- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2008

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The New England Patriots, winners of three of the previous six titles, were supposed to be a team for the ages.

Instead, the young New York Giants turned the previously perfect Patriots into a team of the aged, sacking Tom Brady five times and pulling off perhaps the biggest upset in NFL history with a 17-14 victory in Super Bowl XLII last night.

Photos:Super Bowl XLII

“This team, this season, where we started and where we ended was totally unexpected,” said Giants 36-year-old defensive end Michael Strahan, who had a sack in perhaps the final game of a Hall of Fame career.

“We could sit here and say I told you so, but that’s not this team. This is for us. I’m not thinking about [retirement] right now. I’m thinking about the parade that moves from Boston to New York.”

Indeed, it looked like it would be the Patriots’ game when Brady hit fellow record-setter Randy Moss for the 6-yard touchdown pass to put New England up 14-10 with 2:42 left.

However, Giants quarterback Eli Manning drove the massive underdogs 83 yards in 12 plays, highlighted by a tumbling catch by backup receiver David Tyree for 32 yards and finished with a 13-yard touchdown to receiver Plaxico Burress, who had guaranteed victory last week.

Manning followed his more acclaimed brother Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts in winning the Super Bowl and being named its MVP.

The oft-criticized younger Manning outdueled the usually impeccable Brady, completing 19 of 34 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns.

“The catch at the end, Plaxico and Eli have done that many times,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “Eli has made some unbelievable plays [during his four seasons]. He looks like he’s in the grasp or on his way down. He’s able to shake that off, fires the ball downfield, and it’s a contested catch [with Patriots standout safety Rodney Harrison] and David wrestles the ball away.

“I don’t know if there’s ever been a bigger play in the Super Bowl.”

The stunning victory completed an amazing season for the Giants, who were 0-2 and down 17-0 at halftime in Week 3 against the Washington Redskins before beginning their turnaround.

New York (14-6) still had to beat division winners Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay on the road in the NFC playoffs to set up the matchup with New England, which was 18-0 and had set a regular-season record with 589 points. Brady threw for a record 50 touchdowns, and Moss caught 23 of them — both records.

Brady was 8-for-11 for 81 yards on the go-ahead drive, but for much of the game the Patriots didn’t play like a team that hadn’t lost in more than a year. They averaged 2.8 yards a carry and just 4.0 a play. Only receiver Wes Welker (11 catches, 103 yards) put up big numbers.

“The season was exciting, Don’t get me wrong, but none of that really matters now,” Moss said. “This is something we didn’t expect. I thought [my touchdown] would really give us the momentum. Our ‘D’ had been playing great all day. I thought the defense would go ahead and close it up.

“My hats off to the Giants. They played better football.”

Moss and Brady, who had been sacked just 24 times during New England’s 18-game winning streak, both praised New York’s pass rush.

“I had a feeling it was going to come down to us [needing to make] a few plays,” Brady said. “[We] just didn’t get it done. They’re very good on defense. They have some great pressure schemes.”

Strahan said his defense focused solely on stopping New England’s top-rated passing game.

“We knew they wouldn’t beat us running the ball,” Strahan said. “No quarterback likes to be on his back. When you have four guys rushing like they’re starving, they’re very hard to stop.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick passed up a 49-yard field goal try indoors and went for it on fourth-and-13 in the third quarter, but Brady’s pass was incomplete.

Led by rookies Kevin Boss, Ahmad Bradshaw and Steve Smith, the Giants responded with a six-play, 80-yard march capped by Tyree’s 5-yard scoring slant against Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel with 11:05 left to make it 10-7.

The Giants, who had pushed the Patriots in a 38-35 loss in a regular-season finale at the Meadowlands that didn’t affect either team’s postseason seeding, showed they weren’t intimidated from the beginning at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Manning connected with Burress for gains of 14 and 8 yards to pick up two first downs before Bradshaw rumbled for 8 and another first down. Smith’s diving 9-yard catch on third-and-7 put New York on the New England 17, but the Giants settled for a 32-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes that made it 3-0 with 9:54 elapsed.

Laurence Maroney returned Tynes’ kickoff 43 yards to jump-start New England’s first drive. Maroney ran for 14 yards on the second and third plays of the drive and finished it off with a 1-yard touchdown behind Stephen Neal — two plays after linebacker Antonio Pierce was called for interfering with tight end Benjamin Watson in the end zone — to give the Patriots a 7-3 lead on the first play of the second quarter.

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