INDIANAPOLIS – He did it in the desert. Now he did it in a dome. Eli Manning stepped back late in another Super Bowl, launched the football high, and once again saw it come down in the hands of a receiver who, to the naked eye, never should have been able to make that catch, never should have been able to hold on through the defense, and – in this case – never should have been able to keep his flashy red shoes in bounds.
But Mario Manningham did all that, did the seemingly impossible with that perfect Manning pass, and picked up 38 yards – just as David Tyree did four years ago in Arizona with a legendary 32-yard heave – and the Giants once again came from behind to win a Super Bowl from the Patriots, 21-17, in a season that, just two months ago, had New York fans screaming for the coach’s head and certain the Giants wouldn’t make the playoffs.
“Eli made a great throw,” Manningham said of the play that turned Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI their way. “After I caught that, I thought ÃÂWe’re about to win this, man.'”
Deja Threw. And it should surprise no one that a fellow named Manning would play great in a place named Indianapolis. But for Eli to pull off this second Super Bowl victory – and second MVP award – in such an eerily similar fashion to his first (an 88-yard winning drive this time, an 83-yard drive four years ago) is the kind of thing that makes you look for four-leaf clovers, rabbits’ feet…
Or, if you’re New England, voodoo dolls.
So close, but so far again
Because just as Manning was once again the winner, so were Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots again the losers, dropping a game that they held control of, blowing an eight-point lead and dooming themselves to an off-season of what-ifs and should-haves.
“There are 100 plays you could be talking about and I would take (back) a lot of them,” Belichick said afterward.
He had to feel snakebit. This is his second consecutive Super Bowl loss to New York, despite having the superior record and being the favorite both times. Lost in the coronation of Eli will be an exceptional game by Brady – in between two mistakes. Brady opened the game with a dumb play, giving up a safety by throwing the ball away from his end zone. He made up for it with incredible accuracy the next few hours, completing a Super Bowl-record 16 passes in a row at one point. But late in the game he threw a long interception, giving the Giants another possession instead of eating more clock and possibly putting the game out of reach. His last pass was the final play of the game, a Hail Mary to the end zone that ricocheted off hands and fell to the turf.
“It always comes down to one or two plays in the game,” Brady said. “If you make it, you’re celebrating, if you don’t, you don’t sleep for a week….
“I’ll keep coming to this game and keep trying. I’d rather get to this game and lose than not get here.”
A third meeting would be great
Brady was gracious in his praise of Manning as well – “he made some great throws” – but it had to be killing him to see the Giants get the ball with 3:46 left.
Talk about the gods setting the table! Manning and the Giants have pulled off so many late victories, they’re canonizing Saint Eli, patron of Fourth Quarter Miracles.
Four years ago, it was Tyree. Now Manningham. That huge play allowed the Giants to methodically run the clock down and score a touchdown late enough to leave New England little chance of coming back.
Manning finished 30 of 40 for 296 yards and a touchdown . And of course, after the game, reporters tried to make hay out of Eli – the aw-shucks, Huck Finn-ish answer to his ubiquitous brother Peyton – and his place in the game, especially compared to the more-celebrated Brady.
“Y’all can debate that all you want,” Manning said. “I don’t think that’s the story. I think the story is the New York Giants are world champions.”
That they are. With another fourth-quarter comeback, with another amazing throw and catch, with another steady-heady drive, led by the very same guy who did it last time.
Deja Threw. This was a fine game, as was the last one, down to the wire, and maybe, like the Olympics, we’ll see it every four years.
If so, I don’t know how it will start. But if Manning plays, I know how it will end.
Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org.