Super Bowl and bust! Eli's a lock for Hall
It was a drive into history, a loud statement engineered by a quiet man who now must be considered the greatest offensive player in the history of New York football.
Elite? Calling Eli Manning that at this stage would be to insult him with understatement.
This is more to the point: Welcome to Canton, Easy E! Someday, that is.
First, take some time to celebrate what you and your teammates did Sunday night, ripping another Lombardi Trophy out of the hands of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, this time by a score of 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI.
Adding to the drama was that he did it at Lucas Oil Stadium, a building largely made possible by the success of his older brother Peyton. Eli now leads the Manning family in championship rings, 2-1.
Naturally, he deflected all attempts by reporters to translate the win into his career legacy.
"I'm excited to win a championship, excited for my teammates,'' he said. "We have a number of guys who this is their first one . . . This isn't about one person.''
With 3:46 left and the Giants trailing by two points with one timeout remaining, Manning was handed the ball at his 12-yard line and did what he customarily does in such situations.
And this time, he didn't need a receiver catching the ball against his helmet to key the drive. But the perfect throw by Manning and brilliant catch by Mario Manningham that gained 38 yards on the first play were nearly as remarkable as Manning to David Tyree back in 2008.
Manning said the Patriots were in a cover-2 defense and had the right side of the field bottled up. He saw the safety cheating in and flung the ball in the direction of Manningham down the left sideline.
"Great catch by him keeping both feet in," Manning said. "That's a huge play right there. Big, big, big-time play right there.''
Manning was just getting started. He hit Manningham again on a curl route for 16 yards and found Hakeem Nicks on a slant for 14 yards to get the ball to the New England 18, within comfortable field-goal range. Then Ahmad Bradshaw's 6-yard touchdown run put the Giants ahead with 57 seconds left.
Manning began with nine consecutive pass completions, a Super Bowl record, and finished 30-for-40 for 296 yards and a touchdown, completing passes to eight different receivers.
It was a measured performance by the quarterback, who said the Giants were taking what the Patriots were willing to give. New England sought to prevent long passes and dared the Giants to beat them with runs and short throws. "I thought we played very well, played smart,'' Manning said.
Adding to the deliciousness for Giants fans was that Manning again outdueled Brady, who at one stage completed a Super Bowl-record 16 passes in a row and converted on a fourth-and-16 on the Pats' final drive.
Not enough, just as Brady didn't have enough in the Arizona desert last time he got this far. Manning and the Giants now are responsible for twice denying Belichick and Brady their fourth Super Bowl rings.
The Patriots haven't won it all since the 2004 season, twice being denied by underdog Giants teams. There wasn't much Brady could do but tip his hat.
"Eli has had a great season and he made some great throws there in the fourth quarter,'' Brady said.
Brady, Manning and Ben Roethlisberger are the only active quarterbacks with at least two Super Bowl victories. The only retired quarterback in that club who is not in the Hall of Fame is Jim Plunkett.
But Manning insisted such matters were the furthest thing from his mind Sunday night. He was thinking about the parties Giants fans would be having back home, and about the one the Giants soon would be joining.
Said Manning: "We'll be celebrating on Tuesday with you.''