]()A world championship was at stake for both teams this Super Bowl Sunday but for the New England Patriots, a win would bring the perfect season. Instead, the New York Giants played the perfect game and when the chips were down, it was Eli Manning, not Tom Brady, leading his team to victory.
Down 14-10 with under three minutes left to play, Manning led the Giants to a game-winning drive with a 13-yard pass to Plaxico Burress in the left corner of the end zone. The Patriots had just regained the lead at 14-10 but this time the Patriots defense could not come up with the play it needed to stop the Giants. As a result. the Giants pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.
A relentless New York pass rush made things difficult for Brady throughout. That was the story as the Patriots offense was unable to get in any kind of rhythm until late in the game. Brady was sacked five times and finished 29 of 48 for 266 yards and a touchdown. His counterpart, Manning, was 19 of 34 for 255 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He was, without a doubt, the game MVP.
It's going to be a long offseason for the Patriots and their fans.
A lengthy first drive by the Giants resulted in each team touching the ball only once in the first quarter.
]()The Giants took the opening kickoff and an early 3-0 lead with a 16-play, 10 minute drive. Manning converted four of five third down situations but on third and 11 from the 18 his pass to Steve Smith gained only 4 yards and Lawrence Tynes was good on a 32-yard field goal. On the drive New England's Randall Gay left the field supporting his left arm after colliding with Rodney Harrison on one of Manning's third down conversions.
A 43-yard kickoff return by Laurence Maroney set the New England offense up at its own 44 to start the ensuing drive. Maroney then knocked off a 9-yard run on second down and earned a first down with a 5-yard run. Welker picked up another first down with an 8-yard catch on third and 3 from the Giants 35. The big play was a 16-yard pass interference call on Antonio Pierce as he tackled Ben Watson in the end zone on a pass from Brady down the middle. The two teams changed ends to start the second half and on second down from the 1, Maroney banged it in for the game's first touchdown behind right guard.
A little bit of justice came the Patriots way on the Giants next possession.
On third and 7, Manning looked deep to Amani Toomer and connected for 38 yards. On replay, however, it was clear that Toomer pushed off on Ellis Hobbs to gain separation on the sideline catch. Four plays later on third and 5 from the Patriots 14, Manning saw his pass bounce off Steve Smith and into the victimized Hobbs' hands. Hobbs returned the interception to his 33 and New England had the ball back.
The turnover did nothing more than stop the Giants drive as the New York defense held the Patriots to three plays. On third and 2, Maroney couldn't gain the corner and Chris Hanson came on to punt.
The Patriots nearly got the ball right back. After a 3-yard sack of Manning by Jarvis Green on first down, Bradshaw fumbled on second and it looked like Pierre Woods for the Patriots had the recovery. Somehow, Bradshaw got the ball back in the pile and the Giants maintained possession but wound up punting after Manning's third and 16 pass went incomplete.
Next it was the Patriots offense faltering again. Kawika Mitchell sacked Brady for 7 yards and then it was Justin Tuck with another 7-yard sack bringing up fourth and 24. New England punted and the Giants had the ball back on their 43-yard line.
Things got wacky on the Giants next drive. After advancing from their own 43 to the Patriots 25, Adalius Thomas beat his man around the right side and sacked Manning for 5 yards, jarring the ball loose in the process. The ball rolled downfield and Smith of New York recovered at a spot beyond the 4 yards needed for a first down. But the refs claimed Bradshaw kicked the ball forward and instead of a first down, New York now faced a third and 18 with the penalty mark-off. Manning went incomplete and the Giants punted.
Unlike the first quarter where both teams only had the ball once, each offense now had three cracks at it in the second quarter with 1:47 left in the half.
]()New England took over on their 11 after the punt and barely avoided having to punt back to New York with plenty of time left on the clock.
With heavy heat on him, Brady could only heave the ball downfield on first down, where it fell well short of a streaking Randy Moss. On second down Maroney had nowhere to run and was dropped for a 3-yard loss. That created a third and 13 from the 8. Brady looked to Donte Stallworth and connected with him while Welker laid out Stallworth's defender. Stallworth ran to daylight for 18 yards.
Things were looking good for the Patriots to at least add three points to their lead before the half after Moss caught his first pass of the game, an 18-yarder down to the Giants 44. But the Giants pressure on Brady continued. Tuck again sacked Brady on the next play, the third Giants sack of the half, and this time Brady fumbled. Osi Umenyiora recovered at his 49 with 10 seconds left.
New York ran two plays, gained nothing and the half ended with an unlikely 7-3 score. Credit the Giants defense for holding the mighty Patriots offense to a measly 81 yards and only 10:33 of possession time during it.
Despite running off 14 plays to start the second half, New England came up empty. The Patriots started at their 21 and moved the ball to the Giants 47 where it looked like Faulk's 3-yard catch would be short of the sticks on third and 5. But a TV timeout saved New England as Bill Belichick had time to get the word that the Giants had 12 men on the field. A review confirmed it and the penalty gave the Patriots a first down.
Four plays later Kevin Faulk put a beautiful move on Michael Johnson to pick up 14 yards on third and 13. Faulk's play went for naught as Michael Strahan picked up his team's fourth sack of the game with a 6-yard tackle to bring up fourth and 13 at the Giants 31. Rather than attempt a 48-yard indoor field goal, the Patriots elected to go for it but Brady had nowhere to throw but out of the end zone in the face of the Giants defense.
The frustration for the Patriots offense continued as the the fourth quarter began with a Patriots punt from the Giants 45. Even an amazing catch by Welker on a ball thrown behind him that he turned his body in the air and snatched with two hands for 16 yards wasn't enough to give New England's offense the momentum they need to score points. Two false start penalties on the drive, one by Ben Watson and another by Matt Light, countered Welker's play. Add the Giants pass rush that limited the Patriots to quick drops and short throws for the most part, and New York was keeping the game close.
Meanwhile, the Patriots defense was playing the Giants run well with Brandon Jacobs only gaining 3.2 yards a carry.
So on the Giants first drive of the fourth quarter, Manning came out throwing.
He hooked up with Kevin Boss slanting over the middle. Boss beat Rodney Harrison and was off for a 45-yard pick-up to the Patriots 35. Three plays later it was Smith over the middle for 17 yards to the 12. After a 7-yard run by Bradshaw, Manning found David Tyree for a 5-yard touchdown and 10-7 Giants lead with 11:05 to play.
The Patriots got the defensive stop they needed with a three and out stand but only barely. On second and 9 Manning escaped pressure and just overthrew Burress for what would have been big yardage. That brought up third and 9. Harrison tackled Toomer after only an 8-yard catch and the Giants punted.
Now with 7:54 left, the Patriots had it first and 10 at their 20 after the punt and just like that Brady and offense flipped the switch.
Welker for 5. Moss for 10 over the middle. Maroney around left end for 9. Welker twice more for 13 and 10 to the Giants 29. The machine was humming with Moss catching his fourth ball for 11 to the 18. Faulk scampered for 12 to the 6 and a first down with a slant.
First and goal from the 6. Moss lined up on the left, faked inside and ran an out. He had at least two steps on his man but Brady overthrew him. In a game like this chances like that had not come often. On second down Brady threw incomplete to a well-covered Welker bringing up third down.. This time Moss lined up on the right side against Corey Webster. Moss gained a slight edge and Webster inexplicably fell down. Brady was accurate and the Patriots had a 14-10 lead.
New York had 2:39 to work with after the kickoff, starting at its 17. On the first play Manning hit Toomer for 11 yards but threw incomplete on his next two attempts. Third and 10 from the 28 after the two-minute warning, Manning hit Toomer a yard short of the stick. The Giants naturally went for it on fourth down and Jacobs converted up the middle with a 2-yard dive.
The Giants were still in good shape time-wise but they needed a touchdown. Manning faced another third down three plays later and that's when he made perhaps the play of his life. With three Patriots all over him, he somehow got away and heaved the ball downfield to Tyree who leaped and came down with it at the Patriots 24-yard line with 59 seconds left to play.
The winning play was a 13-yard pass to Burress with Hobbs in coverage for the touchdown and the game. The Patriots did get the ball back but with only 29 seconds. A Jay Alford 10-yard sack finalized things and after two desperation throws by Brady, the game was over and with it, everything else.