Can the Super Bowl get any better?
This year’s edition played up to all of the hype with both teams’ defenses showing up when they had to … and the offenses making just enough plays to send the game right down to the last play.
But it was the New York Giants who held the Super Bowl XLVI Lombardi Trophy aloft after Tom Brady’s last-second heave into the end zone fell harmlessly to the Lucas Oil Stadium turf just beyond the outstretched arms of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
In a game filled with huge plays, it was Mario Manninham’s sideline-tip-toeing catch on the Giants final offensive drive of the game that was the Patriot-killer. On first down from inside their own 10-yard line, Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning lofted a sideline pass to Manningham who was triple-c0vered but somehow caught the pass that set the Giants up at the 50-yard line on their way to a final touchdown that gave them a 21-17 win.
From there, the Giants moved the ball down the field to a first and goal. Despite running back Ahmad Bradshaw’s attempt to sit down at the one yard line failed, he fell into the end zone with just under one minute left, which unwisely gave Tom Brady and the Patriots time to take the ball down for the winning score.
The attempt by Brady at the end was valiant, but fell short when his Hail Mary fell incomplete.
When the Giants jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first quarter on the arm of Eli Manning and the unusual safety caused by Tom Brady’s heave to nobody down the middle of the field it looked like it could be a runaway Giants train.
Not to be … not with Tom Brady on the field.
Starting at his own four yard line – then being pushed back to the two yard line on a penalty – Brady manufactured a 98-yard drive at the end of the first half to take a 10-9 halftime lead. Ironically, it was the Giants that had dominated the game up to that point, only to fall behind because of Brady.
In the second half, the defenses again dominated the field as Brady and Manning were both harassed and field position came to the forefront.
Heading into the fourth quarter nursing a 17-15 lead, Brady started with the ball inside his own 10 when he hit Danny Woodhead on a huge third down play for a first down as the clock wound down under eight minutes.
Wes Welker took an end around for 11 yards to move the ball to the 46 yard line which was followed by a run for 1 yard on first down, and a pass for six to Gronkowski. On third and three, Brady hit Aaron Herndandez for a first down to extend the drive with under five minutes left.
With the Patriots attempting to milk the play clock, Chris Canty stuffed the run on first down for a loss of one. On second downBrady missed a wide open Welker down the left seam and then on third down and 11 Brady, with all kinds of time, threw incomplete to Deon Branch to force a punt that was fair caught by Will Blackmon at the 13 yard line.
That’s when Manning and the Giants took the field with 3:46 left … and on the first play of their possession, Manning hit Manningham for 38 yards that was challenged by Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick. The replay showed Manningham taking the hit, but maintaining control of the ball and getting both feet down before being pushed out of bounds.
With 3:38 left, Manning threw incomplete on first down from the 50, but on second and 10, he hit Manningham again down to the 34 yard line for another first down.
With the ball within field goal range, Manning threw complete for two yards on first down, and then hit Hakeem Nicks on a quick slant down to the 18 as the clock wound down to the two-minute warning.
A big run for nine by Ahmad Bradshaw and a first down pass to Hakeem Nicks set the Giants up inside the 10-yard line with a first and goal.
The Patriots then let Bradshaw run through a huge hole up the middle for the score, but just as he got to the one yard line Bradshaw attempted to sit down without scoring, but couldn’t and fell into the end zone with 57 seconds left in the game.
The Giants two point attempt failed and they held what was to be their game-winning four point lead
Brady did all he could with the clock inside one minute. His first down pass to a wide open Branch was tipped and the receiver couldn’t hang on. On second down, Hernandez just couldn’t hang on to a Brady pass to set up third down when Justin Tuck rushed up the middle for a huge sack on Brady.
The Patriots face fourth and 16 with no timeouts.
Brady, escaping the Giants fierce rush threw 18 yards to Branch who was able to get out of bounds for the first down.
Another first down pass we t to Hernandez to the 44 and a penalty on the Giants for 12 men on the field moved the ball to midfield.
However, there were only nine seconds left and when Brady threw incomplete to Branch there were just five seconds left.
On the last play of the game, Brady again avoided the rush and got of the Hail Mary pass that was tipped and nearly caught by Gronkowki. After the ball hit the turf, the Giants’ celebration began.