarterbacks (Eli Manning and Tom Brady) return from Super Bowl XLII.
New York Giants
With a 9–7 record during the regular season, the Giants returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, when they won the NFC East and finished the season as the NFC's #4 seed. The Giants entered their week 17 match up with the Cowboys with both teams tied for the division lead with 8–7 records. The Giants took a 21–0 first half lead and while the Cowboys closed the gap to make the score 21–14 early in the 4th quarter, the Giants held on to defeat the Cowboys 31–14, clinching the divisional title and a playoff berth. Then they advanced to the playoffs by defeating the Atlanta Falcons in the Wild Card game 24–2, then they defeated the teams with the two best records in the NFL, knocking off the 15–1 Green Bay Packers 37–20 and the 13–3 San Francisco 49ers 20–17 on Lawrence Tynes's game winning field goal in overtime.
New York's offense was led by Pro Bowl quarterback Eli Manning, in his seventh season as the team's starter. Manning set new career highs in nearly every statistical category in 2011, throwing for a franchise record 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns, with 16 interceptions, giving him a 92.9 passer rating. His top target was receiver Victor Cruz, who caught 82 passes for a franchise record 1,536 yards (3rd in the NFL) and 9 touchdowns. But he had plenty of other targets, including Hakeem Nicks (76 receptions, 1,192 yards, 7 touchdowns), Mario Manningham (39 receptions and 523 yards in 12 games) and tight end Jake Ballard (38 receptions, 604 yards, 15.9 average)
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw was the team's leading rusher with 659 yards and 9 touchdowns. He was also a reliable weapon in the passing game, hauling in 34 receptions for 267 yards and two touchdowns. Brandon Jacobs also made a big contribution on the ground, rushing for 571 yards and 7 touchdowns.
New York's defensive line was led by defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora. Pierre-Paul racked up 86 combined tackles and ranked fourth in the NFL with 16.5 sacks, earning him the only Pro Bowl selection on the Giants defense, while Umenyiora recorded 9 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. New York also had an excellent secondary led by Corey Webster, who intercepted a career high 6 passes. Defensive backs Kenny Phillips and Aaron Ross added four interceptions each, while safety Antrel Rolle picked off two passes and led the team in combined tackles with 96.
The 2011 Giants are the first team in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl after having been outscored by their opponents in the regular season (394 points scored, 400 points allowed).
New England Patriots
The Patriots finished with a 13–3 record, winning the AFC East and clinching the AFC's #1 seed in the playoffs. New England lost two straight games in weeks 8 and 9 against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Giants, respectively, before rallying to win their remaining regular season games. In the playoffs, New England defeated the Denver Broncos in the divisional round and the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game.
Back at the helm of the offense was 12-year quarterback Tom Brady, who earned his 7th Pro Bowl selection. Starting every game of the season, Brady completed 65.6% of his passes for a career-high 5,246 yards (the second highest total in NFL history) and 39 touchdown passes, with just 12 interceptions and a rating of 105.6. Brady also added 109 yards and three scores on the ground. His main weapon in the passing game was Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker, who led the NFL with 122 receptions (22 receptions ahead of second place) for 1,569 yards and 9 touchdowns. New England also had two of the best tight ends in the NFL: Pro Bowler Rob Gronkowski, who set new tight end records for receiving (1,327 yards) and touchdown catches (17); and Aaron Hernandez, who caught 79 passes for 910 yards and 7 touchdowns, while also rushing for 45 yards. Another big element of the passing game was veteran receiver Deion Branch, who caught 51 passes for 702 yards and 5 scores. Receivers Chad Ochocinco, Tiquan Underwood, Julian Edelman, and Matthew Slater made minor contributions to the passing attack; the latter two also served as emergency defensive backs.
New England had several key contributors in the ground game. Their main rusher was BenJarvis Green-Ellis, who rushed for 667 yards and 11 touchdowns. Running back Stevan Ridley added 447 yards and a 5.1 yards per carry average. Danny Woodhead contributed 351 yards with a 4.6 YPC average, and gained another 437 yards returning kickoffs. New England also had a solid offensive line, which was anchored by Pro Bowl guards Logan Mankins and Brian Waters. With all these weapons, New England ranked third in the NFL with 513 points.
The Patriots' defensive line featured two Pro Bowl selections: Vince Wilfork, who generated 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, and one forced fumble; and Andre Carter, who contributed 10 sacks and forced two fumbles. Defensive End Mark Anderson was also a major force on the line, earning 10 sacks and two forced fumbles of his own. Behind them, Rob Ninkovich excelled at linebacker, gaining 74 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and two interceptions. In the secondary, cornerback Kyle Arrington had a breakout season. After recording just one interception in his first three years, Arrington picked off 7 passes in 2011 to lead the NFL in that category, while also leading the team in tackles with 88.
As the #1 seed in the AFC, New England earned a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. In the divisional round, the Patriots defeated the Tim Tebow-led Denver Broncos 45–10. The Patriots dominated the game the whole way through, setting new franchise postseason records for total yards (509), points (45), and margin of victory (35). Tom Brady completed 18 of 25 passes for 246 yards and a postseason record five touchdowns in the first half. The Patriots defense had a breakout performance: Tebow was held to just 9 of 26 completions and was sacked five times.
In the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots faced off against the #2 seed Baltimore Ravens. Brady was out-dueled by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw for more yards and touchdowns on the same number of completions and attempts. Nevertheless, New England managed to take a 23–20 lead in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run by Brady. With 1:44 left in the quarter, Baltimore got the ball back with one last chance to tie or win the game, driving all the way to the New England 14-yard line. But the Patriots managed to hold them there, with cornerback Sterling Moore breaking up two consecutive Ravens pass attempts in the red zone, including one in the end zone. Facing fourth down, the Ravens attempted a 32 yard field goal by Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff that would tie the game and possibly bring it to overtime. In one of the most memorable endings in NFL playoff history, Cundiff missed the kick wide left, allowing the Patriots to advance to the Super Bowl.
New York finished the season as the NFC East champion and the #4 seed in the conference. The Giants defeated the #5 seed Atlanta Falcons in the Wild Card round 24–2, the first playoff game at MetLife Stadium. Eli Manning threw for 277 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions, while the Giants defense shut down the Falcons, the only Atlanta points coming from a safety given up by Manning's intentional grounding penalty in his end zone.
The Giants then moved on to face the #1 seed and the defending Super Bowl XLV champion Green Bay Packers in the divisional round. The Giants never trailed in the game, winning 37–20. One of the key plays in the game was a Hail Mary pass by Manning to Hakeem Nicks, giving New York a 20–10 lead at the end of the first half. As they did to the Patriots' record-breaking offense in 2007, the Giants generated significant pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, sacking him four times and disrupting his talented receiving corps. This was the first time in NFL history a 15–1 team failed to make it past the divisional round in the playoffs.
The Giants faced the #2 seed San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. After a series of defensive standoffs in the fourth quarter, the game went into overtime. Both teams continued to struggle on offense, until New York linebacker Jacquian Williams stripped the ball from San Francisco wide receiver Kyle Williams after a punt return. The Giants recovered the ball at the 49ers 24 yard line, setting up a 31 yard field goal attempt by Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes. Unlike Cundiff earlier in the day, Tynes' kick was successful, giving the Giants a 20–17 victory.
The Giants joined the 2008 Arizona Cardinals and 1979 Los Angeles Rams as the only other team to advance to the Super Bowl with fewer than ten victories since the NFL expanded to a 16-game season in 1978, and have won six consecutive playoff games away from their home stadium, dating back to their victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2007 Wild Card round. That includes their Super Bowl XLII victory over these same Patriots, although that game was played at a neutral site (and the Giants were the designated "away" team for the game). The Giants will again be the designated "away" team for Super Bowl XLVI.
The Patriots return to the Super Bowl for the fifth time under head coach Bill Belichick after Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX and XLII. It is their seventh appearance overall and the Giants' fifth, with both teams having three victories. The Patriots lost Super Bowls XX (to the Bears), XXXI (to the Packers), and XLII (to the Giants), while the Giants' lone loss in Super Bowl play came in Super Bowl XXXV (against the Ravens). If the Patriots lose the Super Bowl, they would be the first team to lose at least one Super Bowl in four decades (1985, 1996, 2007). As a result of that, it would make the New York Giants the first teams to win a Super Bowl in 4 decades (1986, 1990, 2007)
With the victory in the 2011 AFC Championship Game Tom Brady and Belichick became the first quarterback-head coach combination to reach the Super Bowl more than four times, beating the record held by Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 1970s Super Bowl teams. Belichick tied Tom Landry for second most appearances as a head coach in the Super Bowl, behind only Don Shula's six.
This is the fifth matchup of head coaches who have previously won Super Bowls: Tom Landry and Chuck Noll twice in Super Bowls X and XIII, Tom Flores and Joe Gibbs in Super Bowl XVIII and Bill Walsh and Don Shula in Super Bowl XIX.
The Giants join the Steelers and the Denver Broncos as the only teams to advance to at least one Super Bowl televised on all four major broadcast television networks. The Giants' appearances in Super Bowls XXI and XXXV, and winning XXI were televised by CBS, their victory in Super Bowl XXV was carried by ABC, and their most recent appearance aired on Fox. A Giants victory will make them the first team to win at least one Super Bowl televised on all four major broadcast television networks.
Because the Giants and Patriots draw their fanbases from New York City and Boston respectively, the Super Bowl is expected to echo the fierce rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in Major League Baseball.
The Patriots' most recent Super Bowl victory has been followed by a championship from each of Boston's other major professional sports league franchises with the Red Sox winning the 2007 World Series, the Celtics winning the 2008 NBA Finals and the Bruins winning the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. The Bruins' championship completed the fastest ever succession of all four major professional sports championships won by teams in a single metropolitan area, with the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup six years, four months and nine days after Super Bowl XXXIX. A Patriots victory in Super Bowl XLVI would result in an even shorter time-span encompassing all four major championships - four years, three months and eight days being the time between the end of the 2007 World Series and Super Bowl XLVI.
The Patriots and Giants faced each other in New England during the regular season; the Giants won that game, 24–20. Incidentally, the Giants and Patriots had also faced each other during the regular season prior to Super Bowl XLII as well with the Patriots winning this game and the Giants going on to win that Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XLVI marks the 13th Super Bowl that is a rematch of a regular season game. The loser in the regular season is 7–5 in these games, including 5–1 the last six times this has happened.
Lucas Oil Stadium is the home of the Indianapolis Colts, which shares connections to both the Giants and Patriots. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is the older brother of the Giants' Eli Manning, while the Colts and Patriots share an intense rivalry.
Super Bowl pre-game news and notes
The Patriots, as the designated home team, had a choice of wearing their home dark blue jerseys or their white away jerseys. Briefly, there was speculation that the Patriots might wear the white away jerseys in order to switch the jerseys from Super Bowl XLII, where the Patriots wore dark blue and the Giants wore white. Also, the Giants are 4-0 in playoff games in their white away jerseys since the 2007 season. However, the Patriots announced on the Monday following the Conference Championship Games that they will be wearing their customary dark blue home jerseys as the home team in Super Bowl XLVI.
Hospitality experts speculated that "Indianapolis will have seen the most severe hotel price gouging in Super Bowl history." The city has 6,000 hotel rooms, fewer than typical for a Super Bowl host city. Some rooms in downtown Indianapolis reportedly cost more than $4,000 a night, three times the price at the Park Lane Hotel in London during the 2012 Summer Olympics. By contrast, rooms close to the stadium in previous Super Bowls were usually available for about $200. The room shortage and high prices caused some attendees to plan to stay in Chicago, 180 miles away, and ride buses to events.