INDIANAPOLIS - INDIANAPOLIS
What began as a far-fetched dream -- a quixotic one at that, especially after that torturous roster upheaval, the preseason spate of injuries and the four-game losing streak at midseason -- ended with one last awe-inspiring comeback and the joyful reality of one more Super Bowl championship for a franchise that is starting to get used to them.
Eli Manning came through one more time with one more fourth-quarter comeback to earn his second Super Bowl MVP, getting the better of future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady in a rematch of that remarkable night of Super Bowl XLII. This time it was another dramatic ending in a 21-17 win, as Manning led the game-winning drive in the final minutes to win a second title, doing so in the same building in which older brother Peyton has starred since 1998.
Eli further solidified his place in NFL history by vanquishing a Patriots team that had won 10 straight games since the Giants notched a stirring regular-season win that made you start to think this team maybe, just maybe, had the makings of a champion.
"This isn't about one person, this is about a whole team coming together to get this win," said Manning, who led the Giants to the winning score with 57 seconds left in Sunday night's game. "I'm proud of this team, the way we fought all year. We never got discouraged, we kept our faith, kept our confidence and fought all the way to the end."
They did it behind the heroics of Manning, who won for the eighth time this season when the Giants either trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter. He helped the Giants become the first team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl after trailing in the second half by at least eight points.
The 2011 Giants won their fourth Super Bowl title since 1986, becoming the fifth team to win at least four Super Bowls and cementing their legacy as one of the finest NFL franchises of this or any era. And Tom Coughlin matched Bill Parcells with his second Super Bowl title.
Not bad for a coach who might have come close to losing his job had he not extricated his team from another second-half collapse by beating the Cowboys twice and the Jets once down the stretch.
"If you lose a game in New York, you're fired or burned at the stake or whatever," Coughlin said after the game.
OK, so maybe it's not quite that bad. But you get the coach's drift. As he did in the 2007 season, when the Giants qualified for the playoffs late and won three road games before upsetting the previously unbeaten Patriots in the Super Bowl, Coughlin took this team on a long postseason ride. This one featured upsets of the defending champion Packers and the resurgent 49ers on the road, and finally the Patriots.
"Nobody said it could be done except for us, and we believed in one another," guard David Diehl said. "Let everybody say what they want to say. The Giants are world champs, baby."
The dramatic ending to Sunday night's win was every bit as exhilarating as the last one and included a signature moment only slightly less extraordinary than David Tyree's 32-yard catch during the winning drive in Super Bowl XLII, when he pinned the ball to his helmet. This time Mario Manningham made a 38-yard catch on a "go" route down the left sideline, just getting his feet inbounds to get the Giants to midfield.
"The way he kept his feet inbounds and hung on to the ball going out of bounds was a remarkable thing," Coughlin said. "David's play is forever etched in history. His was incredible. [Manningham's] just continues along in that fashion."
What a night. What a season. What an exhilarating journey that ended in so unlikely a fashion.
Shows you what's possible when you believe, even when those around you don't. The Giants may have been the only ones who thought this night somehow could become possible. But after one more improbable run and one more Super Bowl championship, this crazy dream has come true.