Eighty-three yards in under three minutes. That's what came between the New York Giants and the Vince Lombardi trophy during the last minutes of Superbowl XLII at the University of Phoenix Stadium, February 3, in what will remain the NFL's greatest upset in recent memory.
Quick rewind. The New England Patriots dominated the AFC with a record-breaking 18-0 undefeated season, which included the division title played against the San Diego Chargers. As such, the NY Giants, after besting the Green Bay Packers in the NFC divisional championships, came into the Superbowl clearly the underdogs.
First Quarter. The Giants drew first blood with a record nearly 10-minutes / 16-plays / 63-yard drive capped midway by a 32-yard field goal from Lawrence Tynes that gave New York a 3-point lead against New England.
By the second quarter, New England found themselves on the Giants end zone - scoreless, but not for long. Running back Laurence Maroney defied the Giants defensive line for the last-yard rush and a touchdown.
Tom Brady and the Patriots enjoyed the 7 to 3 advantage coming off the half and all throughout what was decidedly a very defensive 3rd quarter, with neither team scoring. But by 4 minutes into the 4th, Eli Manning threw a 5-yard pass to David Tyree for the touchdown giving the Giants the 10-7 lead.
After changing hands twice, the ball once again was in Patriots possession. Brady and the New England offensive marched up the field in a determined charge which included a Superbowl record tying 11th reception for Wes Welker, and punctuated by a 6-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss. After the extra kick, the Patriots led, 17-10 with only 2:42 left in the game.
As if there was not enough pressure on the Giants, the Patriots defense didn't simply kick back and relax. In that 12-plays drive about the 2-minute warning mark, Eli Manning passed incompletes, scrambled in the pocket at least twice and even got sacked by Adalius Thomas. Nonetheless, the Giants' offense persisted and the key plays made all the difference - an almost sack escaping from three Patriot linebackers results in a 32-yards pass from Manning to a Brandon-Meriweather-entangled-David-Tyree for a first down at New England's 24-yard line; and later, a 13-yard throw deep in the rear left corner to an almost uncontested Plaxico Burress.
When the smoke cleared, Burress was on his knees. Answered prayer indeed.
With only 39 seconds left to play, there was not enough "hail mary's" left for Tom Brady and his teammates scampering, albeit with double / triple NY coverage, towards the end zone.
Blood ran thicker that night at the 42nd Superbowl, evidenced by Eli Manning succeeding his older brother Peyton for the Superbowl MVP award. For two years in a row, the Manning family have provided fine professional quarterbacking excellence to the sport.
As for the Patriots, it was a valiant stand. However, perfect glory was not to be had.
Final score - 17-14. The New York Giants prevailed over the New England Patriots.
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