Giants opened fourth quarter with an 80 yard touchdown drive, and led 10 – 7, until Patriot quarterback Tom Brady, connected with wide receiver Randy Moss, who scored with 2:42 remaining. Giants started on their own 17 after the kickoff, and Eli Manning earned his MVP award on their final drive.
Giants gained yards on two completions to Amani Toomer, and two yard run by Brandon Jacobs on fourth and one. Under heavy pressure, Manning ran for five yards, then threw an incomplete pass to rookie wide receiver, David Tyree. Giants were facing a third and five, when Manning and Tyree both made the greatest play of their careers.
The Helmet Catch
Patriots were about to sack Manning, when he somehow escaped, and passed to Tyree, who was in the middle of the field, while running toward the sideline, away from Patriots. Tyree, was closely covered by 14–year veteran Rodney Harrison, but jumped higher than Harrison, and managed to trap the ball on his helmet, and maintain possession, for a 32 yard gain. Giants called time out after the play, with 59 seconds left in the season.
A sack, and an incomplete pass, led to a third and 11, Manning completed another clutch pass, to another rookie, Steve Smith, who stepped out of bounds, on Patriot 13 yard line, to stop the clock, with 39 seconds remaining.
Manning threw a touchdown to Plaxico Burress on the following play, to give Giants a 17 – 14 lead with 35 seconds on the clock.
Tom Brady began his drive with an incomplete pass, then was sacked for a ten yard loss, by rookie defensive tackle, Jay Alford. Brady ended his drive, and Patriots 18 game winning streak, with two incomplete passes to Randy Moss. Brady finished the day 29 for 48, for 266 yards, with one touchdown.
After the game, Eli Manning, who finished 19 out of 34 for 255 yards, added to his hero status, saying:
“That’s the position you want to be in. You want to have the ball in your hands, four minutes left – go down, you’ve got to score a touchdown. That’s where you want to be, a chance to win the game.”
It seems like the defense plays its best game of the year every week.
Patriots finished the game with 22 first downs, five more than Giants, but only got into “red zone” (inside 20) twice.
One example: Just before the half, Patriots seemed likely to add at least three points to their lead, after Randy Moss caught an 18 yard pass on Giants 44. But on the next play, Justin Tuck got his second sack, Brady fumbled, and Chief Osi Umenyiora recovered, with ten seconds left in the half.
Giants sacked Tom Brady five times. They also held Patriots to 45 yards rushing.
Over the season, Patriots averaged, an NFL record, 36.8 points per game. Patriots only punted 44 times, in 16 games, compared to 71 for Giants. Brady was offensive player of the week five times, and offensive player of the month twice. Patriots set regular season records for most points scored, and most touchdowns scored. Randy Moss scored 23 of their 75 touchdowns by himself.
Patriots also set records for fewest sacks allowed (21) and fewest turnovers (15) — besides winning 18 games in a row.
Meanwhile, Giants treated the NFL’s best team like second–class citizens. Patriots offense only got first downs on five of their nine possessions. Patriots had no first downs in the third quarter.
Let us all hope that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo returns next season. Although “Spags” will be interviewed for Redskins head coaching job, I hope Giants do whatever it takes to keep him with the team.
I am still in shock over this win, and this game.
My Favorite New York Giant Pass
Giant fans might recall, when Phil Simms completed a fourth and 17 pass, late in a game against Minnesota, in 1986, which Giants won, 22 – 20. Simms said that was his favorite game, and that particular play was my favorite pass of all time until yesterday.
Phil Simms is still my all–time favorite Giant quarterback, but David Tyree’s Helmet Catch is now my favorite pass.
And Super Bowl XLII is the greatest game New York Giants have played in my lifetime.