Eli Manning has seemingly always lived in the shadow of his father Archie and brother Peyton, but in the New York Giants’ 17-14 Super Bowl shocker against the New England Patriots, Eli looked like a regular Joe.
A regular Joe as in Namath — engineering the greatest upset in Super Bowl history since Namath put the AFL on the map by stunning the Baltimore Colts 16-7 in Super Bowl III.
And a regular Joe as in Montana — answering New England’s go-ahead score by taking the Giants downfield for a game-winning touchdown to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left. It was reminiscent of Montana so many times in his career — especially when his touchdown toss to John Taylor defeated Cincinnati in Super Bowl XXIII.
Manning went 19 of 34 for 255 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. But he had plenty of help, as the Giants’ defense was relentless in its pursuit of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, sacking him five times, including on second down in a desperation drive at the end of the game.
When it was over, the Giants had shocked the football world and most certainly the Patriots, who were heavy favorites to complete a perfect 19-0 season.
During the ups and downs of his first four NFL seasons, Manning appeared to have more than his share of growing pains, including the 2007 regular season as his 20 interceptions were tied for most in the league.
But down the stretch, beginning with the Week 17 meeting with the Patriots, Manning began to emerge, and his poise was a reason the Giants went from playoff afterthought to Super Bowl winner in a matter of weeks.
Manning’s poise was evident on the final drive, as he avoided a fierce Patriots pass rush, a la Steve McNair at the end of Super Bowl XXXIV, to complete a pass downfield to David Tyree that eventually set up the game-winning score to Burress.
For his efforts, Manning took home the MVP Award, the Giants the Lombardi Trophy and prevented the Patriots date with perfection and pro football history.