The New York Giants capped their season of comebacks with one final highlight, scoring a last-minute touchdown to beat the New England Patriots 21-17 for their fourth Super Bowl title and second in five seasons.
Ahmad Bradshaw had a 6-yard touchdown run with 57 seconds left for the Giants in the National Football League’s championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Eli Manning passed for 296 yards, one touchdown and engineered his seventh fourth-quarter comeback of the season in being named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player for the second time.
The Giants, who were 7-7 and in danger of missing the playoffs less than two months ago, scored the game’s final 12 points to erase a 17-9 deficit. They finish this season with a 13-7 record -- the most losses for a Super Bowl champion -- and their victory concludes an NFL season that was threatened by a labor dispute before setting television ratings records.
“It’s been a wild game, a wild season, but we have a great bunch of guys who never quit and have great faith in each other,” Manning, 31, said as he received the championship trophy.
The Patriots’ 10-game winning streak ended as they were denied a fourth Super Bowl title during the tenure of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. New England (15-4) reached midfield on the final drive before Brady’s final pass fell incomplete in the end zone as time expired.
“It always comes down to one or two plays in this game,” Brady said. “If you make it you’re celebrating. If you don’t, you don’t sleep for a week.”
The Giants’ victory was reminiscent of their Super Bowl upset of the Patriots after the 2007 season, when Manning threw the winning touchdown pass with 35 seconds left to deny New England a 19-0 season.
Both games featured an improbable catch in the closing minutes. Four years ago it was David Tyree’s third-down grab against his helmet and last night it was Mario Manningham hauling in a 38-yard catch along the sideline amid double coverage that sparked the winning drive.
“The longer you play you get in these situations and you have great confidence,” Manning, who completed 30 of 40 passes, said after engineering his fifth career fourth-quarter winning drive in the postseason. “You just have a desire and a will to get it done.”
In leading the Giants to a second Super Bowl upset of the Patriots, Manning joins Brady and Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers as the only active quarterbacks with multiple championships. He now has one more Super Bowl title than older brother Peyton, with this win coming in the city where Peyton has spent the past 14 years, winning four NFL MVP awards with the Colts.
Tom Coughlin becomes the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl at 65, and his second title matches the achievement of former Giants coach Bill Parcells. Coughlin is the 13th NFL coach with at least two Super Bowl wins and seven are in the Hall of Fame.
“What I was interested in was this team making history for themselves, not to be compared any further with the ‘07-’08 team,” Coughlin said. “We’re very proud of the ‘07-’08 team, but for these guys there are so many newcomers, so many veteran guys that had never been in a Super Bowl, that this was a wonderful thing to carve their own history.”
New York, which also won Super Bowl titles after 1986 and 1990 seasons, was a three-point underdog against the Patriots.
The Giants are the first team to win the Super Bowl after having a four-game losing streak during the regular season. New York lost five of six games in one stretch to fall to 7-7, leaving them with a 28 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to oddsmakers.
Six Straight Wins
The Giants then beat the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys to finish the regular season and become the first team to win the National Football Conference’s East division title with fewer than 10 wins.
New York followed with playoff wins over the Atlanta Falcons, the 15-1 Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers to set up a Super Bowl rematch with the Patriots.
The Giants’ resolve was on display one last time last night in Indianapolis, said defensive tackle Justin Tuck, who had two sacks against Brady.
“I don’t think I could have wrote a better script than this one,” Tuck told reporters. “We’ve talked about it all year, and it’s just fitting that it came down to a final drive by Eli and a closing out by our defense.”
Tuck helped the Giants take a 2-0 first-quarter lead when his pressure led to a safety, with Brady getting flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone on New England’s first offensive play. It was the sixth safety in Super Bowl history and the first since 2009.
New York pushed its lead to 9-0 with 3:29 left in the opening quarter as Victor Cruz made a juggling grab on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Manning. Calls of “Cruz” echoed through the stadium as the wide receiver, who led the Giants with 1,536 receiving yards this season, popped to his feet and did a short celebratory salsa dance.
The Patriots pulled within 9-3 on a 29-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with 13:52 left in the second quarter. New England ended the half with a 96-yard drive that matched the longest in Super Bowl history. Brady completed all 10 of his passes on the drive, including a 4-yarder to Danny Woodhead, who scored his first receiving touchdown of the season.
New England extended its lead to 17-9 as Brady, who set a Super Bowl record by completing 16 consecutive passes, threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez on the opening drive of the second half.
The Giants responded with field goals of 38 and 33 yards by Lawrence Tynes, pulling within 17-15 entering the final quarter.
Manning to Manningham
With 3:46 remaining, Manning lofted a deep pass along the sideline to Manningham, who just got his feet in bounds for a 38-yard completion, the longest play of the game. Coughlin said it was a catch that will earn a spot alongside Tyree’s Super Bowl grab in Giants’ lore.
“The way he kept his feet in bounds and hung on to the ball was a remarkable thing,” Coughlin said. “Of course David’s is forever etched in history, that’s never going to change. This just continues along that fashion.”
The Giants got to the Patriots’ 6-yard line with under a minute left, when Bradshaw burst up the middle and tried to stop just before the goal line. His momentum carried him over the line backwards, preventing the Giants from running the remaining time off the clock and trying a short field goal as time expired. The score gave the ball back to the Patriots.
First Loss Since November
New England hadn’t lost since Week 9, when it was beaten at home by the Giants 24-20.
The Patriots, who won Super Bowl titles after the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons, have now lost their past two appearances in the championship game.
The five Super Bowl appearances for Belichick and Brady are the most for a coach-quarterback combination. The duo had previously been tied with Hall of Famers Tom Landry and Roger Staubach of Dallas, Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw of Pittsburgh, and Marv Levy and Jim Kelly of Buffalo. Brady’s five Super Bowl starts tied John Elway for the most by a quarterback.
“We just didn’t make enough plays,” said 2002 and 2004 MVP Brady, who completed 27 of 41 passes for 276 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. “Eli has had a great season and he made some great throws in the fourth quarter and they deserved to win.”
One month before the opening week of the regular season, the NFL and its players completed a 10-year labor agreement that ended a 4 1/2-month lockout and allowed the U.S.’s richest and most popular sports league to reopen for business.
The league’s popularity was evident during the postseason, when ratings for playoff games reached historic levels. An average of 53.7 million viewers watched this year’s conference title games, the most since 1982, the NFL said.
The Super Bowl was projected to be the most-watched program in U.S. television history, according to industry analysts, surpassing the record 111 million viewers for last year’s game between the Packers and Steelers.
“I thought four years ago was exciting; that was a dress rehearsal,” Giants co-owner Steve Tisch said during the post-game celebration. “This was one of the greatest football games I’ve ever seen.”