New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning capped a remarkable comeback season in Sunday’s Super Bowl. He led his seventh fourth quarter comeback of the year, as the Giants rallied for a 21-17 victory. Manning competed 30 of 40 passes for 296 yards and a touchdown and was voted Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLVI.
Giants win dramatic Super Bowl
By Ron Wynn
The New York Giants last Super Bowl victory four years ago prevented the New England Patriots from making history as the NFL’s first 19-0 team. Sunday their stunning 21-17 triumph not only kept the Patriots from avenging that earlier loss, it made them the first team in the Super Bowl era to become a champion without winning at least 10 games. Indeed on Christmas Eve the Giants were 7-7. Longtime coach Tom Coughlin was rumored on his way out, and many observers considered their opponents that day (The Jets) to be the only New York squad with a shot at winning the Super Bowl.
Instead, the Giants never lost again. Their triumph in Super Bowl XLVI stopped a 10-game New England winning streak. It prevented coach Bill Belichick from joining Pittsburgh’s Chuck Noll as the only four-time winners of the Super Bowl. It made Coughlin at 65 the oldest coach in NFL history to earn a Super Bowl title. Plus the game set a viewing record for an American television event. It attracted an audience of 111.3 million viewers (117.7 for the fourth quarter). That broke last year’s record of 111 million viewers.
It also marked another fourth quarter comeback for Giants’ QB Eli Manning, voted Super Bowl MVP for the second time. He led a two-minute drive that resulted in Ahmad Bradshaw’s six-yard TD run with 1:04 to play. Bradshaw had been ordered to take a knee, as the Patriots were letting him score to get the ball back with one timeout remaining. Bradshaw broke through the line, hesitated at the goal line, then fell backward into the end zone. That gave the Patriots one last shot, and they got a final first down. But trailing 21-17 and needing a touchdown, Tom Brady’s final desperation attempt was batted down in the end zone.
It was a bitter end and a bad start for Brady, who was trying to tie Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana for most Super Bowl wins with four. He opened horribly, firing an errant pass down the middle of the field from the end zone on New England’s first possession. They had been backed up by a great punt from the Giants’ Terry Weatherford (he also joined the record setting brigade, becoming the first punter to put three inside the 20 in a Super Bowl). There were no receivers anywhere in the area. The officials huddled, then called a safety for intentional grounding in the end zone, giving the Giants a 2-0 lead.
Manning and the Giants padded that lead to 9-0, with Victor Cruz catching one of his four receptions for a short TD. But after that brutal beginning, Brady and the Patriots roared back. At one point he completed10 straight passes (another record). After leading the Patriots on a 98-yard march, New England had a 10-9 halftime lead.
The Patriots had possession first in the second half and scored again. Brady continued his hot passing. When another touchdown made it 17-9, it seemed the Giants defensive magic had vanished. It was the Patriots’ defensive line that was pressuring Manning. New England’s offensive line seemed to make adjustments to the Giants defense and were giving Brady time to find his receivers. However that scenario proved deceptive. New England never scored again after that third period touchdown.
Meanwhile Manning, who competed 30 of 40 passes for 296 yards and a touchdown, began making major plays. The biggest was a 39-yard completion to Mario Manningham. The pass was perfectly placed between two defenders, with Manningham catching it over his shoulder on the dead run. Belichek challenged the play, but replays showed Manningham had cleanly caught the ball and gotten both feet down well in bounds. Manning and Manningham clicked for two more catches and 30 yards. The Giants reached the 19-yard line with two minutes remaining. Then came the final moments, with Manning and crew persevering despite some nervous moments.
“We’ve had a bunch of them,” Manning told the Associated Press. “The whole second half, right before halftime, New England drives and gets a touchdown. First possession of the second half, they drive and get a touchdown. That’s could’ve sucked the momentum right out of us, but we responded and we went back. We had been in those situations before, and we knew that we had no time left. We had to go and score and guys stepped up and made great plays.” Strong safety Kenny Phillips added “You never doubt Eli Manning when it comes to the fourth quarter.”
Tom Brady sat in front of his locker for what seemed like hours after the game (though it was really only minutes). He eventually came to the microphones for the post-game Q&A. Brady was impressive for lengthy stretches, passing for 276 yards and two touchdowns. But he was victimized by dropped passes in the second half from usually reliable types like Wes Welker and tight end Aaron Hernandez. One by Welker came with less than five minutes left. A catch would have given New England a key first down and forced the Giants to use their final timeouts. Instead, the ball went over to the Giants on downs and Manning’s heroics resulted.
“I wish we could have done a little bit more,” Brady said. His response to how much the loss hurt was equally restrained. “I keep coming to this game and keep trying,” Brady said. “I’d rather keep coming to this game and lose than not get here.”
The Giants had other major contributors, among them Carl Nicks (10 receptions), defensive lineman Jean-Paul Pierre (sack and two deflected passes) and Bradshaw (17 carries, 72 yards, a touchdown). But in today’s NFL, quarterbacks get alternately most of the praise and blame for a team’s wins and losses. On this day, Eli Manning became one of just 11 QBs in NFL history with two Super Bowl wins and two Super Bowl MVP awards. Tom Brady became a two-time Super Bowl loser, though he’s also won three times.