The Giants had the perfect answer for the suddenly imperfect Patriots: a big, bad defense and an improbable comeback led by their own Mr. Cool quarterback, Eli Manning.
In one of football’s biggest shockers, New York shattered New England’s unbeaten season as Manning hit Plaxico Burress on a 13-yard fade with 35 seconds left in the Super Bowl. Sunday’s 17-14 win was the Giants’ 11th straight on the road, and the first time the Patriots tasted defeat in more than a year.
It was the most bitter of losses, too, because New England (18-1) was one play from winning, but its defense couldn’t stop a 12-play, 83-yard drive that featured a spectacular leaping catch by David Tyree, who scored New York’s first touchdown.
Tom Brady, the league’s Most Valuable Player and winner of his first three Super Bowls, was battered all game. He was sacked five times, hurried a dozen more, and at one point wound up on his knees, his hands on his hips following one of many poor throws.
Hardly a familiar position for the record-setting quarterback. And a totally strange outcome for a team that seemed destined for historic glory.
Oddly, it was a loss to the Patriots that sparked New York’s stunning run to its third Super Bowl and sixth NFL title. New England won 38-35 in Week 17 as the Patriots became the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins to go spotless through the regular season. But by playing hard in a meaningless game for them, the Giants gained something of a swagger.
Their growing confidence carried them through playoff victories at Tampa, Dallas and Green Bay, and then past the mightiest opponent of all.