Several players made bids to steal limelight on Super Bowl Sunday – from Wes Welker’s costly drop for the Patriots, to that catch by Giants’ Mario Manningham.
The moment on which the game pivoted, though, was Chase Blackburn’s fourth-quarter interception for the Giants. It was the match’s only turnover, and it came just as the Patriots threatened to build an insurmountable lead – on possession at 17-15 up.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had done well to evade a sacking before gambling on an arcing 50-yard pass downfield to Rob Gronkowski. Arguably the best tight end in the league this season, Gronkowski was clear favourite to beat the cover of Giants’ Blackburn in a one-on-one.
But Blackburn, three inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter, beat Gronkowski to the ball for a brilliantly resolute interception. The Giants’ linebacker took advantage of any anxiety Gronkowski may have had over his injured ankle to hand possession, and the initiative, back to his quarterback Eli Manning.
The fairytale element to this story is that Chase Blackburn had been deemed surplus to requirements last off-season, and was only recalled to the squad in late November with Giants in the midst of a defensive crisis. In the intervening months, Blackburn had been finding occasional work as a high school maths supply teacher.
Blackburn’s story embroiders the broader resurrection of the Giants, particularly their defence, since the final rounds of the regular season. The local press were calling for Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s head a mere number of weeks ago, and the Giants’ defensive line was the butt of jokes.
But come postseason the defence has been faultless; sure, steady, no frills but no mistakes either. Chase Blackburn’s Super Bowl interception was the culmination of a spectacular recovery, both his own and his team’s.