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Eli Manning rallies Giants past Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI

Updated: February 6, 2012 9:25AM



INDIANAPOLIS — He was the quieter Manning, the one without all the drama, the guy who, no matter what he seemed to do, couldn’t get rid of the shadow that followed him.

Oh, Eli Manning tried. He declared himself an elite quarterback before the season began, in the same league as his brother Peyton and Tom Brady. People laughed, snickered and generally guffawed.

And then Sunday rolled around. In the stadium that Peyton Manning made famous with the Indianapolis Colts, against the team Brady turned into a dynasty, Eli was exactly what he said he was.

Elite.

The Giants beat the New England Patriots 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI, and they did it in large part because Manning was able to throw footballs into windows so small they belonged on a treehouse.

The best example of that came with 3:46 left in the game and the Giants down 17-15. Manning saw Mario Manningham running down the left sideline. He threw a pass that floated over the hands of defensive back Sterling Moore and onto the fingertips of Manningham, who somehow kept both feet inbounds. It was a 38-yard completion, the longest play of the game, and it was a punch to the Patriots’ solar plexus.

‘‘That’s a huge play in the game right there, when you’re backed up, to . . . get to the middle of the field,’’ Manning said. ‘‘That way we can pace ourselves a little bit, run the ball a little bit. It was a big, big, big-time play right there.’’

Manningham’s catch let the Giants breathe. Now at midfield, they could take their time, mosey toward a possible game-winning field goal and burn the clock to cinders. When the Patriots allowed Ahmad Bradshaw to run in from the 6-yard line, the Giants had a 21-17 lead.

‘‘Eli’s not going to toot his own horn, but I will,’’ kicker Lawrence Tynes said. ‘‘He’s great. There wasn’t anyone on our sidelines who didn’t think we were going to score on that drive.’’

That wasn’t the problem. The problem was that Brady had the ball with 57 seconds left in the game and one timeout on his own 20-yard line. What else could the Patriots have wanted? Their future Hall of Famer, a guy who had won three Super Bowls, holding the game in his hands. But the Giants’ defense held, and Brady’s prayer of a throw into the end zone went unanswered.

Respect? Manning has it now. You don’t do what he did Sunday and not get what you deserve. That included the game’s MVP award.

‘Team on his shoulders’

‘‘He should be [MVP] for that last drive,’’ Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “He really has put his team on his shoulders the whole year and performed well.’’

It was Manning’s second Super Bowl victory (both were over the Patriots) and second MVP award. But the first Super Bowl and MVP award were looked upon as somehow lesser. You couldn’t take the Super Bowl away from him, but you could withhold the respect.

That’s the motivation Manning brought into this game, though he wanted none of the told-you-so opportunities that were offered to him afterward.

‘‘We have a chance to say we’re the world champions,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s the story.’’

He completed 30 of 40 passes for 296 yards and a touchdown. If he didn’t completely outplay Brady, he certainly grabbed the big moments tighter than the Patriots quarterback did. Time after time, he zipped passes between defenders.

Brady went 27-for-41 for 276 yards and two touchdowns but threw an interception. Good — not good enough.

Coach in full agreement

Coughlin, who is as reserved as a pair of wingtips, said he wasn’t bothered a bit when Manning had said, in response to a reporter’s question, that he belonged among the elite quarterbacks in the league.

‘‘I liked his answer,’’ he said.

It showed that the outwardly mild-mannered quarterback had something inside him that burned.

Manning has two Super Bowl victories, his big brother one. He says he isn’t keeping score. And as far as winning inside Lucas Oil Stadium, Peyton’s home field for the Colts, Eli Manning shrugged.

“It just feels good to win a Super Bowl,’’ he said. “It doesn’t matter where you are.’’

Fourteen games into the season, the Giants were 7-7. The playoffs were not a guarantee. They looked more like a wild hope. But they figured it out. The defensive line got stronger, and the team didn’t lose again.

You have a fighting chance with Manning on your team. Specifically, Eli Manning.



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