After an exchange of punts, the Giants took over on their own 20 to start the fourth quarter with the score still improbably 7-3. Eli Manning dropped back and hit tight end Kevin Boss at the 40 and Boss rumbled another 25 yards before safety Rodney Harrison tripped him up at the Patriots’ 35. Three Ahmad Bradshaw runs and a key third-down catch by Steve Smith took the ball to the 5. Manning’s play-action slant pass to fourth receiver David Tyree darted past cornerback Asante Samuel, and the Giants had the lead back with 11 minutes to play. It would not be the last the Patriots would see of special teams ace Tyree.
After another exchange of punts, New England took over on their own 20 with 7:54 to play. Despite having struggled against a ferocious, but now tiring, Giants defense, Brady was not done. Just as he had done in his previous three Super Bowls, Brady directed the Patriots on a fourth-quarter drive to take the lead. Three completions to Wes Welker who tied a Super Bowl record for catches with 11 two to Kevin Faulk, and three to Randy Moss culminated with a six-yard touchdown to Moss with 2:45 to play. The Patriots led 14-10, and time was running out for New York. The unflappable Manning later said, “You kind of like being down four. You have to score a touchdown”
Starting at their own 17, the Giants faced fourth-and-one at their 37 with a minute and a half left, but Brandon Jacobs bulled for two yards to keep the drive alive. Manning scrambled for five on the next play, and then came a forgotten play that could have ruined Manning’s reputation for good. On second-and-five, a hurried Manning threw an inaccurate deep out that hit cornerback Asante Samuel right in the hands. Fortunately for New York, the ball bounced harmlessly to the ground, and the stage was set for the play of the day, of the year, of the ages.
On third-and-five from the Giants’ 44, Manning took the snap in shotgun formation. The Patriots only rushed four down linemen, but Adalius Thomas came hard from the edge and got a hand on Manning. As Eli stepped up to avoid Thomas, he stepped right into the big push up the middle from Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green, both of whom grabbed hold of Manning’s jersey. Somehow Manning broke free and sprinted back five more yards, spotting David Tyree breaking off a deep post in the middle of the field. Manning launched a high floater
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It’s the greatest victory in the history of this franchise, without question.
Tyree snagged over his head at the 24 while Rodney Harrison swatted at the ball and hooked Tyree’s right arm, using his body as a fulcrum to bend Tyree backwards in the air. Tyree’s left hand came off the ball, but his right hand pinned the ball to his helmet. As the ball started to slip during his descent, Tyree again secured it with his left hand. The brawny Harrison flipped Tyree backward on the ground, still trying to free the ball, but Tyree held onto the ball with a death grip even as he rolled over. It was a 32-yard broken play that left Harrison shaking his head in shock. “There were two or three guys who had [Manning], and he breaks free and throws up a Hail Mary that the guy comes down with,” he said.
The Giants still needed a touchdown, though. Manning was sacked on the next play by Thomas and then threw incomplete, forcing another third down. Reliable slot receiver Steve Smith was open once more to convert the third down and stepped out of bounds at the 13. On the next play, Manning hit a wide-open Plaxico Burress for the game-winning score. New England still had 35 seconds, but one more sack, the fifth of the day, and three incompletions ended their last chance. The Giants were champions they had beaten the unbeaten Patriots in perhaps the greatest upset in Super Bowl history.
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