With a month’s worth of NFL intrigue packed into three hours of real time and with a marathon of TV and travel finally over, I can settle in and say whatever I want to say about whatever happened in Super Bowl XLVI that requires something to be said.
Here’s the first thing to say: The intentional grounding call on the Patriots’ opening drive, and the safety that was called against New England, was accurate and correct.
After New York’s first drive fizzled and punter Steve Weatherford pinned the Pats on their own six, quarterback Tom Brady brazenly dropped into the end zone, like he did way back in Week One with the ball inside his own one and Wes Welker eventually sprung for 99-plus yards. This time around, no one was open and Justin Tuck was closing in and Brady fired the ball more than 40 yards down the field with no receiver even remotely close to the point where the ball landed.
Here’s the definition of intentional grounding, from the NFL’s official rule book: “It is a foul for intentional grounding if a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage because of pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion. A realistic chance of completion is defined as a pass that lands in the direction and the vicinity of an originally eligible receiver.”
The intent from the term “intentional grounding” is inferred by the circumstances. One, the quarterback faces an imminent loss of yardage. Two, the pass fails to land in the direction and vicinity of an eligible receiver.
That’s precisely what occurred last night. The outcome seemed odd because most quarterbacks facing an imminent loss of yardage can’t uncork one that travels more than 40 yards in the air. But the fact that Brady was able to launch a missile doesn’t change the fact that the situation fit within the boundaries of the definition of intentional grounding.