In poetic fashion, the quarterback who said he was among the NFL’s elite in August on New York radio had an opportunity to prove himself right. With less than four minutes remaining in Super Bowl XLVI, trailing by two, Eli Manning drove the Giants down the field. Nine plays, 88 yards later, an Ahmad Bradshaw touchdown run lifted the Giants to a 21-17 edge and Manning’s second Lombardi Trophy.
Elite? I’d say so. Manning, in his second Super Bowl matchup against the Patriots, matched a season-high 87.5 percent of his passes for 296 yards and a touchdown, earning MVP honors for the second time. On the decisive drive, Manning completed five of six passes, including a 38-yard strike to Mario Manningham on the opening play that positioned the Giants at midfield. The pinpoint precision, in combination with Manningham’s athleticism, was reminiscent of the David Tyree catch four years ago.
The Patriots allowed Bradshaw to sneak into the end zone with 57 seconds left to allow Tom Brady and Co. one last comeback. Brady completed just two of seven attempts on the drive, including an incomplete Hail Mary lob from midfield to conclude the game. Brady finished the game with 276 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked twice but was under pressure on 14 of 43 dropbacks, including half of his dropbacks in the fourth quarterback and five times on his final drive.
The X-factors, you might ask: The usually sure-handed Wes Welker, who hauled in 122 passes this season, dropped a crucial pass on second-and-11 with just more than four minutes remaining. The pass would have positioned the Patriots in the red zone. Then there’s Rob Gronkowski. Playing through a high-ankle sprain, Gronk was on the field for 45 of the team’s 62 plays, his lowest percentage of the season. Gronk was targeted just three times and caught two passes for 26 yards, essentially a non-factor. And where was the Patriots’ vertical-passing game? Brady didn’t complete a pass more than 20 yards in five attempts. In an offense centered around a slot receiver in Welker and tight ends Aaron Herndandez and Gronkowski, you have to wonder if a big-play wideout is atop the Patriots’ offseason shopping list.
At 65 years of age, Tom Coughlin became the oldest head coach to win a Super Bowl title. Coughlin, who was an assistant alongside Bill Belichick on Bill Parcells’ staff in New York, is now 5-1 against The Hoodie and tied with his mentor with two titles. It’s the Giants’ eighth NFL championship dating back to 1925, and now own a 4-1 record in Super Bowls. For Manning, it’s substantiated evidence for that claim he made this summer that had NFL fans and personnel raising their eyebrows. Manning outplayed Brady for the second time on the biggest stage, and now must take a trip to the jewelry store to size a second ring.