INDIANAPOLIS -- The debate finally can be put to rest.

The questions surrounding Eli Manning's place among the best quarterbacks in the game now have been answered.

Twice he's been charged with leading the Giants past Tom Brady and the favored Patriots.

And twice he has succeeded in his mission.

In older brother Peyton's city, Eli again proved just how elite he is.

Manning, the MVP of Super Bowl XLVI, not only led his team to another fourth-quarter comeback but again outplayed Brady on the biggest stage. He finished 30-for-40 for 296 yards and a touchdown to lead the Giants to a 21-17 victory over the Patriots last night.

Manning, who connected with eight different receivers, is the fifth quarterback in NFL history to win multiple Super Bowl MVP awards, joining Brady, Bart Starr of the Packers, Terry Bradshaw of the Steelers and Joe Montana of the 49ers.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

But Manning wasn't focused on personal accolades or proving his critics wrong.

"I'm just excited to win a championship," he said. " . . . This isn't about one person. It's about a whole team."

But when the win seemed in doubt, the Giants had no doubt that one guy in particular would find a way to make it happen.

With three minutes to go and the Patriots leading by two points, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell felt at ease.

"It's in Eli's hands. And I felt good," he said. "I'm so proud of him. He's been super all year."

Eli's father, Archie, talked after the game about his son winning his second championship.

"He might have said earlier in the year that he belonged with the elite quarterbacks," he said. "He will not be saying that he belongs in the Hall of Fame. I know Eli that well. He is in his eighth year, and I hope he can stay healthy for a long time."