The imperfect ending

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Nobody's perfect, that much we now know.

The New England Patriots learned it the hard way last night with body blows, shots to the chin and just about everywhere else the New York Giants came hitting.

And when they picked themselves up after a punishing night on the green grass of University of Phoenix Stadium, it wasn't pretty.

As the strains of Frank Sinatra's New York, New York pounded through the loudspeakers, New England's bid for an unprecedented 19-0 season came to a stunning, smashing halt.

Doing the bashing were the underdog New York Giants, who shocked the world with an upset 17-14 win that, while never pretty, will be remembered for the losers as much as for the winners.

"There's no team that's unbeatable," Giants receiver Amani Toomer said. "(The Patriots) didn't get to 19 so all that talk is just talk now. It doesn't matter."

Once beleaguered Giants quarterback Eli Manning will now be remembered as a hero, especially in the Big Apple, where he is the fuzzy-cheeked toast of the town.

When Manning found receiver Plaxico Burress alone in the end zone on a 13-yard toss with 35 seconds remaining, it iced as dramatic a conclusion imaginable.

How sweet it was for Burress, who was ridiculed earlier in the week for predicting a Giants win.

Showing the poise his older brother Peyton displayed in leading the Indianapolis Colts to a title a year ago, Eli put together a game-winning drive for the ages.

And as thick as it was in drama, the implications were even more profound.

The winning score not only secured the upset, but also altered the course of NFL history. It denied the heavily favoured Pats a spot alongside the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the NFL's only undefeated champions.

The upset that seemed possible for so much of the night seemed all but dead when the Patriots went ahead on a six-yard Tom Brady to Randy Moss touchdown pass with 2:42 remaining.

But Manning, who outplayed his more famous counterpart for much of the contest, was calm, cool and up to the task.

He confidently marched the Giants downfield with a methodical series of plays.

First, there was the play of the game, a 32-yard pass to receiver David Tyree on third down to keep the drive alive. Not only did Manning miraculously elude the grasp of two Patriots defenders, Tyree somehow hauled it in from double coverage.

On the next play, Burress made a clever move to undress Patriots defensive back Ellis Hobbs, and all Manning had to do was finish off the easiest, yet most dramatic, pass of his young career.

"We believed in ourselves all year," said Manning, who followed Peyton's lead by being named MVP. "That's the position you want to be in, to have the ball in your hands with a chance to win the game."

While Manning was impressive, the game was won by a ferocious Giants defence, which punished Patriots superstar Brady into submission.

"We took the best offence in the league and made them look mediocre," Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said. "We knew we had a quarterback that loves to throw the football and we came out to hit him."

Brady, who set a single-season record by throwing 50 touchdown passes, had none until the connection with Moss late in the game.

The warts and pimples certainly popped up in the most unlikely places for a Patriots team that had previously done such an efficient job of masking its blemishes.

And the most unlikely of all was Brady's miserable outing.

Harassed all night by the ferocious Giants defensive front, the regular-season MVP was sacked five times and gave up a fumble.

But even when he was given ample protection, Brady was not himself, throwing off target and missing receivers who were wide open.

"They didn't feel like an undefeated team," said Tyree, who scored the Giants' first touchdown, a five-yard catch early in the fourth quarter to give the Giants a 10-7 lead.

"There was no Godzilla factor. They bleed just like we bleed and we weren't intimidated by them."

Instead, they took matters into their own hands and played David to Goliath.

Yes, on this rugged night of football, it was the New Yorkers who will forever be remembered as giant killers.


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