It was a magnificent case of Deja Blue.
None one does fourth-quarter comebacks like Eli Manning and on Sunday he executed one for the ages on football's grandest stage, the Super Bowl – again. The drive gained momentum with a miracle catch by a Giants wide receiver – again. And the Giants scored the winning touchdown in the final minute of the game to defeat the New England Patriots – again.
Yes, history happily repeated itself for the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. Ahmad Bradshaw's scored on a six-yard run with 57 seconds remaining in the game and the defense withstood one final assault from Tom Brady as the Giants defeated the Patriots, 21-17, in Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Giants won their fourth Super Bowl and eighth championship in franchise history in a game that was eerily similar to their victory over the same opponent in Super Bowl XLII four years ago.
"The greatest feeling in professional sports is to win the Super Bowl," said Coughlin, who became the 13th coach in NFL history to win multiple Super Bowls.
"It just feels great," said Manning, who completed his first nine passes and 30 of 40 passes overall for 296 yards and a touchdown to win his second Pete Rozelle Trophy as the game's Most Valuable Player. "It was a great game with two great teams. We played to the very end. It was just a great effort on both sides."
From the first day of training camp in July, the Giants have listened to Coughlin recite the same mantra, one they followed perfectly in the Super Bowl.
"We had this goal to finish, finish, finish," Coughlin said, "and win the fourth quarter."
No one is better at that critical time than Manning. In the regular season, he threw an NFL-record 15 touchdown passes in the final quarter. On Sunday, he led the Giants from a fourth-quarter deficit to victory for the seventh time – plus one late tie - in the Giants' 20 games this season. He did it two weeks ago in the Giants' overtime victory in San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game. But this comeback was truly for the ages, an 88-yard, nine-play masterpiece that was completed in 2:49.
"That was quite a drive that he was able to put together," Coughlin said. "He deserves all the credit in the world, because he really has put his team on his shoulders all year."Two big fourth-quarter plays when the Patriots held a 17-15 lead helped set the stage for Manning's heroics. The first was linebacker Chase Blackburn's interception of a long Brady pass for Gronkowski at the Patriots' eight-yard line. The Giants eventually punted after holding the ball for almost five minutes, but Blackburn, who joined the team on Nov. 29, potentially prevented the Patriots from taking a larger lead.
The other play was actually one that wasn't made by the Patriots – the ball bouncing off the hands of a wide open Wes Welker on what would have been a long gain on second-and-11 with four minutes left. The Patriots punted two plays later, setting up the winning drive.
The Giants trailed by those two points when they took possession at their own 12-yard line with 3:46 remaining in the fourth quarter. On the first play of the drive, Manning threw deep down the left sideline to Mario Manningham, who caught the ball and somehow kept his feet inbounds before stepping out at the 50. New England Coach Bill Belichick challenged the play, not believing Manningham had stayed on the field. But replays and referee John Parry confirmed that he did.
The catch was as difficult and memorable as David Tyree's helmet grab four years ago.
"On the sideline they were going like this (gesturing a successful catch), so I knew I was in," Manningham said. "It was a perfect throw. They rolled into cover-two at the last minute and I saw the corner was acting like he was going to backpeddle, but he came up to play cover-two and I extended to the side a little bit and worked him outside. Eli just put the ball on the money. Great pass protection, great ball. I knew where I was on the sideline. I knew I didn't have that much room. Good thing I wear (shoe size) 11s, because if I wore 11.5s, I don't think I'd have been in."
"That put us over the top," said Hakeem Nicks, who caught 10 passes for 109 yards. "It was clutch and we made it at the right time."
Manningham was just getting warmed up; on the next two plays he had receptions of 16 and two yards, putting the ball at the 34. Manning then connected with Nicks on the left side for 14 yards and a first down at the 18 at the two-minute warning.
When play resumed, Bradshaw ran for seven yards and Nicks caught a four-yard pass to give the Giants a first-and-goal at the seven. After Bradshaw ran for a yard, Bill Belichick called timeout. With the Giants in position to run down the clock and kick a short game-winning field goal, the New England coach gave his defense an unusual order – let the Giants score.
When Bradshaw took a handoff from Manning, the Patriots stepped aside and allowed him to waltz in. Bradshaw almost crossed up the strategy by pulling up just shy of the end zone. He turned around, but couldn't prevent himself from crossing the goal line rear end first.
"I was yelling to him, 'Don't score, don't score,' Manning said. "He tried to stop, but he fell into the end zone."
This s the second time Manning has torched the Patriots with a late fourth-quarter drive in the Super Bowl – and he also did in a victory at New England on Nov. 6. Four years ago, the Giants took possession with 2:39 remaining and Manning led an 83-yard, 12-play drive that culminated with his game-winning 13-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds remaining.
The Giants were not free and clear after Bradshaw's touchdown, not with Tom Brady at quarterback. Brady had earlier set a Super Bowl record by completing 16 consecutive passes. Justin Tuck's second sack left the Pats staring at a fourth-and-16 from their own 14. Brady responded by completing a 19-yard pass to Deion Branch with 32 seconds left. New England got as far the 49 before Brady's desperation heave fell to the ground, just out of the reach of a diving Rob Gronkowski.
"I don't think I could have written a better script than this one," Tuck said. "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."
"It's unbelievable," tackle Kareem McKenzie said. "To go ahead and win one Super Bowl, it was like I was in a dream world. To win two, this is unbelievable. You can't really describe that feeling."
In addition to Bradshaw's touchdown, the Giants scored on Manning's two-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz, Lawrence Tynes field goals of 38 and 33 yards and a safety when Brady was penalized for intentional grounding in the end zone.
New England's points came on Brady touchdown passes of four yards to Danny Woodhead and 12 yards to Aaron Hernandez and Steve Gostkowski's 29-yard field goal.
Tynes' second field goal, a 33-yard with 35 seconds remaining in the third quarter, lifted the Giants to within 17-15.
Before the field goal, the Giants drove 33 yards in eight plays, including a 17-yard Manning pass to Nicks, who fumbled the ball backward. The ball was recovered by Henry Hynoski for a net gain of 14 yards.
Manning's 12-yard pass to Bear Pascoe gave the Giants a first down at the 11. But they gained only two yards on two snaps before Manning was sacked for a six-yard loss by Ron Ninkovich, forcing Tynes to kick the field goal.
Tynes' 38-yard field goal cut the Giants' deficit to 17-12 with 6:43 remaining in the third quarter.
The Giants' 45-yard drive was set up by Jerrel Jernigan's 34-yard kickoff return. Manning threw passes of 11 and eight yards to Nicks and eight yards to Pascoe on the drive. On third-and-10, his throw to Manningham picked up just five yards and Tynes came on to kick the field goal.
Brady's touchdown pass to Hernandez increased the Patriots' lead to 17-9 just 3:40 into the third quarter. On second-and-two from the 12, Hernandez used a head fake to elude linebacker Chase Blackburn, caught Brady's pass at the eight and stepped into the end zone. Deon Grant's hit at the goal line couldn't prevent him from scoring.
The Patriots took the second-half kickoff and drove 79 yards in eight plays. Brady was five-for-five, extending his completions streak to a 16 in a row. They included passes of 21 yards to Chad Ochocinco on the first play of the half and throws of 17 and eight yards to running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The touchdown was set up by an eight-yard pass to Wes Welker.
The Giants trailed at halftime, 10-9, keeping an unusual streak intact – they haven't led at the half of any of their five Super Bowls. This was their second 10-9 Super Bowl halftime deficit – that was the Denver Broncos' lead in Super Bowl XXI.
The Patriots took the lead with only eight seconds remaining in the second quarter when Woodhead scored on a short touchdown reception. On third-and-three from the four, Brady had time to scan the field and avoid trouble before firing a pass into the end zone for Woodhead, who was hit by Kenny Phillips and Michael Boley immediately after catching the ball.
The score capped a 96-yard drive that tied two other possessions for the longest in Super Bowl history. Brady completed all 10 of his passes for 98 yards on the march; New England also overcame two penalties on the drive.
The longest play of the series was Brady's 20-yard pass to Gronkowski. Brady also threw to Hernandez for 12, 10 and eight yards and Welker for 10.
Woodhead touched the ball on the last four plays of the drive – receptions of 11 and eight yards, a run that lost one yard and the touchdown catch.
On their previous possession, the Giants drove from their own 23 to the New England 46. On third-and-one, Brandon Jacobs ran 10 yards for a first down. But the play was nullified by a holding penalty on left guard Kevin Boothe. Manning's pass to Manningham fell incomplete and the Giants had to punt the ball away.
Gostkowksi scored New England's first points on a 29-yard field goal with 13:48 remaining in the second quarter. Following a Giants touchdown, the Patriots drove 60 yards in nine plays, including Brady passes of 19 yards to Welker and 15 yards to Branch. A 10-yard throw to Welker gave the Patriots a first down at the 17. But the drive stalled at the 11 when Brady's third-down pass for Hernandez fell incomplete, forcing the Patriots to settle for three points.
The Giants led 9-0 at the end of a first quarter in which Manning completed all nine of his passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. The nine completions to start the game was a Super Bowl record.
The score was a two-yard throw to Cruz with 3:24 remaining in the quarter. It was the first postseason touchdown for the Giants' leading receiver in 2011.
On second-and-goal, Cruz lined up in the left slot, got behind linebacker Jerod Mayo and secured Manning's pass to conclude a nine-play, 78-yard drive that was aided by New England penalty that nullified a Giants turnover.
On the first play of the drive, Hynoski broke a tackle to gain 13 yards after gathering in Manning's short pass. Two plays later, Bradshaw stiff-armed safety Patrick Chung on his way to a 24-yard gain.
The Giants faced a third-and-three at the New England 11 when Manning threw to Cruz, who had a four-yard gain before he was hit by defensive back Sterling Moore and fumbled. The ball was recovered by Moore…but the Patriots defense was penalized five yards for having 12 men on the field, giving the Giants a first down at the six.
Bradshaw ran for four yards before Cruz scored the touchdown.
The Giants took a 2-0 lead when Brady was penalized for intentional grounding on the Patriots' first offensive play. Brady was under pressure from Justin Tuck when he threw the ball far down the field to avoid a sack. No Patriots were near the pass's landing point.
It as was the sixth safety in Super Bowl history – the first in 21 years - and the Giants have been involved in three of them of them. George Martin sacked John Elway in the end zone in Super Bowl XXI and Buffalo's Bruce Smith did the same to Jeff Hostetler in Super Bowl XXV – which had been the most recent Super Bowl safety until Sunday.
It was the second time in Super Bowl history the first score was a safety. It also happened in Super Bowl IX, when the safety was credited to Pittsburgh's Dwight White.
The safety was the third of the Giants' 20-game season. On Dec. 11 in Dallas, Jason Pierre-Paul tackled Tony Romo, who stumbled into the end zone and fell and Chris Canty sacked the Jets' Mark Sanchez for a safety on Dec. 24.
The Patriots won the coin toss, the first such success for an AFC team in the Super Bowl since the New England won the toss in Super Bowl XXXI. The NFC team had won the coin toss in each of the previous 14 Super Bowls. The Patriots became the third team in Super Bowl history to defer its choice, joining the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII and Green Bay last year.