GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - One perfect spiral and it was over for
the New England Patriots. Forever, fans would remember who lost
this Super Bowl, as much as who won.
Eli Manning looked every bit like his older brother, throwing
that beautiful fade route. Plaxico Burress backed up his brazen
prediction, catching the 13-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds
And with that thunderbolt, the New York Giants became NFL
champions Sunday night. With the crowd standing and roaring for the
entire fourth quarter, they startled the heavily favored Patriots -
and themselves, a bit - with a 17-14 victory.
"Even when my parents were telling me, 'You're going to win,' I
don't know if I believed them," said defensive end Michael
Strahan, who postponed retirement in late August to try for this
The previously unbeaten Pats? They finally felt the pressure.
Not from their gaudy record, but from the kind applied by the
Giants' relentless pass rush.
"Tonight doesn't take away from anything we have done over the
course of the season," New England quarterback Tom Brady said.
"We had a great year. It's just unfortunate that tonight turned
out the way it did."
The 1972 Miami Dolphins didn't seem to mind too much. They're
protective of their 17-0 mark that season and don't want anyone to
match their unblemished record.
"The Patriots had a great season, but it shows just how
difficult it is to go undefeated," said then-coach Don Shula, who
was in attendance. "Our players and our fans feel that much more
proud of our accomplishment."
Gone was the Patriots' chance to be the first team to finish
19-0. Also lost was their chance to win their fourth title in seven
seasons. Instead, they found another way to be marked.
While many Super Bowl losers simply are forgotten, a few are
destined to be a part of NFL lore. Almost 40 years ago, the mighty
Baltimore Colts fell victim to that other New York team and its
poolside prognosticator, the Jets and Joe Namath.
"We had an opportunity to be special, and we let it slip
away," Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour. "We came so
close to being special. Now, we're second class."
Burress saw the Giants' third Super Bowl title coming.
Last week, he predicted New York would win 23-17. That guess
drew Brady's attention.
"We're only going to score 17 points?" he said then. "OK. Is
Plax playing defense? I wish he had said 45-42 and gave us a little
credit for scoring more points."
Manning and the wild-card Giants (14-6) knocked off the Brady
bunch, pulling off a frenzied, 12-play drive that covered 83 yards
in the last 2½ minutes. Included was Brandon Jacobs' plunge on
fourth-and-1, plus a circus catch by David Tyree.
Tyree, who began the game with more special teams tackles than
catches this season, outjumped Rodney Harrison for a 32-yard grab
on third-and-5 to the Patriots' 24 with 59 seconds left. Harrison
tried to pull the ball free and one point had it pinned to Tyree's
"I don't know that there's ever been a bigger play in the Super
Bowl than that play," praised Giants coach Tom Coughlin.
Early in the fourth quarter, Tyree caught a 5-yard strike from
Manning for his first TD of the season and a 10-7 lead.
"I am a man that really has to capitalize on his few
opportunities," Tyree said. "Some things just don't make sense
and I guess you can just put that catch there with them."
Amazing, for more than one reason.
"Unbelievable," Giants receiver Amani Toomer said. "In
Friday's practice, he was dropping everything."
When this game ended, the Giants had their 11th straight road
win and Manning was the MVP, the same award brother Peyton earned
last year by leading Indianapolis over Chicago.
"That's a position you want to be in," Eli said. "You want to
have the ball in your hands ... down, where you've got to score a
Maybe easier to do than watch.
Peyton was in a private box and punctuated each key play by his
kid brother with a clap, shout or a wave of his arms.
"You are pulling so hard for Eli," he said. "I guarantee you
I am more involved in the game he is playing than any other NFL
game. I was pumped, and I got a lot of messages telling me to calm
down because I was excited."
Brady, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and several others on the
New England side were gone by the very end. Brady's last pass fell
incomplete with 1 second left, and Belichick ran across the field
to congratulate Coughlin.
The officials determined there was one more play left. With many
Patriots off to the locker room, Manning took a final kneeldown in
New England territory.
As for how difficult the loss was, Belichick said: "I don't
rank them. It's disappointing."
Fined for spying on the Jets' coaches in the season opener,
Belichick and the Patriots had every right to believe they would
win this time. Even though the Giants played them tough in a 38-35
loss at the Meadowlands in their last game of the regular season,
New England was a two-touchdown favorite.
But Brady, a two-time Super Bowl MVP, never quite got into a
rhythm. With girlfriend Gisele Bundchen tucked away in a suite,
Brady went 29-for-48 and 266 yards. He was under pressure all game,
as Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck kept pounding him.
"There is a way to get to anybody," Strahan said. "And for us
today, the way to win this game was to get to Tom Brady. Stop the
run and get to Brady.
"As Mike Tyson would say, 'Everybody has a plan until they get
punched in the face.' And today, we wanted to punch them in the
Brady was sacked five times and the highest-scoring team in
league history was held to its lowest point total of the season. He
did not show any ill effects from a sprained ankle that recently
put him in a protective boot.
Manning's 5-yard pass to Tyree - it was his first TD catch of
the season - put the Giants ahead 10-7 earlier in the fourth
quarter. Brady later hit Randy Moss for a 6-yard touchdown with
2:42 to go that gave the Pats a 14-10 edge.
Four plays after Tyree's acrobatics, Manning found Burress alone
in the left side of the end zone.
"It's the greatest feeling in professional sports," Burress
said before bursting into tears.