INDIANAPOLIS—With two weeks left in the regular season, the New York Giants were a 7-7 team coming off a second loss of the season to the Washington Redskins.
As quarterback Eli Manning and Coach Tom Coughlin stood before a room filled with reporters here Monday morning, the Giants were Super Bowl champions for the second time since the pair became the foundation of the team.
“All season, we have kept our confidence,” Manning said.
Manning and Coughlin participated in the traditional Monday morning news conference for the winning coach and Super Bowl most valuable player. They were left to explain one of the more unlikely championship runs in NFL history. The Giants became the first team with a 9-7 regular season record to win a Super Bowl title when they beat the New England Patriots in dramatic fashion, 21-17, here Sunday night.
“We never changed our objective,” Coughlin said. “We never changed our goal. We never changed our attitude about what had to be accomplished and what we had to do. This is a great statement to our players as well as to our mental toughness. That’s what you have to rely on…. We didn’t spend time thinking backward. We were always looking forward….
“For a while, as we were trying to get this thing organized, it didn’t look as if the end result would be this. But because of their mental toughness, because they hung in there, because they continued to believe, because we continued to be in the hunt for the NFC East title, that was always there for us.”
Coughlin, at 65, became the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl. The coach whose job security with the Giants has been considered tenuous so often in recent seasons suddenly was answering a question Monday about whether he might make a triumphant exit from the sport, on his own terms. Coughlin said he intends to return next season.
“I certainly hope so,” he said. “My intentions are to be that way. I do have some ownership that has to give approval. But I’m looking forward to it.”
A season that began with Manning creating a stir when he said in a radio interview that he considered himself an elite quarterback ended with him providing further justification for that contention. Manning became the fifth quarterback ever with multiple Super Bowl MVP awards, joining Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and the quarterback who lost Sunday evening, the Patriots’ Tom Brady.
“This business about elite quarterbacks, I think that question has come and gone,” Coughlin said. “I don’t think we’ll hear much about that again.”
Eli moved ahead of brother Peyton for the Manning family lead in Super Bowl titles, two to one. But he said: “This isn’t about bragging rights. This is a lot bigger.”
Manning said he’d spent time with Peyton and other family members after the game. He said Peyton had questioned whether he’d seen a certain Patriots’ linebacker on a first-quarter touchdown throw to wide receiver Victor Cruz. Peyton also pointed out, Eli said, that the first play of the Giants’ game-winning drive, a 38-yard pass to wideout Mario Manningham, required a superb throw as well as a superb catch.
“He was proud of me and happy for me,” Eli Manning said.
Manning was asked if that was the best throw of his career, and said: “I’m not good at ranking my throws. Obviously it was a Super Bowl and a tight throw. But I didn’t have any questions…. I saw a window. I felt confident about it.”
The Giants’ winning play was a six-yard run by tailback Ahmad Bradshaw on which the New England defense purposely yielded a touchdown to preserve time on the clock for the Patriots’ offense.
“I just yelled, ‘Don’t score! Don’t score!’ ” Manning said Monday.
But he also said: “I think you have to score a touchdown in those circumstances.”
Before the play, the Giants hadn’t discussed what to do if the Patriots used that tactic.
“Would I have orchestrated it differently? Perhaps,” Coughlin said. “You certainly don’t want to leave that much time on the clock…. [But] it turned out the right way.”
The Patriots got the ball back at their 20-yard line with 57 seconds left. But the Giants held on.
“We talk an awful lot throughout [about] finish, finish, finish,” Coughlin said. “And the young man who won the MVP certainly put our team on his back many, many times and we finished in the fourth quarter with some kind of a score that would allow us to eventually win the game.”
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