(NY Daily News) INDIANAPOLIS – Four years ago, John Mara stood on a podium in a swirl of confetti after witnessing what he called “the greatest victory in the history of this franchise.” He was sure it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
Then, on Sunday night, it happened all over again.
History repeated itself in incredible fashion as the Giants rode another amazing fourth-quarter comeback by Eli Manning to win their second Super Bowl championship in four years. They beat the New England Patriots, again, in Super Bowl XLVI on an Ahmad Bradshaw touchdown with 57 seconds remaining, this time 21-17.
Then they withstood a final, desperate pass by Tom Brady, again, to hang on to a heart-stopping win.
PHOTOS: GIANTS STUN PATRIOTS AGAIN IN SUPER BOWL
“To get one Super Bowl win in the manner that we got it four years ago usually lasts a whole career,” Mara said from under another storm of confetti. “But to get two of these? It is beyond description. It really is.”
Getting two in five seasons against the same rivals — a team with three Super Bowl rings of its own — is amazing enough, but they did it by nearly duplicated their miraculous championship run from 2007, right down to the final, nerve-wracking drive.
This time they got the ball back at their own 12 with 3:46 remaining, trailing 17-15 and needing only a field goal to pull off the miracle.
They started fast, with a 38-yard pass down the sidelines to Mario Manningham, who made the highlight-reel catch at midfield by leaping and just barely getting his feet in bounds. Manning — who set a Super Bowl record by completing his first nine passes and was named the MVP again for his stellar 30-for-40, 296-yard performance — completed four of his next five passes before the Pats let Bradshaw score on a six-yard run with less than a minute to go.
Then the Giants defense took the field, thinking, as safety Kenny Phillips said, “Don’t blow it. Just don’t blow it.” This time Brady — who set a Super Bowl record with 16 straight completions and finished 27 for 41 for 276 yards — had 22 seconds more than he had in Super Bowl XLII. And he nearly pulled off the biggest miracle of all when he fired a 49-yard Hail Mary pass into the end zone on the final play of the game.
Of the time ball was in the air, Mara said, “I couldn’t breathe. That would’ve been a horrible way to lose the game.” But Phillips leaped and knocked the ball away the Patriots’ Aaron Hernandez. New England’s injured tight end Rob Gronkowski lunged for the batted ball but it proved out of reach. The celebration was suddenly under way.
Mario Manningham keeps his feet inbounds to get the winning drive rolling. (Robert Sabo/New York Daily News)
That the game came down to Manning was somehow fitting, considering this was the seventh time he led the Giants back from a fourth-quarter deficit this season. But before Manning had a chance, the Giants had to duck several potential disasters. The first came when the Patriots scored on the final drive of the first half and the opening drive of the second half to take what seemed like a commanding 17-9 lead.
“That could’ve sucked the momentum right out of us,” Manning said. But they still had Tom Coughlin’s halftime words ringing in their ears.
“When we got in at halftime I said, ‘We can play better than this, guys. We’re better than this,’” Coughlin said. “Everybody agreed.”
First they chipped away with two Lawrence Tynes field goals to pull within 17-15. Then they dodged a bullet when linebacker Chase Blackburn -- only re-signed by the Giants in late November -- boxed out Gronkowski deep in Giants territory and intercepted a Brady pass. Two plays later, guard Chris Snee dove on fumble by Bradshaw at the Giants’ 11 yard line.
Then, with four minutes left, Brady had a wide-open Wes Welker deep in Giants territory, but his pass was just a little too high.
That set the stage, again, for Manning. And everyone on the Giants’ sideline knew what was going to happen next.
“It was almost relaxing, crazy as that sounds,” said Justin Tuck. “I was smiling on the sidelines. We were like, ‘We’ve been here before.’”
“It’s Eli Manning,” added Dave Tollefson. “What did you expect?”
The truth is nobody every expected this, not from a team that looked in August like it might be rebuilding and then was on the brink of elimination when it sat with a 7-7 record and two regular-season games to go. Just like they did in 2007, though, they spent the next six weeks on a run for the ages.
By the time they got to the Super Bowl the feeling was so familiar they just knew they were about to win it all.
“We proved everyone wrong with our actions,” said left tackle David Diehl. “It wasn’t about what we said. It was what we did.”
They backed up their words, and now they’ll get the trip to the White House they were chanting for in their post-game locker room, as well as the parade down the Canyon of Heroes they predicted they would get.
“No one can take this away from us, no matter what,” added Antrel Rolle. “They can say whatever they want to say. They can put us down. They can say we got lucky. We know we’re going to hear it all.
“But at the end of the day, we are the champions.”