The Miracle Workers
Patriots' Quest for Perfection Is Denied by Surprising Giants
Monday, February 4, 2008; Page E01
GLENDALE, Ariz., Feb. 3 -- The would-be perfect season had the most imperfect of endings for the New England Patriots. Something unexpected happened on their way to a 19-0 record and their anticipated coronation as the greatest team to step on a football field.
The New York Giants pulled off one of the most stunning upsets in Super Bowl history by beating the Patriots, 17-14, in dramatic fashion Sunday night at University of Phoenix Stadium. Quarterback Eli Manning's 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left won it for the Giants.
"We shocked the world," Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce said, "but not ourselves."
The Patriots had taken the lead on a six-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady to wideout Randy Moss with 2 minutes 42 seconds to play. But Manning took the Giants down the field, aided by a miraculous 32-yard completion to wide receiver David Tyree after Manning scrambled out of a potential third-down sack, then found Burress open in the corner of the end zone.
The Patriots were the highest-scoring team in NFL history during their 16-0 regular season that culminated with a 38-point performance in a win over the Giants. But they stumbled a bit during the AFC playoffs and they were shut down most of the way Sunday by a Giants defense that put nearly constant pressure on Brady. The Giants amassed five sacks, two of them by Justin Tuck.
"We all respect the Patriots and we all respect Tom Brady," Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said. "But it's our time."
The Patriots got 11 catches by wideout Wes Welker, tying a Super Bowl record, and a one-yard touchdown run by tailback Laurence Maroney on the opening play of the second quarter. They took a 7-3 lead into the fourth quarter. But Manning threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Tyree, a special teams ace not known for his contributions on offense, with just over 11 minutes remaining.
The Patriots failed to secure their fourth Super Bowl title in a seven-year span and finished 18-1. The 1972 Miami Dolphins remained the only unbeaten team in NFL history. Brady, playing on an injured right ankle, connected on 29 of 48 passes for 266 yards.
"It's over," Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "It didn't happen. We can look back on this year and be happy about some of the things we accomplished. But we didn't finish, and that's what we're about."
Manning threw an interception for the first time in this postseason but became a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with a 19-for-34, 255-yard, two-touchdown outing. He won the Super Bowl a year after his older brother, Peyton, won one with the Indianapolis Colts and, like Peyton, was named the game's most valuable player.