INDIANAPOLIS -- Eli Manning is elite, for sure. A king of comebacks, too. And far, far more than Peyton's little brother now.
Spot-on from beginning to end Sunday night, Manning won his second NFL championship -- and second Super Bowl MVP award -- for leading the New York Giants to a 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots.
Manning went 30-for-40 passing for 296 yards with one touchdown pass and zero interceptions. He opened the game by becoming the first quarterback to complete his first nine attempts in a Super Bowl. He finished his work by directing the nine-play, 88-yard TD drive that put New York ahead with 57 seconds left.
It started on New York's 12-yard line and ended with Ahmad Bradshaw easing into the end zone from 6 yards out. The Patriots decided not to contest the run, trying to save some time on the clock for a final drive -- an audacious and risky decision by Patriots coach Bill Belichick. But New England couldn't get the ball back in the end zone, with Tom Brady's final pass falling just beyond the grasp of tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Manning also was the MVP of Super Bowl XLII, when his scoring pass to Plaxico Burress in the final minute allowed New York to upset Brady and New England, ruining the Patriots' bid for a perfect season.
Manning now is one of only five players in NFL history with multiple Super Bowl MVP awards. He joined the guy he one-upped yet again in the big game, Brady, along with Terry Bradshaw, Bart Starr and Joe Montana (the only one with three). Manning did it in the House that Peyton Built, the stadium where his Big Bro -- a four-time regular-season MVP but owner of only one Super Bowl title -- plays for the Indianapolis Colts.
"It just feels good to win a Super Bowl. Doesn't matter where you are," Manning said, clutching the silver Vince Lombardi Trophy. "It's been a wild season. We had a great, tough bunch of guys who never quit, and had faith in each other. I'm proud of these guys sticking together."
Manning led six game-winning drives to bring New York back from fourth-quarter deficits during the regular season. So it came as no surprise he was cool as could be Sunday, when he was 10 of 14 for 118 yards.
The greatest comeback of all, though, probably was the way Manning -- with plenty of help, of course -- steered the Giants back after they lost five of six games during one stretch to fall to 7-7. From there, they won their last two regular-season games against the Jets and Cowboys to sneak into the playoffs as the NFC East champions, then continued their surge with four postseason wins in a row on the road.
âIâm proud of our guys. Iâm proud of the team," Manning said. "Iâm proud of the way they fought back all year. We never got discouraged. We kept our faith all year.â
And Archie Manning got to be the proud papa again.
"I think it's special because of the city here," he said. "This city has meant a lot to our family for 14 years, and I've been here all week. The city did a great job, and this building looked beautiful.
"Yes, it is special."
Back in August, Manning was asked in an interview whether he considered himself an "elite" quarterback like Brady. Manning said simply that he belonged "in that class." But it all became quite a big deal in New York -- shocking, right? -- and he was criticized.
Hard to imagine anyone arguing now.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press