INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Tom Brady set a Super Bowl record by completing 16 consecutive passes and capped two long drives with touchdown tosses, helping the New England Patriots take a 17-15 lead over the New York Giants into the fourth quarter of the NFL championship game Sunday night.
After a shaky start that included a safety for intentional grounding in the end zone on his first play of the game, Brady turned back into Tom Terrific before a crowd of 68,658.
On New England's last possession of the first half, Brady went 10 for 10 for 98 yards, including a 4-yard TD pass to Danny Woodhead. And on the opening drive of the second half, Brady went 5 for 5 for 54 yards, finishing with a 12-yarder to Aaron Hernandez.
After jogging up to greet Hernandez, Brady used his right finger to tap on the patch over his heart reading "MHK," the initials of Patriots owner Robert Kraft's late wife, Myra.
All in all on those two drives, Brady was 15 for 15 for 152. Not bad, huh?
Add in one more completion at the start of the streak, and Brady's 16 in a row broke the mark of 13 set by his boyhood idol, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, in the 1990 Super Bowl. Brady's run ended with a dump-away incompletion while being flushed out of the pocket with 6:04 left in the third quarter. On the next play, the Giants sacked Brady for the first time, with Justin Tuck getting to him.
Already a Super Bowl MVP twice and a champion three times, Brady was hoping to come out ahead in this rematch of the 2008 Super Bowl, when New England's bid for a perfect season ended with a 17-14 loss to New York.
This time, Brady got into trouble the first time he touched the ball, when Tuck applied pressure and Brady threw the ball away deep while standing in his own end zone.
A penalty for intentional grounding was called, which resulted in the safety and a 2-0 lead for the Giants. Only one other time in Super Bowl history did the game's first score come on a safety, all the way back in 1975, when the Steelers beat the Vikings.
Little went right for New England at the outset, and New York pulled out to a 9-0 lead on Eli Manning's 2-yard TD toss to Victor Cruz, who did his celebratory salsa dance in the back of the end zone with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter.
Manning, the 2008 MVP, is the first quarterback to begin a Super Bowl with nine consecutive completions, starting Sunday 9 for 9 for 77 yards.
This time, New York ran 19 of the game's first 20 plays, outgaining New England 108-0 in yards and holding a time-of-possession edge of 11 minutes, 28 seconds to 8 seconds. New England didn't get its initial first down until there were under two minutes left in the opening quarter.
There also was an apparent fumble by the Giants, recovered by the Patriots _ except it was wiped out by a penalty because New England was caught with 12 men on the field, instead of 11.
After New England's third possession ended with a three-and-out and punt, head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien had a lengthy chat on the sideline, both waving papers around and pointing at the field. Brady briefly approached, as if to interject an idea or two, but then appeared to think better of it and went over to a bench, plopping himself down with teammates.
But eventually, to no one's surprise, Brady got going _ and he did so before the extended Super Bowl halftime show, which Belichick prepared his team for by taking a half-hour break during practice last week. "Material Girl" Madonna was the act for this year's game.
The drive to end the first half was a masterful 14-play, 96-yarder, tying two others _ in 1986 and 2010 _ for the longest in a Super Bowl.
Brady's pass to Hernandez made it 17-9 early in the second half and ended a 79-yard drive.
But Lawrence Tynes' 38-yard field goal pulled New York within 17-12 with 6:43 left in the third quarter, and he added a 33-yarder with 35 seconds to go in the period.
Earlier, Stephen Gostkowski's 29-yard field goal put the Patriots on the board, trailing 9-3 a little more than a minute into the second quarter.
The only positive early on for the AFC champion Patriots? They won the pregame coin toss, after NFC teams had won the past 14 at the Super Bowl.
New England deferred its choice until the second half, giving New York the ball first at the outset of the game.
The Patriots (15-3) entered Sunday on a 10-game winning streak. Their last loss came against New York in the regular season, a 24-20 Giants victory on Nov. 6. The Giants (12-7) had won five consecutive games.
The roof was closed at Lucas Oil Stadium as Indianapolis hosted the NFL championship game for the first time, with an expected U.S. TV audience of 100 million or more.
Among those watching the game on TV: President Barack Obama, who sent out a message on Twitter on Sunday saying he wished his hometown Chicago Bears were playing in the Super Bowl.
The most talked-about injury all week was Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski's sprained left ankle. He was wearing a gray walking boot when he came off the team flight to Indianapolis; he missed most of New England's practice time.
But Gronkowski was on the field when it mattered, and while he appeared to be at something less than full speed at all times Sunday, he did haul in a 20-yard catch while surrounded by defenders right before the 2-minute warning in the first half.
The Giants, meanwhile, lost one of their backup tight ends in the second quarter, when Travis Beckum was knocked out of the game with a torn ligament in his right knee.