Take that, Brady. You too, Peyton.
Eli Manning is the big man in the NFL after one-upping Tom Brady and leading the New York Giants to a 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowl – in older brother Peyton’s house, at that.
Just as Manning did four years ago when the Giants ruined New England’s perfect season, he guided them 88 yards to the decisive touchdown, which the Patriots didn’t contest as Ahmad Bradshaw ran 6 yards with 57 seconds remaining.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick reasoned the Giants would run the clock down and kick a short field goal, so he gambled by allowing the six points.
The gamble failed.
And now Manning not only has stamped himself as the elite quarterback he claimed to be when the season began – in the same class as Brady – but he has also beaten the Patriots in two thrilling Super Bowls. The Giants (13-7), who were 7-7 in mid-December, now own the football world, and Manning owns two Super Bowl MVP awards, the same number as Brady.
It was a classic I-can-top-that showdown, and Manning won. He threw for 296 yards and one touchdown on 30-for-40 accuracy, while Brady was 27-for-41 for 276 yards with two TDs and one interception.
“It’s been a wild game, a wild season,” Manning said. “This isn’t about one person. It’s about one team, a team coming together.”
Manning led six comeback wins during the season and set an NFL record with 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes. He showed that brilliance in the clutch on the winning drive. He completed five passes, including a sensational 38-yard sideline catch by Mario Manningham to open the drive.
On second down at the Patriots’ 6 and with only one timeout remaining, Belichick had his defense stand up as Bradshaw took the handoff. Bradshaw thought about stopping short of the end zone, then tumbled in untouched.
“I was yelling to him, ‘Don’t score, don’t score,’ ” Manning said. “He tried to stop, but he fell into the end zone.”
Brady couldn’t answer in the final 57 seconds, although his desperation pass into the end zone on the final play fell just beyond the grasp of All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski. New England (15-4), winner of 10 straight since a loss to the Giants in November, was done.
Brady headed off with his head bowed, holding his helmet.
“Certainly it wasn’t one play that was the reason we lost,” Brady said. “Everybody feels they could do a little more. I’d rather come to this game and lose then not get here.”
All around him was the wild celebration by the Giants, NFL champions for the eighth – and perhaps most unlikely – time.
“Great toughness, great faith, and great plays by a number of guys today,” Manning said, tyring to deflect some of the attention. Still, he one-upped Brady – and Peyton, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback who has one ring but didn’t play this season while he recovered from neck surgery.
“It just feels good to win a Super Bowl. It doesn’t matter where you are,” Manning said.
Brady was impressed.
“Certainly Eli has had a great season. He made some great throws in the fourth quarter, and they deserved to win,” Brady said.
It was the fifth trip to a Super Bowl for Brady and Belichick, tying the record. And it looked like a successful one when they stormed back from a 9-0 deficit to take a 17-9 lead in the third quarter.
But the Giants, who reached New England territory on every possession except a kneel-down at the end of the first half, got field goals of 38 and 33 yards from Lawrence Tynes. And it looked like Tynes, who kicked them into the Super Bowl four years ago at Green Bay and again this year at San Francisco, both in overtime, would get called on again.
Then Belichick, known to try just about anything in a game, took a risk that didn’t pay off.
The Giants are the first Super Bowl winner that was outscored during the regular season. They were 6-2 (including a 36-25 home loss to the Seattle Seahawks) after that 24-20 victory at New England, then lost four straight and five of six.
Coach Tom Coughlin insisted “the prize” was still within reach. Now the Giants are holding tight to that Vince Lombardi Trophy.