Wide receiver Plaxico Burress hauls in the game-winning touchdown pass to complete one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history.
I felt like I was being grabbed a little bit, but got out of it. Saw Tyree in the middle of the field. I tried to get the ball to him and it just floated. He made an unbelievable catch, jumping up, holding onto that ball.
While Eli Manning played a fine game and was named the Super Bowl MVP for leading the Giants on the game-winning drive, the real MVPs of the game were Justin Tuck and the Giants defensive front four, who pressured Tom Brady all day, knocking him to the ground 23 times, including five sacks. Tuck had two of those sacks and also forced a Brady fumble that was recovered by linemate Osi Umenyiora. The Giants led the NFL in sacks in 2007, and Tuck and Umenyiora were the leading sackers on the team, both mentored by veteran Michael Strahan. Although both went to high school in Alabama, Tuck and Umenyiora took widely divergent paths to the NFL.
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Umenyiora is a most unlikely NFL success story. He was born in London to Nigerian parents, but his family returned to Nigeria when Osi was seven. At 14, he was sent to Auburn, Alabama, to live with his sister and get an education. He was quite a soccer player and did not play American football until high school. Osi even gave up the game as a senior because his grades were slipping, but he still earned a football scholarship to Troy State, where he earned a degree in business and attracted the attention of the Giants, who selected him in the second round of the NFL Draft in 2003.
With so little football experience, Umenyiora had a difficult rookie season. He did have a breakout game in the season finale, though, with his first sack and two blocked punts. The Chargers noticed his potential and tried desperately to include him in the draft rights deal of Eli Manning for Philip Rivers, but Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi insisted it was a deal-breaker because he valued Osi’s pass rushing talents. Umenyiora rewarded that faith with seven sacks in 2004 and 14.5 in 2005. Hip problems sidelined him in 2006, but he was back at full speed in 2007.
Tuck, meanwhile, went to Notre Dame and set school records for most sacks and tackles for loss. Justin himself was at a loss when he wasn’t selected in the 2005 NFL Draft until the 10th pick of the third round. He had a promising rookie season backing up Strahan, but missed most of 2006 to a foot injury. New defensive coach Steve Spagnuolo knew just how to take advantage of Tuck’s skills in 2007, though. Despite starting only two games, Tuck was used frequently as a defensive tackle on passing downs and helped create the most fearsome pass rush in the league. Tuck’s 10 sacks bested Strahan’s nine and trailed only Osi’s 13, and led to Justin signing a five-year, $30-million contract extension during the playoffs.
Both Tuck and Umenyiora rely on speed, agility, and moves to get to the quarterback in a hurry. Likewise, both are strong and stout against the run as well, and neither ever quits on a play. Their dominant performance in Super Bowl XLII gave them a national profile. The two should anchor the Giantsfront four for years to come.
Fifty plays are a paltry sum for a team with as rich a legacy as the Giants. Here are the next 50, in chronological order: let the arguments begin.
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