Tuck, Giants 'D' step up in crunch time

Giants defensive end Justin Tuck sacks Patriots QB

Giants defensive end Justin Tuck sacks Patriots QB Tom Brady during the second half of Super Bowl XLVI. (Feb. 5, 2012) (Credit: AP)

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tom Brady lay crumbled on the field under the weight of Justin Tuck's immense frame.

The Patriots quarterback again had tried to escape the Giants' pressure. But this time, in the most crucial of moments, he could not escape.

Though there would be more chances for him and the Patriots to pull out a win in Super Bowl XLVI Sunday night, Tuck's sack with 39 seconds left backed up the Patriots to their 14-yard line and helped lead to Brady's futile Hail Mary pass into the end zone as time expired.

Eli Manning was the MVP of the Giants' 21-17 Super Bowl win, but Big Blue's defense kept Brady off his game when it counted most.

Before warm-ups, Tuck said he told his teammates: "We're built for this. Go out there and grab it." Then he set the tone by doing just that.

Brady was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone on the Patriots' first play from scrimmage. As Tuck ran toward the quarterback and readied to grab him, Brady heaved the ball down the middle to no one in particular on first-and-10 from the 6. The result was a safety and a 2-0 lead.

But Brady brushed off that shaky start and completed a Super Bowl-record 16 straight passes, tying his own postseason record against Jacksonville.

His two touchdown passes -- one to former Jet Danny Woodhead in the second quarter and another to Aaron Hernandez in the third -- capped 17 unanswered points and gave the Patriots a 17-9 lead.

The Giants' defense just couldn't get to Brady at that point in the game. Linebacker Michael Boley said the reason for the unit's slow start was simple: timing.

"Give those guys credit," he said. "They did a good job during the course of the game of getting guys open. He has quick hands. He was getting rid of the ball early."

Osi Umenyiora said the Pats' no-huddle offense threw off the defense's rhythm, but "at the end of the day, we knew it was going to come down to us."

On third-and-8 from New England's 19 in the third quarter, one play after Brady's record passing streak was halted by an incompletion, the Giants brought a three-man rush. Dave Tollefson tried to wrap up Brady with an outstretched arm, but he spun around to avoid the contact. Unfortunately for Brady, he ran right into Tuck, who leveled him for a 4-yard loss.

Tuck landed on Brady's left shoulder as he rolled on top of him, and Brady went to the sideline as the Patriots punted. The sight of the quarterback repeatedly rotating his left shoulder had to be troubling for Patriots fans.

Brady finished 27-for-41 for 276 yards and two touchdowns. But after the Giants took the lead with 57 seconds remaining, he went 2-for-7 on the Patriots' final drive, along with a spike to stop the clock and Tuck's 6-yard sack.

"The game was on the line," the Giants' Mathias Kiwanuka said. "We knew as a defense, we just had to get it done."

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