Eli Manning was in the Patriots' grasp but not their control.
That's how the quarterback made his great escape and delivered the throw to David Tyree, who came down with the famed "Helmet Catch." The play became iconic not only in Super Bowl XLII but NFL lore as a whole.
Now Mike Carey, the Super Bowl referee who was waiting to see if he should whistle the play dead before Manning squirmed free, has retired, according to The Associated Press. Carey spent 24 years as an NFL official, including 19 as a referee, and was the first black referee to work a Super Bowl.
He will now be a rules expert for CBS telecasts of NFL games to the same millions of fans who watched the Giants beat then-undefeated New England more than six years ago. But the play that went on to define one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time came close to never happening.
Carey said if he saw Manning start to be moved backwards by the Patriots scrum, it would have been close.
"It didn't quite happen," Carey said in a 2008 New York Daily News article four days after the game. "But boy it was close."
"I anticipated a sack," Carey continued in the article. "I didn't assume that was going to happen, but rarely do you see a quarterback escape when he's got that much weight on his back and being dragged by two or three guys who had a hold of him. I could see his head was just straight ahead. He was trying to break free with desperation. Then all of a sudden he spun out and then he started to come right back at me."
That's why coaches tell players to always keep their legs moving.
"Luckily for him, he was driving forward instead of them pulling him backwards," Carey said. "And I was just waiting for that little pendulum swing where, right as they grab him the quarterback usually gets a little bit forward and then they yank him back. Once he starts to be yanked back, that's when it's really imminent that it's grasp and control, or just a sack.
"It was like a scene out of 'The Planet Earth' or National Geographic, where it's a lion jumping on the back of a wild horse. You could see him just desperately trying to pull out and somehow he did. Usually a quarterback goes straight ahead when that happens and just tries to get yardage. For some reason he turned around and ran back deeper in the pocket. Lucky for him that he did. He had a little safe haven."
Re-live two of the biggest catches in New York Giants history