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After record-setting season, Brady has rare tough night

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- You might have missed it because of the crowd noise, but there was a distinct popping sound as Tom Brady's final pass fell incomplete and all but sealed the Giants' victory in Super Bowl XLII. It was Mercury Morris, Don Shula and Co. opening another bottle of champagne, preserving their 1972 season as the only undefeated one in NFL history.

No one thought Eli Manning would be the one to engineer the game-winning drive. Brady had his chance with 35 seconds left to keep the cork in the bottle. But he never looked as comfortable on Sunday as he had in the previous 18 games and the Patriots' offense didn't get into a rhythm until the final quarter.

"They got good coverage guys, they have a good pass rush," Brady said. " They are a good team. I think they are coordinated very well…They were just more than we could handle tonight."

The Patriots' first drive of the game ended three seconds into the second quarter with a Laurence Maroney touchdown run that put the Pats up, 7-3. Everyone thought the Patriots would come out firing. Although New England scored on its only first-half possession in the red zone, Brady had thrown for just 82 yards in the first half while being sacked three times, and the Giants held the ball nearly nine minutes longer.

"It's one of those things where they have a great front seven," said center Dan Koppen. "They have tremendous players up there and they just out-played us."

Neither team scored in the third quarter and the 7-3 score was the second-lowest scoring Super Bowl in NFL history going into the fourth. In the second half, the Giants continued to rattle Brady, forcing him to overthrow his receivers on numerous occasions. When the Patriots failed to convert on third-and-5 to close out the third quarter, a frustrated Brady hung his head as he walked off the field. The Patriots were winning and held the ball for most of the quarter, yet Randy Moss had only one reception and the Patriots didn't put any points on the board.

After Manning led the Giants on a six-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that put New York ahead by three in the final quarter, the teams traded punts before New England suddenly sprung to life.

Brady used short underneath passes to Wes Welker (who tied a Super Bowl record with 11 receptions), Moss and the versatile Kevin Faulk. The drive ended in a 6-yard touchdown pass to Moss and put the Pats up by four.

It wasn't enough. Manning floated the ball into the end zone for the final score, and Brady was unable to get the Pats in field-goal range to try to tie it up.

"I don't think their secondary did anything overwhelming," Moss said. "I think it was their pass rush, their front four is what really set the tone for four quarters."

Brady's teammates had nothing but praise for the league MVP, who finished 29 of 48 for 266 yards, after the perfect season had been erased.

"Tom is the best in the game. He's everything you want in a quarterback," Welker said. "There's no quarterback I'd rather play with. He showed great poise on that last drive."

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