Eli Manning makes history

Quarterback led Giants to Super Bowl victory
February 4, 2008 1:43:32 PM PST
No matter what Eli Manning does the rest of his life, he will always be a Super Bowl MVP.Manning defined his career by completing a 13-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds to play and leading the New York Giants to a 17-14 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday that will go down as one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.

"That's a position you want to be in," Manning said after accepting the MVP trophy. "You want to have the ball in your hands ... down, where you've got to score a touchdown."

Manning was perfect and a little fortunate in leading the Giants on their game-winning 12-play, 83-yard march that featured a fourth-down conversion, a great escape and phenomenal catch on the same play and eventually the game-winning TD pass.

"That's what quarterbacking is all about," said Archie Manning, the father of Eli and Peyton, who won the MPV last year in Indianapolis' win over Chicago. "Just like Tom Brady is a great quarterback and a great champion - he (Eli) showed it in his drive. There was some time left and Eli, as a young guy, was able to do it. It can define you."

Even before their stunning win over then-undefeated Patriots, Manning's success in the two-minute drill had defined his season.

There is no way the Giants (14-6) would have gotten to the Super Bowl unless Manning had led a perfect two-minute drive against the Dallas Cowboys in the closing seconds of the first half of the NFC semifinals.

Down 14-7 after Dallas scored on a 20-play, 90-yard drive, Manning led New York on a 7-play, 71-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown pass to Amani Toomer.

It changed the momentum of the game.

"We been very good in the two-minute drill all season," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "It's not something that our guys are in awe of. They've had success with it."

This defining drive came right after Brady moved the Patriots within 2:42 of perfection by throwing a 6-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss.

After the score, defensive end Michael Strahan talked to the offensive line and asked them to pick up the D, which had kept the 12-point underdog Giants in the game by hitting Brady repeatedly over the first 3 1/2 quarters.

"We knew that we could make it happen," Manning said.

After a 14-yard kickoff return by Domenik Hixon, Manning hit Toomer right away for 10 yards. After two incompletions, he hit Toomer for nine more and Brandon Jacobs picked up the first down on fourth-and-1 to put the ball at the New England 39.

Manning scrambled for 5 yards and threw an incompletion to set up third-and-5 from the New York 44. It turned out to be the play of the game.

Manning took the snap and was immediately pressured. He spun out of the grasp of Jarvis Green and then launched a pass downfield that David Tyree caught with his hands over his head while outjumping Rodney Harrison for a 32-yard gain.

"If that catch was for a touchdown, people would be calling it the greatest catch in Super Bowl history," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said.

What made the catch even more improbable is that Tyree had five catches all season coming into the game. He finished with three catches for 43, including a touchdown catch.

"Some things just don't make sense and I guess you can just put that catch there with them," Tyree said.

After being sacked for a 1-yard loss and throwing an incomplete pass, Manning converted another huge third down, hitting rookie Steve Smith for 12 yards on third-and-11 to the 13.

Peyton's younger brother then found a wide-open Burress on a fade route in the left corner of the end zone after Ellis Hobbs went for a fake to the middle.

In a private box, Peyton Manning pumped his fist and celebrated another trophy for the Manning family.

"We knew it on the sideline and Eli kept reassuring everybody," Giants center Shaun O'Hara said. "'This is what we worked hard for all summer, to get to the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl with a chance to win a game.' I can't say enough about how Eli played."

Manning finished 19 of 34 for 255 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on a play in which Smith bobbled a pass.

"Eli did a great job of managing it and he improvised during the pass rush," Patriots linebacker Junior Seau said. "But we should have gotten him down."

O'Hara noted that since Manning was taken with the first pick in the 2004 draft, he has been compared to his father, brother and other great quarterbacks around the league, with people always saying how he isn't as good.

"Tonight," O'Hara said, "I think Eli built himself a platform for others to be compared to him."