The New York Giants didn’t blink. They stared down Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday and came away with one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history.
The Giants, with quarterback Eli Manning at the helm and a vibrant defensive performance that stifled National Football League most valuable player Tom Brady, downed the previously perfect Patriots 17-14 to put a nightmare ending to New England’s dream season.
It was the biggest Super Bowl upset since Joe Namath’s upstart New York Jets upended the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl 3. Some will argue it was even bigger.
Giants owner John Mara knew where he ranked it.
”It’s the greatest victory in the history of this franchise,” said Mara, whose team was a first-round play-off loser last year and opened the season 0-2.
But the Giants’ fightback in the regular season and their three road victories in the play-offs made them tougher, as did a narrow 38-35 loss to the Patriots in the regular-season finale.
That toughness proved to be key as the Giants defence battered Brady and stymied his prolific offense, which set a record for points in a single season.
Not only did the Giants sack Brady five times — not so surprising since they led the league in sacks this season — they hounded and harried him on play after play.
Defensive end Justin Tuck had two sacks and forced a fumble in the first half.
Defensive end Michael Strahan, linebacker Kawika Mitchell and defensive end Jay Alford also had sacks while British-born Osi Umenyiora recovered the fumble caused by Tuck.
”Our defensive line did a great job of getting pressure on him,” linebacker Kawika Mitchell said. ”I’m sure he hasn’t got hit that many times in one game all year long.”
”We won the game in the trenches,” said Giants running back Brandon Jacobs.
The defensive effort gave Manning the chance to mount the game-winning fourth-quarter drive, capped by a 12m scoring pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds to play.
Along the way was a 30m-pass to David Tyree that Manning called a game-saver.
”It felt like I was being grabbed a little bit,” Manning said of his scramble on the play. ”I got out of it, saw Tyree in the middle of the field.”
Tyree leapt up to snatch the catch, then pressed the ball against his helmet to hold on to it as he fell.
”He just made an unbelievable catch, guys hanging all over him,” Manning said.
”That ball was challenged,” said Giants coach Tom Coughlin. ”That wasn’t like he just jumped up in the air and caught the ball. That might be one of the great plays of all time in the Super Bowl.”
The Giants became just the second team in Super Bowl history to win after trailing in the final minute of the fourth quarter, along with San Francisco in Super Bowl 23.
”All week it was how we couldn’t get to the quarterback, how we couldn’t do this and we couldn’t do that,” said Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce. ”We were just a team that kept going after it.
”That’s a great team over there and my hat is off to them, but it’s the New York Giants today.” – Sapa-AFP