INDIANAPOLIS - Eli Manning no longer has to take a back seat to anyone.
Not Tom Brady and not even big brother Peyton.
Thanks to a winning script that keeps breaking hearts in New England, Eli led his team to yet another thrilling come-from-behind 21-17 victory over Brady and the New England Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI.
Beating the Brady Bunch is becoming old hat to Manning and the Giants as the win was their second this season over New England and echoed their Super Bowl triumph over the Patriots in February of 2008.
Manning completed his trifecta win over the Pats using the same script — leading his team to a comeback win in the final minutes of the game.
“We’ve won so many games like this, at the end of the game, the fourth quarter” Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said of their fourth-quarter miracles. “We talk about finishing all the time. We talk about winning the fourth quarter, being the stronger team, making the plays in the fourth quarter and it happened again tonight.”
The Giants trailed 17-15 with 3:46 to play when Manning took over at his own 12-yard line.
All game long he had used short pass plays but on first down he fired deep up the sidelines to Mario Manningham and connected for a 32-yard strike to put the ball at midfield.
Three completions later, Manning had the Giants at the 18-yard line with 2:00 left in the game. With 57 seconds on the clock, Ahmad Bradshaw scored on a six-yard run but the two-point conversion failed giving the Giants a 21-17 lead.
Bradshaw attempted to stop on the one and not score the TD when the Pats defence relaxed and conceded the touchdown but his momentum carried him through.
Brady got the ball back needing a touchdown with 57 seconds left in the game. With five seconds left and at midfield, Brady threw a ‘Hail Mary’ pass into the end zone but it fell incomplete sealing the Giants’ win.
It was another bitter loss for the Patriots and Brady, who was good on 27 of 41 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns. But against the magic of Manning, it wasn’t enough.
“First of all, congratulations to the Giants,” New England coach Bill Belichick said. “They won a championship, they’re a good football team and they were well coached. They obviously played well tonight.
“But the way our guys played, fought all year, fought tonight and we had our chances. We just couldn’t quite make enough plays.”
But Manning could and on the night he completed 30 of 40 passes for 296 yards and one touchdown and earned his second Super Bowl MVP Award.
It’s hard to believe that at the start of this season, Manning was mocked and ridiculed for suggesting he should be considered among the elite quarterbacks in the league.
Nobody disputes that now.
With the win at Lucas Oil Stadium, Manning gained his second Super Bowl ring which is one more than older brother Peyton who was in attendance in what is known as the House That Peyton Built.
The victory put the exclamation point on a season that saw the Giants go through a four-game losing streak then rally to win their final two games of the season to enable them to make the playoffs. They followed up those wins over the Jets and the Cowboys with playoff victories against Atlanta, Green Bay and San Francisco and now stand as the Super Bowl champs.
A year ago Manning was coming off a season where he threw 25 interceptions and there were whispers that perhaps he wasn’t the top-notch quarterback that went with being part of the Manning legacy.
But this season he showed increased poise, leadership and toughness and earned the respect of his teammates by his play down the stretch and through the playoffs.
In the first half New York jumped to a surprising 9-0 lead thanks to a dominating opening quarter that featured the Giants receiving a safety on New England’s first offensive play of the game.
The Patriots and Brady, however, kept their poise and on their next possession they moved from their own 29-yard line to the Giants 11 from where they booted a 29-yard field goal in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
The Patriots defence also came to life and thanks to some key penalties they prevented the Giants from moving inside the Patriots 45 on their next two possessions.
With 4:03 left in the half and pinned back on his own four-yard line, Brady then did his thing as he connected on a series of short passes, used the clock masterfully, and with eight seconds remaining, he connected on a four-yard TD toss to running back Danny Woodhead. The convert gave New England its first lead with Madonna preparing to go on stage for the half time show.
As for the debate about where he stands among today’s top quarterbacks, Manning wants no part of the discussion. “You don’t think about that as a player,” he said earlier this week. “You try to keep your mind focused on what style of football it’s going to take to win this game.
“I’m not worried about my legacy. I’m worried about winning a championship for the New York Giants.”
On Sunday he cemented both.