It seemed like fate. The New England Patriots, led by future Hall of Fame quarterback, Tom Brady, were to face the New York Giants, the same team that defeated them in 2008, to put an end to the Patriots bid to become the first 19-0 team in history. Four years later, in Super Bowl 46, Tom Brady and the Patriots got their chance to avenge the loss by winning their 4th Super Bowl in 10 years. Except, Indianapolis seems to be a Manning town.
The Patriots had a typical year, dominating their opponents during the regular season on route to a 13-3 record, clinching the 1st seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. One of their three losses included a loss to the Giants in November, losing 24-20 in their first match since Super Bowl 42. The Giants had a much different course. After starting the year 6-2, the Giants dropped 4 straight, as people were calling for Tom Coughlin’s head. The Giants made the postseason on a prayer, going 3-1 in their last 4, which included a division-clinching win in the season finale against Dallas, as they entered the post season as the 4th seed.
In the postseason, the Giants handed Atlanta a beating, winning 24-2, and followed it up with a 37-20 “upset” over the 15-1 Green Bay Packers. In the NFC title game, the Giants edged the 49ers in a thriller, beating them by a score of 20-17, propelling them to Indianapolis. For the Pats, after their first-round bye, Tom Brady manhandled Tebow-mania and the Broncos 45-10. To finish off the AFC, New England escaped the Baltimore Ravens off a botched kick, and booked a flight to Indianapolis with a 23-20 win.
All that was left was February 5th: the biggest game of the year. A rematch with nearly identical conditions: a dominant New England team facing a streaking Giants team. During Super Bowl week, questions of Pats tight end, Rob Gronkowski’s status regarding his ankle and even Eli Manning’s brother, Peyton, and his future loomed.
After a long wait, kickoff finally arrived. Right off the bat, the Giants’ dominant defence got the first points of the game, forcing a Brady penalty in the end zone that resulted in a safety. Following the 2 points, Eli Manning drove up the field off the punt and scored 6 on a pass to Victor Cruz, to give the Giants a quick 9-0 lead. After a silent first quarter, Tom Brady bounced back, driving down the field for a field goal. After a series of punts by both teams, Brady ended the half on a 4 minute drive that saw Brady go 10/10, culminating in a touchdown pass to Danny Woodhead, giving the Pats a 10-9 edge going into the Madonna-led halftime show.
Coming out of halftime, Tom Brady picked up where he left off, passing to Aaron Hernandez, giving New England a 17-9 lead and all the momentum. However, in typical Giants fashion, Eli Manning wouldn’t let them go down without a fight. He finished the quarter off with 2 drives which ended in field goals, cutting the lead to 2 going into the last 15 minutes of the season. In a time-consuming 6 minute drive, Tom Brady seemed driven to capture his 4th ring, as the Giants only had 1 timeout with less than 4 minutes to play. However, on 3rd down, Wes Welker, the league leader in receptions dropped an extremely easy catch, which would’ve all but certainly closed the curtains on the Giants’ title hopes. Instead, it was ample time for Eli to work his magic. On the first play of the drive, Manning connected on a beautifully thrown and caught pass to Mario Manningham, reminiscent of Tyree’s catch 4 years earlier. Then, with 57 seconds left, Ahmad Bradshaw ran into the end zone to give the Giants a 21-17 edge.
In the final drive, with Tom Brady’s back against the wall, there were glimpses of a classic comeback, which included a 4th-and-16 conversion to Deion Branch. It came down to a hail mary as time expired, a throw that was nearly completed to Rob Gronkowski, but to no avail, as the Giants won their 2nd Super Bowl in 4 years, and Eli Manning became the first quarterback to beat Tom Brady in the playoffs twice.
Yes, it was a missed opportunity for Tom Brady and the Patriots. At 34 years old, his window closes with each passing season. It is no doubt that he has the drive and passion to get back, but nothing is certain in the NFL. As for Eli Manning, he has certified his words from before the season, where he placed himself into the elite category of quarterbacks. With a second ring under his belt, he doesn’t become better than his brother, but he does certainly become elite.
In a game that came down to the wire, Indianapolis continues to be a Manning town.