With Ellis Hobbs announcing his retirement from the NFL after suffering his second serious neck injury in the past two seasons for the Eagles, his legacy as a player will be during four seconds at the end of Super Bowl XLII.
Hobbs stood on the Patriots seven yard line as he stared at Eli Manning in the Giants backfield. The Giants had the ball on the Patriots 14 yard line with no time outs left. Manning was barking out plays in the shot gun. It was 39 seconds left in Super Bowl XLII with the Patriots leading 14-10. The Patriots were 39 seconds away from a perfect 19-0 season.
The play that followed took only four seconds to change everything for Hobbs as a Patriot. It took four seconds to end the Patriots perfect season.
Seven yards away from Hobbs was Giants receiver Plaxico Burress when the ball was snapped. Hobbs was still staring at Manning as he backed up a few steps to the five yard line. By the time Hobbs turned his head to look at Burress, the 6-foot-5, 232 pound receiver was steamrolling toward him. Burress quickly faked the inside slant route and Hobbs took the bait. It was as if Hobbs’ left foot was stuck in the mud. Burress then cut back outside and ran right passed Hobbs into the end zone. The ball sailed hopelessly over Hobbs’ head and into Burress’ breadbasket for the eventual game-winning touchdown. It all happened in four seconds.
This will always be Hobbs’ defining moment as a Patriot. Despite the blown coverage during those four seconds, Hobbs did have some good moment as a member of the Patriots. He started the 2007 season with an NFL record 108-yard touchdown in the season opener against the Jets. Hobbs is the second all-time kickoff returner in franchise history behind only Kevin Faulk. He had 105 kickoff returns for 2,913 yards and three touchdowns for New England. He was selected as the AFC Special Team Player of the Week twice.
He has nine career interceptions for 87 yards, including a 70 yard return against the Vikings in 2006. He had five fumble recoveries, including a 35 yard return for a touchdown against the Bills in 2007. Hobbs also intercepted three passes and set the Patriots single game record for yards on kick returns, with 237 yards in a Week 3 loss to Miami in 2008.
It may be forgotten now, but Hobbs was also involved with another infamous playoff play during the 2006 season. During the AFC Championship game that season against the Colts, Hobbs was called for pass interference in the deep left corner of the end zone. Hobbs was flagged when he jumped in front of Colts receiver Reggie Wayne and he was hit in the back by the ball. No contact was made on the play, but the officials still called Hobbs for the penalty. The Colts eventually scored a touchdown on the drive and the call did contribute to the Patriots eventual loss.
|Earlier in Super Bowl XLII Bobbs intercepted a Manning near the New England goalline (AP Photo)
Hobbs did jump up and tried to get in the way of Wayne where Hobbs did not see the football and did not make a play on the ball. For all intents and purposes, he was face-guarding, which would be a correct call. The problem on the play was that there was no longer a rule for face-guarding for several years and apparently the officials had forgotten. The league during that offseason later apologized to Hobbs for messing up the call. Again, this has all been forgotten.
In Super Bowl XLII, Hobbs led all defenders with three passes defended, including his second interception in as many playoff games, and contributed one tackle in coverage. Hobbs picked off an Eli Manning pass intended for Steve Smith in the second quarter, stopping a Giants' red zone drive. He also broke up a Manning pass intended for Burress in the first quarter and in the second quarter, but this has been all forgotten.
Hobbs was drafted by the Patriots in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft from Iowa State. Forgotten will be the record kick-off return, the playoff interceptions, and the league apology. Forgotten will be his entire four seasons in New England and all the good plays he did make. It’s sad how he’s forced to retire at age 27 with another neck injury, but that too will be forgotten.
The only thing any Patriots fan will ever remember of Ellis Hobbs is four seconds in the final minute of Super Bowl XLII.
Kevin Saleeba is a frequent contributor and columnist to Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the
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