INDIANAPOLIS—The New York Giants did it again.
The G-Men are Super Bowl champions for the fourth time after beating the New England Patriots 21–17 at Lucas Oil Stadium in another thriller reminiscent of their classic matchup from 2008.
“I don’t think I could have written a better script than this one,” said Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, whose pressure on Brady forced a safety during the Patriots first possession.
“It’s just fitting that it came down to a final drive by Eli [Manning] and a closing out by our defense.”
Giants quarterback Eli Manning was chosen as the game’s MVP and once again, it was an incredible throw and catch that keyed New York’s winning score.
As in 2008 when Manning scrambled to find David Tyree, this time Manning found Mario Manningham for a 38-yard strike down the left sideline into double coverage.
The Giants, trailing 17–15 at the time, were backed up on their own 12-yard line with 3:46 left to play.
“That’s a huge play in the game right there; when you’re backed up, to get a 40-yard gain and get to the middle of the field,” said Manning. “It was a big, big, big-time play right there.”
“[Mario] Manningham made a huge play to get us down there,” said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin.
“They certainly made plays when they needed to,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
In taking the lead, the Giants actually had to be concerned about leaving too much time on the clock for Brady and the Patriots to come back with the winning score.
Ahmad Bradshaw, who scored the winning touchdown on a 6-yard run, tried to stop just short of the goal line but couldn’t prevent his momentum from carrying him in.
“We tried to take a little more time off the clock, but it didn’t work out that way,” said Coughlin.
But once again, a calm, cool, and collected Eli Manning led the Giants to another fourth-quarter comeback win with all the pressure of the world on his shoulders.
The Giants began the game strongly on both ends of the football, getting a safety for a 2–0 lead and then tacking on a touchdown when Manning found Victor Cruz for a 2-yard score. Manning started the game completing his first nine passes—a new Super Bowl record.
The Giants dominated the first quarter, owning the football for 11 minutes and 28 seconds of the 15 minutes.
But New England ended the first quarter with a drive of their own, culminating in a 29-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
The big story of that quarter though was Brady driving the Patriots 96 yards in 14 plays, ending in a short 4-yard pass to Danny Woodhead for a touchdown. The score gave the Patriots a 10–9 lead.
Brady, in the process, tied his own record of 16 consecutive postseason completions set against Jacksonville in 2008.
Tuck said his team was “disappointed” at halftime as they felt they had played a pretty good half.
The Patriots offense seemed to benefit from the momentum of their lengthy drive to close out the first half and, in their first possession of the second half, drove 79 yards for another touchdown to take a 17–9 lead.
Asked on what play put the Giants over the top, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks said of Manningham’s catch: “It was clutch and we made it at the right time.”
Manningham’s catch will go down as the key play of Super Bowl XLVI, although a number of Giants aside from him and Eli had great games. Punter Steve Weatherford deserves an honorable mention for pinning the Patriots inside their 10-yard line on three different occasions.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, “We just couldn’t quite make enough plays. Giants made a few more than we did. Really isn’t too much to say about it.”
The game itself had very few errors. Brady threw one interception though the Giants were unable to get any points off it. In such a game, it comes down to who makes the big play.
Brady and Welker could have connected late in the game on a key play that would have been a dagger to New York’s hopes. With just over four minutes left and operating at the Giants 44-yard line, on 2nd-and-11, Brady fired a pass that Welker couldn’t hang on to.
“It’s one of those plays I’ve made a thousand times. Just didn’t make it,” said Welker who caught an NFL-high 122 passes during the regular season.
“[Welker] went up to try to make it, as he always does, and we just couldn’t connect,” said Brady.
The Patriots then couldn’t convert on 3rd-and-11 and the Giants got the ball back and scored the go-ahead touchdown.
The similarities between this Giants team and the one from four years ago are hard to ignore. But this Giants team can bask in its own glory, recording road victories over the top two teams in the NFC (Green Bay and San Francisco) and then knocking off the top team in the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Follow Rahul on Twitter @RV_ETSports