Manning Helps Craft a Giant Upset

The calm leadership of quarterback Eli Manning and a ferocious defensive effort led the New York Giants to a Super Bowl upset over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots. Manning was named the game's most valuable player.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News, good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

The New York Giants have pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NFL history. They defeated the undefeated New England Patriots 17 to 14. Jason Jagpout(ph) was celebrating in New York's Time Square.

Mr. JASON JAGPOUT (Giants fan): Oh my god, I am in heaven right now. This is ridiculous. Not only did we win the Super Bowl, we beat the Patriots.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Tom Goldman reports from Glendale, Arizona where the game was played.

TOM GOLDMAN: In the end there was a quarterback leading his team down the field on a winning drive in a Super Bowl game that involved the New England Patriots. But the quarterback this time was not the Patriot's legendary, Tom Brady.

(soundbite of Super Bowl XLII)

Unidentified Man (Announcer): Manning lofts it. Throws - a long touchdown, New York.

GOLDMAN: Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress, a Super Bowl victory as heard on Fox TV. Manning has one of the most pressure-packed jobs in the NFL. In four inconsistent seasons with the Giants, he's been hammered by the New York sports media. He's also toiled under the huge expectations of being the little brother of Indianapolis star quarterback, Peyton Manning, who was last year's Super Bowl most valuable player.

After last night, they need to clear some room in the Manning trophy cabinet. Eli won the MVP award and said afterwards he relished those last couple of minutes when he led his team to victory.

Mr. ELI MANNING (New York Giants Quarterback): I've talked about it before with Peyton and kind of what situation you want to be in, you know, you want to be down four in the game where you kind of have to score a touchdown. If you're down three, you might just settle for a field goal. You kind of like being down four where you go in, you know you have to score to win the game and a Super Bowl, and to go and do it, you know, is just unbelievable feeling.

GOLDMAN: The winning drive included a play that will be part of Super Bowl lore. Manning pulled a Houdini-like escape from several grasping Patriots defenders, lobbed the ball to wide receiver David Tyree for a huge gain. As he grabbed for the ball, Tyree pinned it one-handed against his helmet. It was the kind of play that makes you believe in fate, the kind of play New England always seemed to come up with as it was winning three Super Bowls since 2002.

But last night with the sports world ready to crown the 19 and 0 Patriots, the greatest team ever, the Giants hijacked the coronation, leaving the Patriots 18 and one and hugely disappointed. Here's Tom Brady.

Mr. TOM BRADY (New England Patriots Quarterback): You know, it's one thing if I felt we weren't prepared, or didn't work hard, or didn't give it our all, and we did. We left it all out there. Guys are spent, guys played extremely hard, played to hurt, I'm sure it'll be tough to swallow over the coming months.

GOLDMAN: Brady threw a record 50 touchdown passes this regular season, but he looked anything but record setting last night. And all credit goes to the Giants' defense. Going into the game, the expert said New York's glimmer of hope would come from the defense pressuring Brady. New York sacked him five times, made him hurry his throws, countless others. Giants' defensive end Michael Strahan was in the thick of it.

Mr. MICHAEL STRAHAN (New York Giants Defensive End): You could sense that they were frustrated. I think, in a way, they were surprised. We were stopping the best offense in football.

GOLDMAN: Something they didn't do five weeks ago when the two teams played in the final game of the regular season. New England won 38 to 35, but Strahan thinks that rough and tumble game helped set up last night's upset.

Mr. STRAHAN: They are the team that, the last time we played them in Giants stadium, may have put up 38 points - but you can tell they were uncomfortable in that game. I think we brought a little bit technicalities that they had not seen. For us to come and get another opportunity, amazing, then to take it to another level. You couldn't write this story any better. Right now, finished, 17-14, can't beat it.

GOLDMAN: No, you can't write it any better, so I'll stop after two final thoughts. A victory parade, a lot of people thought would never happen, now is scheduled for tomorrow in New York City. And there are some members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins waking up happy today because they're still the only team to go through an entire NFL season unbeaten.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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