NEW YORK GIANTS
Following their amazing run during the season, the Giants capped it off with an incredulous victory over the until-then undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, 17-14.
It was as dramatic a victory as any in Super Bowl history, and needed a scintillating drive engineered by quarterback Eli Manning that started with 2:39 to play in the fourth quarter, just after the Patriots re-took the lead at 14-10.
It culminated with 35 seconds left, when Manning struck with a 13-yard touchdown pass in the left corner of the end zone to wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who was given a free pass when cornerback Ellis Hobbs slipped when his feet crossed while trying to stay with the taller, faster Burress.
One second remained, and the officials had to clear the field to get the Giants their final kneel-down.
The fans flooded the field as strains of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" resonated through the cavernous University of Phoenix Stadium.
Now the Giants are poised on the threshold of a dynastic progression if they play their cards – and their draft choices and their free agent decisions – wisely.
Their new general manager, Jerry Reese, made his first year in office a memorable one, taking the winning team to the Super Bowl and watching as all eight of his draft picks not only made the team but, in fact, contributed to varying degrees to the success the Giants enjoyed. Astonishingly, in the first-round playoff game in Tampa, all eight selections saw action.
So where do the Giants go from here? They have needs; all teams have needs, and all teams realize the difficulty, perhaps the near-impossibility, of earning a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Many of their young players all appeared to emerge at the same time, both on offense and defense, and they will provide the nucleus for continued team growth.
WR Amani Toomer
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But there were veterans who also stepped up and reached back and came up with performances they hadn't produced in years – defensive end Michael Strahan, for one; wide receiver Amani Toomer, for another. Cornerbacks Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters found new life, as did new acquisition Kawika Mitchell at weak-side linebacker – the only unrestricted free agent Reese and head coach Tom Coughlin wanted.
Injuries took away several key players and the Giants persevered anyway, but the return of strong-side linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, running back Derrick Ward and tight end Jeremy Shockey should make the Giants even stronger.
There were reports that some of the players felt the loss of Shockey hastened the emergence of rookie tight end Kevin Boss, 6-feet-7 and 265 pounds, and that perhaps the moody, loud-mouthed Shockey – as well as the Giants – might be better served if he was part of another team.
Needs include a veteran backup quarterback, help in the secondary, depth along both lines, perhaps another tight end and just some general tinkering by Reese.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
What was supposed to be the culmination in one of the greatest single-season efforts in sports history ended in one of the great upsets Sunday night in Glendale as the Giants ended New England's perfect year with a 17-14 shocker in Super Bowl XLII at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Patriots' supposed high-powered offense never got much going on the evening, as New York's defensive front dominated the line of scrimmage and beat up on Tom Brady to hold New England to its fewest points of the season.
Shock is the only way to describe the action in the Big Game. It will take some time for magnitude of the upset the Giants pulled off to sink in, but the bottom line is the Patriots finished the year 18-1 and the previous undefeated efforts went out the door with the devastating loss in the final game. Getting to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in seven seasons is an accomplishment, but that's certainly not how things will resonate in New England. Perfection was all the Patriots had worked for, and the Giants took it away in a physical 60 minutes of somewhat ugly but effective action.