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Bradshaw saved from goat label after Giants defense holds

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INDIANAPOLIS -- The hole opened wide enough for a Buick to haul through it. Ahmad Bradshaw had a quick call to make with the path to the end zone clear and less than a minute left in Super Bowl XLVI.

Score the go-ahead touchdown? Or hit the deck, leaving the Giants to run the clock down, and set up the game-winning field goal.

Call this one a split-decision.

Yes, Bradshaw scored the touchdown. Yes, it all worked out for him anyway, with the Giants able to hold the lead for the remaining 57 seconds, and claim a 21-17 win and their second world title in five years. But the truth is, at the last second, the fifth-year tailback changed his mind about going into the end zone, which explains his awkward tumble into the biggest six points on his football life.

"I tried (to stop)," Bradshaw explained to me on the field, "but my momentum just took me in. All I could do after that was hope that they wouldn't score."

If you look closely, you can actually see that happen, too.

Bradshaw, as he's approaching the goal line, attempts to collect himself and his left hand actually touches the ground at around the 1-yard line. But that did little to stop him from rolling into the paint.

"Well, he was trying to do (what he's coached to do), which is: 'Don't score. Get down to the 1-inch line, and pat it down to declare yourself down,' " said offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. "But no one touched him, and he rolled into the end zone. He was sitting down, trying to get down."

When the official lifted his arms, it meant more than "Touchdown." It meant Bradshaw had 57 excruciating seconds left on the game clock to ponder what he did.

Having Tom Brady on the other side probably didn't ease the nerves either.

"They're a great team, we were just hoping they wouldn't score," Bradshaw said. "That was a lot of time I left on the clock. All I could do was just hope and wish."

Brady's conversion of a fourth-and-16 with 39 seconds left only made things worse.

But Bradshaw's faith in his teammates -- a self-assuredness that flows up and down the Giant roster -- helped him hold on to that hope. He had to wait nine plays, one of which was negated by penalty, and through a couple of close calls (Aaron Hernandez nearly got free downfield, and Rob Gronkowski had a shot at the tip off the last-second Hail Mary), but he did finally get the ending he was hoping for.

What's amazing here is how risky a proposition scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the Super Bowl, which ended up being the game-winner, with one minute left really was.

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In explaining how tough a call it can be in the moment, Giants running back D.J. Ware said, "It happens so fast. We felt like if we could score, our defense would hold them. You might wanna take a knee, so you can run some more time, and kick a field goal. At the same time, you wanna get in that end zone, it's the Super Bowl, you don't get the chance to do this very often, and it was just a great payoff. I'm happy for him."

And Gilbride affirmed that the plan, at the time, was to let kicker Lawrence Tynes win it. Gilbride said, "We were just gonna run the clock out, and kick the field goal with minimum time, and then all of a sudden they jumped away, and take a chance and try to let him score a touchdown, which would normally be a heck of a gamble, having to drive 80 yards. But at least this way they had a chance. The other way, they weren't gonna get a chance. We were gonna run out the clock."

And owner John Mara added, "We were saying, 'They're probably gonna let us score here.' And I was kinda hoping we'd take a knee or he would go down at the 1. But when you have that chance to score, it's just too hard to stop. And I had confidence in our defense to get a stop."

It did, and so at the end of the game, covered in confetti and holding his young daughter, Bradshaw saw a dream fulfilled.

Maybe it didn't happen exactly the way he'd envisioned it in the backyard as a kid. But Bradshaw will forever be remembered for notching the deciding points in this Super Bowl, as Plaxico Burress did for the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

"It's a goal I've dreamed of my whole life. Now, I've accomplished it," he said of scoring the game-winner. "Hopefully I can get more. I'm blessed right now."

Blessed that the defense held. Blessed to have another ring coming. And blessed to move forward without regret.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer

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