By David J. Neal
INDIANAPOLIS — How unlikely is a safety being the first score of a Super Bowl? One site taking prop bets had it at 60-1.
It had happened only once before Sunday night. In Super Bowl IX, a fumbled Minnesota handoff at the Vikings’ 10-yard line was accidentally kicked toward the goal line by Pittsburgh defensive end L.C. Greenwood. Minnesota quarterback Fran Tarkenton fell on the ball and was touched down by Steelers defensive end Dwight White.
Speaking of Greenwood, who blocked three passes that day in the Super Bowl’s most famous pass-blocking performance, Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul blocked two New England passes in the second quarter alone.
HEADS OR TAILS?
On Tuesday, Giants coach Tom Coughlin indicated he would take the ball if the Giants won the toss. The coin came up tails after the Giants called heads, but New England, as is its custom, deferred. So New York got the ball to start the game anyway.
Although that indirectly led to the Giants getting a safety to open the scoring, the Patriots scored before halftime, and it was a triple lift for them: they took the lead, they knew they would be getting the ball to start the second half and, with the extended halftime, the Giants would go about an hour without running an offensive play.
By the way, it’s the first time the AFC won the toss since New England called it correctly against the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI.
The Patriots signed defensive lineman Alex Silvestro off their practice squad Saturday night after cutting wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, and activated Silvestro on Sunday.
New England’s inactives were quarterback Ryan Mallett; running back Kevin Faulk; running back Shane Vereen; linebacker Gary Guyton; offensive lineman and former Dolphins starter Donald Thomas; offensive lineman Nick McDonald; and defensive lineman Ron Brace.
The Giants’ inactives were wide receiver Ramses Barden; running back Da’Rel Scott; linebacker Mark Herzlich; center Jim Cordle; defensive end Justin Trattou; defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy; and offensive tackle James Brewer.
The Giants lost tight end Travis Beckum in the second quarter to a torn knee ligament when he crumpled after being chucked by a defender.
After last year’s highway-happy Super Bowl Week in Dallas — through snow and ice, too — Indianapolis had an easy act to follow and the local setup to do it.
The city drew raves from the national media for most Super Bowl events, as well as popular local restaurants, being in or close to the compact, pedestrian-friendly downtown area. The weather was in the 50s for much of the week, much warmer than usual for this time of year in the landlocked Midwest. Also, most of the week, the polite behavior in which Indianapolis takes such pride was on display.
Later in the week, the mobs of people downtown grew to an uncomfortable level — local officials changed traffic patterns for Saturday after an overwhelming Friday night — and the enhanced security at the main hotel rankled some out-of-towners.
Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, rarely a part of the offense this season, got his first catch of the playoffs, a 21-yarder up the left sideline.