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The Redzone: One big step for Manning, one Giants leap from Manningham

The Giants won their fourth Super Bowl thanks in large part to Eli Manning. Steven O’Rourke leads us in praise.

Eli Manning with the vince Lombardi trophy.
Eli Manning with the vince Lombardi trophy.
Image: David J. Phillip/AP/Press Association Images

New York Giants 21 @ New England Patriots 17

I DIDN’T QUITE have a road to Damascus moment last night but Eli Manning impressed me more than I thought possible.

Indeed, the whole event drew many comparisons to a religious experience.

The game started with all the ‘God bless America’ hoopla we’ve come to expect, was broken up by Madonna singing ‘Like a Prayer’ and ended with a failed Hail Mary.

In the end the though, the footballing gods were smiling on the New York Football Giants and the result was a fitting end to a season of redemption and resurrection for Eli Manning.

The QB, who this season led six fourth quarter comebacks and set an NFL record with 15 fourth quarter touchdowns, was on hand again to answer the prayers of Giants fans everywhere.

Across the trenches, Tom Brady could only watch on as receiver after receiver dropped important – and very makeable – catches. Of course, he must shoulder some of the blame himself, intentionally grounding the ball on the Patriot’s first play of the game which resulted in a safety and a 2-0 lead for the Giants.

On their next drive, Manning drove Big Blue 78 yards in nine plays – helped by New England having 12 men on the field on a crucial third down – finishing with a six-yard pass to Victor Cruz for the game’s opening touchdown.

Record breaking Brady

New England struggled in response with just a field goal to show for their efforts on their next two drives. However, Tom Brady was starting to click into gear.

With four minutes left in the first half, the former Michigan QB led a 14 play, 96 yard touchdown drive – on which he was completed 10 of 10 passes – utilising the no-huddle offence I suggested they use on Friday to give the Patriots a 10-9 half-time lead.

New England opted to go no-huddle to start the second half too and were again rewarded with a touchdown; Brady capping an eight play, 79 yard drive with a 12 yard touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez for an 17-9 lead.

During this time Brady broke Joe Montana’s Super Bowl record of 13 consecutive completed passes with 16 of his own including a 21 yard pass to Chad Ochocinco, the Patriots longest passing play of the entire game.

However, for reasons I’ll never understand, they stopped using the no-huddle offence until the final drive of the game and, by then, Eli and his receivers had clicked into gear.

Taking advantage of great field position – starting from their own 35 and the New England 48 respectively – Manning engineered his team into field goal range on two consecutive drives with Lawrence Tynes making no mistake from 38 and 33 yards to make the game 15-17.

Welker dropped pass

Then came the game’s big turning point.  During the regular season, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards and dropped only five.

On Sunday night, with four minutes left and ball on the Giants 44 yard line, Welker spotted that one of the Giants defenders was in Cover 2 while the other wasn’t. He ran between the two and Brady found him with a pinpoint pass.

But then he dropped it and, with it, the Vince Lombardi trophy. Getting the ball back on their own 12 yard line with 3.46 left on the clock, you just knew Eli would get the job done.

On the first play of the drive, Manning connected with Mario Manningham on a 38 yard pass with the receiver just keeping his feet in bounds for the play of the game.

On the next snap, Manning again connected with number 82 for a 16-yard pass and suddenly the Giants had a first down on the New England 34 with 2.52 still left on the clock.

The G-men ate up a further minute and 45 seconds of game time before the navy sea parted to let Ahmad Bradshaw score a touchdown he had no desire to get as it left Brady and the Patriots with 57 seconds to get the job done.

YouTube credit: xxxjauy1987

However, dropped passes from Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez proved costly as Brady’s Hail Mary attempt fell just short of the outstretched fingers of Rob Gronkowski.

Legacy

There’s something unsettling about a 9-7 team – not to mention a team who conceded more points than they scored during the regular season – winning the Super Bowl but the Giants made the plays that needed to be made on the night while the Patriots made mistakes.

I still don’t believe this win puts Eli ahead of his older brother, nor do I believe the loss tarnishes Brady’s legacy in the game.  There’s no doubt – even if he fails to win another game in his career – number 12 is going to the Hall of Fame along with his coach Bill Belichick.

The only thing last night’s result changed is that he will probably be joined by the goofy looking dude everyone laughed at when he claimed to be elite but who is now two for two in the Super Bowl.

Who needs miracles when you have the heart, and arm, to make the plays that count.

Watch the highlights here.

Steven O’Rourke is the offensive co-ordinator of Tullamore PhoenixAmerican Football Club, winners of the IAFL DV8s national title in 2010 and 2011. Tullamore are always recruiting new players so, if you’d like to play football and not just read about it, Steven would love to hear from you.

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Steven O'Rourke

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