Eli Manning is the big man in the NFL after one-upping Tom Brady and leading the New York Giants to a 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in Sunday's Super Bowl — in older brother Peyton's house, at that.
Just as Manning did four years ago when the Giants ruined New England's perfect season, he guided them 88 yards to the decisive touchdown, which the Patriots didn't contest as Ahmad Bradshaw ran 6 yards with 57 seconds left.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick reasoned the Giants would run the clock down and kick a short field goal, so he gambled by allowing the six points.
The gamble failed.
And now Manning not only has stamped himself as the elite quarterback he claimed to be when the season began — in the same class as Brady — he's beaten the Patriots in two thrilling Super Bowls. The Giants (13-7), who stood 7-7 in mid-December, now own the football world, and Manning owns two Super Bowl MVP awards, the same number as Brady.
"It's been a wild game, a wild season," Manning said. "This isn't about one person. It's about one team, a team coming together."
Manning led six comeback victories during the season and set an NFL record with 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes. He showed that brilliance in the clutch on the winning drive. He completed five passes, including a sensational 38-yard sideline catch by Mario Manningham to open the drive.
On second down at the Patriots 6 and with only one timeout remaining, Belichick had his defense stand up as Bradshaw took the handoff. Bradshaw thought about stopping short of the end zone, then tumbled in untouched.
"I was yelling to him, 'Don't score, don't score,'" Manning said. "He tried to stop, but he fell into the end zone."
Brady couldn't answer in the final 57 seconds, although his desperation pass into the end zone on the final play fell just beyond the grasp of All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski. New England (15-4), winner of 10 straight since a loss to the Giants in November, was done.
Brady headed off with his head bowed, holding his helmet, while around him was the wild celebration by the Giants, NFL champions for the eighth — and perhaps most unlikely — time.
"Great toughness, great faith, and great plays by a number of guys today," Manning said, deflecting some of the attention. Still, he one-upped Brady. And Peyton.
"It just feels good to win a Super Bowl, it doesn't matter where you are," Manning said.
It was the fifth trip to a Super Bowl for Brady and Belichick, tying the record. And it looked like a successful one when they stormed back from a 9-0 deficit and led 17-9 in the third quarter. But the Giants, who reached New England territory on every possession except a kneeldown at the end of the first half, got field goals of 38 and 33 yards from Lawrence Tynes. And it looked like Tynes, who kicked them into the Super Bowl four years ago at Green Bay and again this year at San Francisco, both in overtime, would get called on again.
Then Belichick, known to try just about anything in a game, took a risk that didn't pay off.
The Giants are the first Super Bowl winner that was outscored during the regular season. They were 6-2 after that 24-20 victory at New England, then lost four straight and five of six.
"What I was concerned with was these guys making their own history," Coughlin said. "This is such a wonderful thing, these guys carving their own history."