“I just know we’re world champions tonight,” Manning said, “and that’s what I’m most proud of.”
After crafting six fourth-quarter, game-winning drives during the regular season, five of them to cap fourth-quarter comebacks, Manning pulled off that feat again in another nerve-rattling Super Bowl. The Giants, trailing by two points, drove 88 yards to the winning touchdown on a six-yard run by tailback Ahmad Bradshaw with 57 seconds left.
It was one of the oddest game-winning touchdowns in Super Bowl history. The Patriots, trying to preserve their final timeout and precious seconds on the clock for their offense, allowed Bradshaw to score. Bradshaw, realizing that, attempted to stop just shy of the goal line but tumbled into the end zone.
“We didn’t talk about it” before the play, Bradshaw said. “Eli was handing me the ball and telling me not to score. I tried to tap myself down, declare myself down, but my momentum carried me into the end zone. It was a strange play.”
Said Manning: “It’s a mistake by me. I had a feeling they might do that. I should have told him [before the play] not to score.”
The strategy didn’t work. The Giants failed on a two-point conversion attempt and the Patriots took over at their 20-yard line for a last-gasp drive. Brady kept them alive with a fourth-and-16 completion, and New England reached its 49-yard line. But Brady’s desperation heave into the distant end zone as time expired was tipped and fell incomplete beyond the outstretched hands of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“We just came up a little bit short,” Brady said. “I think we had a couple of missed opportunities out there. Every guy in the locker room wishes he could have done a little bit more.”
Belichick acknowledged instructing his defense to let the Giants score, saying he didn’t want the clock to wind down for a short-range Giants field goal that almost certainly would have been successful. His players backed their coach.
“Bill has always put us in the best position to succeed,” Patriots safety James Ihedigbo said. “No matter what, we trust him. He wanted to put the ball in Tom’s hands. That’s the decision he made and we support him.”
Brady said: “I like it. . . . We had a chance to win there at the end. We just didn’t do it.”
The Giants became the first team to win a Super Bowl after going 9-7 in the regular season. They won six straight games, four of them in the postseason, after their record dropped to 7-7.