INDIANAPOLIS (February 5, 2012) - 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 left.
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 - he's beaten the Patriots in two thrilling Super Bowls. The Giants (13-7), who stood 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 with the outcome in doubt until the very last pass fell to the turf. Manning finished 30 for 40 for 296 yards and one touchdown, 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 victories 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, deflecting some of the attention. Still, he one-upped Brady. And Peyton, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback who has one ring of his own but didn't play this season as 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 and led 17-9 in the third quarter. But the Giants, who reached New England territory on every possession except a kneeldown 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 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.
"What I was concerned with was these guys making their own history," Coughlin said. "This is such a wonderful thing, these guys carving their own history."
It was the Giants' fourth Super Bowl championship and eighth NFL title overall. They became the first team to finish the regular season 9-7 and win the Super Bowl.
New England had the ball for all of one play in the first 11 1-2 minutes, and that play was an utter failure, a rare poor decision by Brady. After Steve Weatherford's punt was downed at the New England 6, Brady dropped to pass in the end zone and had time. With everyone covered and Giants defensive end Justin Tuck finally coming free to provide pressure, Brady heaved the ball downfield while still in the pocket.
Only problem: No Patriots receivers were anywhere near the pass. The Giants were awarded a safety for Brady's grounding in the end zone.
Manning, meanwhile, couldn't have been more on target early, hitting six receivers in the first period, completing his first nine throws, a Super Bowl record. He also was aided by Ahmad Bradshaw, who hardly looked like a running back with a bad foot. Bradshaw broke a 24-yard run, and New England made another critical mistake by having 12 men on the field on a third-and-3 on which the Giants fumbled.
Instead, New York got a first down at the 6, and two plays later Victor Cruz beat James Ihedigbo on a slant to make it 9-0, prompting Cruz to break into his signature salsa move.
Manning's first incompletion didn't come until 1:19 into the second quarter.
At that point, it was 9-3 after Stephen Gostkowski's 29-yard field goal. The Patriots got to the Giants' 11, but All-Pro DE Jason Pierre-Paul blocked a third-down pass.
Soon after, when the Patriots had a three-and-out and Pierre-Paul blocked another throw, Belichick and offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien had a quick discussion. Then O'Brien, soon to take over as Penn State coach, went over to the struggling Brady.
The talk must have helped. On the final series of the opening half, Brady was masterful. Starting at his 4, and ignoring the last time the Patriots began a series in the shadow of the end zone, he was vintage Brady.
With New York's vaunted pass rush disappearing, Brady went 10-for-10 for 98 yards, capping the drive that included two Patriots penalties with Woodhead's 4-yard TD reception with 8 seconds to go in the half. Hernandez and Woodhead each had four catches on the drive that, stunningly, put New England ahead despite being outplayed for so much of the first 30 minutes.
Brady kept firing - and hitting - in the third quarter, with five more completions. The Giants didn't come within shouting distance of the record-setting quarterback. He capped a 79-yard drive to open the second half with a 12-yard TD to Hernandez, but then the game turned. Again.
Consecutive field goals by Lawrence Tynes of 38 and 33 yards brought New York within 17-15. Brady then threw deep for his tight end after weaving away from two pass rushers. His throw was short, and Chase Blackburn picked it off early in the fourth quarter.
Although the Giants moved into New England territory again, as they did on every drive to that point, they bogged down and punted.
Eli Manning is elite, for sure. A king of comebacks, too. And far, far more than Peyton's little brother now.
Spot-on from beginning to end Sunday night, Eli Manning won his
second NFL championship in a four-year span - and second Super Bowl MVP award - for coolly, calmly steering the New York Giants to a
21-17 victory over the New England Patriots with a last-minute
"We've had a bunch of them this year. We've had some
fourth-quarter comebacks," said Manning, 30 for 40 for 296 yards,
with one touchdown pass and zero interceptions. "We'd been in
those situations, and we knew that we had no more time left. We had
to go down and score, and guys stepped up and made great plays."
Led, as usual, by Manning himself.
He opened the game by becoming the first quarterback to complete
his first nine attempts in a Super Bowl. And he finished the job by
directing the nine-play, 88-yard TD drive that put New York ahead
with 57 seconds left.
"That was quite a drive that he was able to put together,"
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "He deserves all the credit in the
world, because he really has put his team on his shoulders all
This late drive, so reminiscent of the way New York beat New
England in the 2008 Super Bowl with Manning as MVP, started on the
Giants' 12, with a little more than 3½ minutes left and the Patriots ahead 17-15. It closed with running back Ahmad Bradshaw easing into the end zone from 6 yards out. The Patriots decided not to contest the run, trying to save some time on the clock for a final drive - a risky and desperate decision by Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
But New England couldn't get the ball back in the end zone, with
Tom Brady's final heave from his 49 falling barely beyond the grasp
of tight end Rob Gronkowski.
"We had this goal to finish, finish, finish," Coughlin said,
"and win the fourth quarter."
That's precisely when Manning takes over.
In the regular season, he threw an NFL-record 15 TD passes in
the final period.
He also led six game-winning drives to bring New York back from
"He's become confident over time; kind of grew into it,"
Manning's father, former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie,
told The Associated Press after Sunday's game. "I always felt like
you have to experience those situations before you become
confident. He's certainly had his share."
That's true. Manning's even done it before in the Super Bowl.
Four years ago, he took home his first MVP award after a scoring
pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left allowed New York to
upset Brady and New England, ruining the Patriots' bid for a
perfect season. Back then, Manning got a boost from David Tyree's
Velcro-helmet grab on the go-ahead drive. This time, the key play
was Mario Manningham's 38-yard, over-the-shoulder catch between two defenders along the sideline, which held up after the Patriots
The Giants had trouble putting up points Sunday despite getting
into New England's territory on every drive except a kneeldown at
the end of the first half.
But Manning kept at it, using eight receivers, led by Hakeem
Nicks' 10 catches for 109 yards.
"We just tried to be patient," said Manningham, who finished
with five receptions for 73 yards. "Got to be patient with this
game. We knew big plays (were) going to come. We just had to take
advantage of them."
Manning now is one of only five players in NFL history with
multiple Super Bowl MVP awards. He joined the guy he got the better
of in the big game yet again, Brady, along with Terry Bradshaw,
Bart Starr and Joe Montana (the only player with three). And
Manning did it in the House that Peyton Built, the stadium where
his Big Bro - a four-time regular-season MVP but owner of only one
Super Bowl title - plays for the Indianapolis Colts.
"It just feels good to win a Super Bowl. Doesn't matter where
you are," said Manning, 10 for 14 for 118 yards in Sunday's fourth
As he spoke, he clutched the silver Vince Lombardi Trophy.
"Certainly, Eli has had a very good season," acknowledged
Brady, 27 of 41 for 276 yards, with two TDs and one interception.
He completed 16 consecutive passes in one stretch, breaking Joe
Montana's Super Bowl record of 13. "He made some great throws
there in the fourth quarter."
The biggest turnaround of all this season for Manning was the
way he brought the Giants back from a 1-5 slump that left them 7-7
and in serious danger of missing the playoffs. But from there, he
took them on a season-closing, six-game winning streak.
He finished the postseason with nine TDs and only one
interception, solid as could be the whole way.
"I never doubt Eli," Giants safety Kenny Phillips said. "I
don't think anyone on this team doubts Eli."
There were, however, some doubters outside the organization,
those who wondered aloud what Manning was thinking back in August, before the season got going, when he was honest when asked in an interview whether he considered himself an "elite" quarterback a la Brady.
Manning said simply that he belonged "in that class." But it
all became quite a big deal in New York - shocking, right? - and he
was questioned and criticized for the way he seemed to be
Hard to imagine anyone arguing now.