Eli overcomes long shadows to win another Super Bowl MVP award

Giants 21  Patriots 17 | Super Bowl XLVI

The first score of the game was a bizarre safety — New England quarterback Tom Brady called for intentional grounding from his own end zone. It made the difference.

At the other end of the game, with the Giants driving inside the Patriots’ 10 yard line, down two points, and the clock nearing a minute to go before confetti time, New York had to score a touchdown in order to force New England to score their own TD instead of a field goal. The Giants indeed did score that TD, with a bit of the bizarre there, too. But, without that safety, it would have only taken a Pats field goal at the end to force an overtime.

[Note: if the Giants had been down by 4 instead of by 2 going into their final touchdown, the Giants would have kicked an extra point instead of the failed two-point try that transpired.]

When Tom Brady’s Hail Mary’s pass touched the ground, it was the Giants winning their fourth Lombardi Trophy, leaving the Patriots once again desiring their quadruple.

In large part, Bill Belichick’s strategy was to take New York’s undrafted wide receiver Victor Cruz out of the game with double coverage (Cruz did catch a first half touchdown pass by the way). Could the G-Men’s other receivers perform with all the pressure of a Super Bowl? Mario Manningham’s incredible catch on the first play of Eli’s final drive of the season, right in front of Belichick on the sideline with folded arms, was the signature on the manifest that put the strategy to rest. It would have been fitting if Manningham would have gotten up and handed the ball to Belichick with a thank you note.

Eli Manning. He did it again, with a 30-for-40, 296 yards passing performance, capped by just another 88-yard come-from-behind-fourth-quarter-game-winning drive. And, another Super Bowl MVP award.

From a New York perspective, these two weeks, and even game night, should have been about Eli Manning and his Giants. Instead, it became about his brother, being the little brother, in the house that his brother built, and playing against the manifest destiny that is Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. With all that on his shoulders, he performed as if he’d been living in a bubble the last two weeks.

In fact, he had. That is how Eli operates. He has the mental discipline and the mental maturity to know what is important and what is just fleeting media-speak. He just is. And there is nothing left to say about him. He just does.

Now look who is casting a long shadow.

***

Just a final note on the final score of the game…

Giants’ running back Ahmad Bradshaw ran the ball on a straight handoff, right up the middle for six yards, with the Patriots defense not attempting to stop the touchdown run. There were only 57 seconds remaining. This is not unheard of — a defense purposefully allowing the opponent to score so as to get the ball with enough time to score or tie at the very end.

Of course the gambit relies on favorable odds that the team with the ball will eventually score with much less time on the clock, if any. It’s called playing with fire, and it doesn’t say much for a coach’s faith in his defense — or a potential mistake by the opponent — to stop a potential score.

So what are the odds of a Giants’ fumble or missed field goal or blocked field goal versus an 80-yard touchdown drive with only a minute left? Remember — not a field goal, but an 80-yard touchdown drive?

There is something quite pungent about the whole thing.

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