From 0-2 to 6-2, from good to great as December rolled into the playoffs, from a wild-card team to a wild run, the Giants are Super Bowl champions.
The imperfect team ruined New England's perfect season.
And the way they did it, from behind on their last drive of the season, the beautiful underdog making its final charge, was more than appropriate.
It was perfect.
We can start with Eli Manning, who stared down defeat with the same playoff look he gave in the other three games. He took the Giants on their last drive, down four with 2:39 left from his own 17-yard line, and did what the entire team's been doing for more than a month. He refused to lose.
He escaped the pocket with half of New England hanging on his jersey and flung a deep ball toward No. 85, a fourth-receiver named David Tyree, a born-again Christian who recently lost his mom but knew she was watching. He went up and got it with Pro Bowl safety Rodney Harrison dangling on his shoulder pads.
Four plays later the Giants were in the end zone and on their way to beating New England 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII at the University of Phoenix Stadium. The Giants denied New England a 19-0 season and fulfilled a promise to carve their own slice of history.
And as the clock skipped past 10 o'clock East Coast, about 10:19 p.m., Manning raised the Pete Rozelle Trophy for all to see.
Then Manning, a team-first guy in a locker room filled with them, saluted David Tyree, who beat another Pro Bowl Patriot, Asante Samuel, for an earlier touchdown. Tyree, another underdog Giant, a special-teams whiz who rarely gets a crack at playing receiver. But here was Tyree in the Super Bowl, a kid Pats coach Bill Belichick once called "Tyree Davis'' during a conference call, making sure Coach remembers his name this time.
"That,'' Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of Tyree's catch over Harrison, "might be one of the great plays all-time in the Super Bowl.''
"He made an unbelievable catch,'' Manning said, "and saved the game.''
Only Tyree was less impressed. "When the ball is in the air,'' he said, "you have to get it. That's the job.''
There were so many heroes in Giants blue, so many players to make you proud to be a fan. Starting with a defense that turned Tom Brady's pocket into a phone booth, knocking him down, smacking him in the face and refusing to let him up. The Giants gave themselves a chance by making sure Brady knew he was in a game. It didn't take long for Brady to realize that he wasn't going to stand in the pocket like a statue and pick out receivers like a marksman shooting bottles from 20 yards away.
They made the perfect quarterback uncomfortable.
"I don't know if he got rattled,'' Antonio Pierce said, "but he had grass stains.''
And yet Brady is so good, so poised, so tough, that he led a go-ahead touchdown drive and only 2:42 remained. Brady threw a dart to a wide-open Randy Moss in the end zone. Moss had put a little juke on Corey Webster and Webster slipped and the Patriots had the lead with 2:42 left.
Poor Webster. Was there any greater symbol of the Giants' comeback this season than cornerback Corey Webster? He came out of nowhere to help the Giants make the Super Bowl, another guy many of us gave up on long ago. He covered Joey Galloway stride for stride in Tampa Bay. He took on Terrell Owens in Dallas and by the end Webster had won that battle. Then he got beat for a 90-yarder by Donald Driver in Green Bay and came back to win that one, the way the Giants kept coming back from an 0-2 start.
That doesn't include the way Webster conducted himself after being benched following Week 3. He was a pro's pro, practicing harder, studying longer, and supporting his teammates the best he could.
So there was Webster, running stride for stride with Moss down the left sideline, a completion and New England has the ball at the Giants' 15 with a few seconds left. The ball was about to land in Moss' hands when Webster reached out a hand, 65 yards from where Brady had released the ball, and knocked it away with 10 seconds left.
The Giants were Super Bowl champions, and a little after Manning hoisted the MVP trophy, a song came blasting from the speakers. "New York, New York.''
Start spreading the news. The Giants are world champions.
Perfect Ending for Imperfect Team
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