Eli Manning and the New York Giants continued their magical run with a 21-17 victory in Super Bowl XLVI, an epic clash that had all of the drama of their Super Bowl victory four years ago.
Manning, whose fourth-quarter magic beat the Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl and carried the Giants this season, led New York on a 90-yard drive late in the fourth quarter, giving the Giants a 21-17 lead over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI with just under a minute left.
Earlier, it felt all too familiar when Manning trotted onto the field with 3:46 left in the fourth quarter and the Giants down 17-15 to the Patriots.
And it felt even more familiar when Tom Brady's last pass fell incomplete and the confetti started raining down on the Super Bowl champion Giants. All in all, the final scene felt a lot like the one in Glendale, Ariz., especially when it came to Manning.
Eli completed his first nine passes to get the Giants off to a 9-0 lead and then he hit on five of his last six to get the score that made him a two-time Super Bowl champion. The first of those five was one that hearkened back to 2008.
Mario Manningham kept his feet in bounds while making a spectacular 38-yard catch down the left sideline on the first play of the drive. It wasn't quite David Tyree, but it got the job done just fine.
Things got really strange at that point. On second-and-goal from the 6, Ahmad Bradshaw ran through a Patriots defense that was obviously content to let him score to give Brady a chance to win the game and seemed to realize he should go down at the 1 to eat as much clock as possible.
Bradshaw wound up doing a pirouette into the end zone, though, and that left Brady with 57 seconds to reverse a 21-17 score into his team's direction. But, just as in 2008, there would be no comeback.
Brady was able to move the ball to midfield, but his Hail Mary try fell incomplete and the Giants were champions once again.
Manning finished the game 30-40 for 296 yards and a touchdown in a performance that put the perfect cap on his best NFL season. The game never quite turned into a duel between him and Brady; while both men had plenty of strong moments, the defenses went overboard on taking away big plays all night and both men had to adjust their game to shorter stuff.
Despite dominating the entire first half, the Giants wound up down 10-9 at the half because the defense totally broke down in the final four minutes when they allowed the Patriots to move the ball 96 yards on 14 plays before Brady hit Danny Woodhead for a touchdown. New England's hurry-up seemed to cause the Giants problems in coverage as linebackers were asked to do too much, leading to 10 completions in 10 tries for Brady, and Perry Fewell made an odd call on the touchdown play when he rushed just three while dropping Jason Pierre-Paul into coverage.
That drive was partially set up by a holding penalty against left guard Kevin Boothe on a third-and-one run play that saw Brandon Jacobs pick up the first down. The call looked borderline (sorry for the Madonna pun), especially since holding penalties have been virtually nonexistent in the playoffs to this point.
Some Giants fans will likely see a vast conspiracy at work against their beloved team, but it is important to note that luck works both ways. The first Giants touchdown to Victor Cruz wouldn't have been possible if not for a 12-men-on-the-field penalty against New England that nullified a Cruz fumble.
That defensive breakdown at the end of the half was a big change from what we'd seen in the first 25 or so minutes. Starting from the first play, when Justin Tuck pressured Brady into throwing the ball away from the end zone for intentional grounding and a safety, the Giants defense had held the Patriots in check and made plays to get off the field without much damage being done.
But the Patriots found a way in the final minutes and then turned on the jets to start the second half. Despite getting little from injured star tight end Rob Gronkowski, Brady went on to complete 16 straight passes to set a Super Bowl record and lead the Patriots to another touchdown.
For two straight weeks we heard endless yapping from the Giants defensive line that they would rattle Brady and that he would be scared of a phantom rush because the defense was just that scary. They turned out to be right about a phantom pass rush -- the Giants defense never got consistent pressure on Brady -- but wrong about how scared the Patriots quarterback would be when it appeared because he was slick as could be under no actual pressure on those two drives.
But the defense returned to life after that. Their biggest moment came when Chase Blackburn made an interception on a deep pass by Brady after he sidestepped the pass rush to throw a ball deep to Gronkowski.
Blackburn's play looked a little like the Tyree catch, actually, and that might have been a sight of things to come. The defense got a little help in their effort when Wes Welker dropped a pass that would have forestalled Manning's last chance at glory, but the effort returned after two drives that looked a lot like the Giants of the first 14 games of the season and they held the Patriots scoreless from that point forward.
Those holds gave Manning his chance and he took full advantage of it. He made every throw that he needed to make to get his team down the field and ruin the hopes of the Patriots for the second time in five years.
You can say that twice.