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Shaun O'Hara and Kevin Gilbride dissect the "Helmet Catch"

Posted Nov 12, 2015

Former Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and center Shaun O’Hara re-live the final drive of Super Bowl XLII

Seventy-six Max Y Sail went down as the most iconic play in Giants history.

You know it better as the “Helmet Catch” from Super Bowl XLII.

During a recent appearance on NFL Network, the man calling that play, former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, sat down with his old center and current analyst Shaun O’Hara to re-live the final drive that David Tyree sparked with his miraculous catch. What ensued was some great, nitty-gritty football talk from two of the people closest to situation.

And after all these years, we’re still learning new things and realizing it never gets old talking about the finish against then-undefeated New England.

Here are excerpts about the two-minute drill, picking up with Tyree’s catch on third-and-five from the Giants’ 44-yard line.

GILBRIDE: It’s called 76 Max Y Sail. We got what we wanted coverage-wise, which was four deep. The safety jumps Steve Smith, and the post was wide open. And I’m watching the coverage and wondering, ‘Why isn’t [Eli Manning] throwing the ball?’

O'HARA: What’s taking him so long?

GILBRIDE: But as you can allude to, there was a problem.

O'HARA: Just the way you draw it up, coach, I’m sure. This is a spectacular catch right here. And I didn’t realize, neither one of us realized that he pinned the ball against his helmet when he did it. But, as you can see, I’m the only one blocking. Chis Snee is doing nothing. Rich Seubert’s not doing anything. So this play, one of the things the Patriots were doing all game long was a lot of twists and they were trying to get pressure on Eli that way. But that was a spectacular throw and catch, and I’ll be honest, coach, when Eli threw that ball, I thought it was an interception -- late over the middle.

GILBRIDE: What happened is the safety wasn’t there. Rodney Harrison wasn’t the play-side safety. He came from the backside. He saw what I saw, which was David Tyree who was wide open. It was an incredible catch because of the difficulty of it. Rodney Harrison was one of the more physical safeties in the league and he came over and he did everything he could to wrestle that ball away from David Tyree. And David Tyree used every part of his body, including his head. Maybe for the first time ever, we got David Tyree to use his head. But to make that catch was unbelievable.

After a “mystified” offense called a timeout, Manning was sacked on the next play, and then Gilbride did something he had never done in his long and distinguished coaching history: call the same play three times in a row.

The final one resulted in Manning’s 13-yard, go-ahead touchdown to wide receiver Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds remaining.

GILBRIDE: It was so successful I went back to it a third time, which may be the only time in my career I called the same play three times in a row. But I was expecting the same coverage, and that was the first time that the Patriots blinked. They went blitz-zero, they gave us the one-on-one, which they had gone the entire game of staying away from so that Plaxico never got that one-on-one opportunity. The result is history.

O'HARA: Rarely do you see a wide receiver that wide open, on that big of a stage, in the end zone like that. I remember Eli coming over to the sideline saying, ‘I can’t believe they gave us that look.’ They hadn’t done it all day.

GILBRIDE: They hadn’t done it, and I know their coaches were running down the sideline when they saw the matchup that they thought we were going to have Plaxico go against Asante Samuel. They tried to get them to call timeout. It didn’t happen. What people don’t realize is the reason it was so successful is because [Patriots cornerback Ellis] Hobbs had made a play in the last regular-season game when you throw the back-shoulder throw. So he was sitting on that and so Plax came down, gave that look, and then he jumped all over it and made the play that Giants fans will savor forever.

O'HARA: Coach, I never thought I would ever say this, but thank you for calling the same play three times in a row.

GILBRIDE: I never thought it would work as effectively as it did. We were very fortunate, but it gave us a great memory we’ll hold onto forever.