|(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)|
After winning his second Super Bowl MVP in five years, Eli Manning is finally out of his big brother's shadow.
With Peyton out the entire 2011-12 season, Eli made sure that one Manning would shine in Indianapolis.
Dejà Blue. Just like in 2007, the Giants got out to an early lead, trailed by halftime, trailed in the final five minutes, completed a momentum-swinging pass, and scored a game-winning touchdown to beat the New England Patriots. While some names like Manning, Coughlin, Tuck, and Jacobs are all very familiar, names like Strahan, Tyree, and Burress were replaced by names like Pierre-Paul, Cruz, and Manningham.
Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban said it best on Twitter, "@mcuban Good teams make the playoffs, the hot team wins the championship".
Going into the 2011-12 season, the Giants were nowhere near the top of anyone's Super Bowl list. ESPN.com had them at No. 11 in the preseason, and they were as low as No. 16, just a month and a half ago. After that No. 16 placing though, the Giants just dominated competition.
At 7-7 with just two games left, the Giants handled the Jets and Cowboys and were headed to their first postseason game in two seasons. They then steamrolled the Falcons at home, upset top seed Green Bay on the road, and finished off the last NFC team remaining in the San Francisco 49ers. Even with the momentum, the Giants were still 3-point underdogs to the Patriots.
That didn't matter to the Giants though, they've faced adversity before, and were ready to prove everyone wrong.
Earlier this season, Eli Manning claimed he was an elite quarterback. Right away, the media started to look at him as if he was speaking a different language. Elite? Seriously? How could a quarterback who lives in the shadow of his successful older brother, has no MVP trophy, and only one Super Bowl ring be elite? Well after Eli's Super Bowl MVP (second of career) performance last night, he clearly proved he is an elite quarterback.
According to dictionary.reference.com, elite can be defined as: persons of the highest class. Eli is definitely in the highest class amongst NFL quarterbacks. Only one active quarterback has more Super Bowl rings than him (Brady), and only one other has just as many as him (Big Ben). Not even four-time MVP Peyton has that many.
Back to The Big Game though.
Who was the genius who said, "When it comes down to the end, the Giants defense is more likely to stop Tom Brady on a two-minute drive, than the Patriots shutting down Eli Manning on a two-minute drive"?
The Giants won this game because they did exactly what they were supposed to do. Even though that sounds extremely cliché, it's true. Their pass rush on defense and pass attack on offense won them this game.
Right off the bat, the Giants' pass rush got to Tom Brady, forcing him to throw the ball to no one while in the endzone, resulting in a safety. The Giants were all over Brady all game long. He was sacked twice, hit eight times, and hurried too many times to count on two hands. If the Giants were going to win the game they needed to get to Brady, and they did.
The other thing the Giants excelled at is throwing the ball. Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning completed 75% of his passes for almost 300 yards, a touchdown, and finished the game with a passer rating of 103.8 (12 points higher than Brady if your scoring at home). They were 5-11 on third downs, and picked up 18 first downs through the air. That's right, 18 of Eli's 30 completions were for first downs.
After a dropped catch by Wes Welker, which would have given the Patriots great field position and would have killed a ton of clock, Eli and the Giants were pinned inside their own 15 yard line with a little under four minutes to go.
(Cue Madonna and Justin Timberlake singing Four Minutes)
With only four minutes left to save the season, Eli took advantage of a weak Patriots secondary on the first play of the drive, and found Mario Manningham down the field for 38 yards. A few completions later, the Giants found themselves on the Patriots' six yard-line with a minute to play.
After a questionably unintentional Ahmad Bradshaw touchdown, the Giants led 21-17.
Thanks to a couple of drop catches, a Justin Tuck sack, and no time-outs remaining, the Patriots found themselves at the 50 yard line with five seconds left. Tom Brady's desperation heave was unsuccessful, and the rest was history.
So what will we remember about this Super Bowl ten years from now? Will it be the bad decisions by the Patriots (Brady safety, 12-men on the field flag after Cruz fumble, Brady interception, not recovering three fumble opportunities, Belichick miss-challenge, and many drops by receivers) or will it be the Giants' perfect execution (shut down Patriots to 17 points which was tied for lowest this entire season, no turnovers, dominated possession, great third-down conversion, and amazing clutchness in the fourth)?
Clearly Gronk's injury had a huge impact on the Patriots offense. They scored under 20 points for just the second time all season long, and Brady threw for only 276 yards. Gronkowski wasn't a threat all game long. Even with linebackers covering him, he caught only two passes for 26 yards, allowed a Chase Blackburn interception, and missed a chance to score the game-winning touchdown.
Give the Giants credit though. The Patriots wanted revenge more than anything, and they prevented that from happening. They shut down Tom Brady, took advantage of mistakes, played smart football, and dominated in clutch-time. There's a reason why they are the Super Bowl champs.