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Eli Manning had enough Super Bowl magic to best Patriots again

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Four years later, Eli Manning and the Giants did it again. They beat Tom Brady. Overcame Bill Belichick. Came out of nowhere to reach an unlikely Super Bowl and rallied in the final minutes to upset the Patriots.

This time, they didn’t need a miraculous helmet catch by David Tyree. This time, Manning simply carved up Belichick’s defense with a championship on the line, driving the Giants 88 yards in nine plays over 2:49 to complete the fourth quarter comeback and 21-17 victory.

“I don’t know if I could have written a better script than this one,’’ defensive end Justin Tuck said following the classic Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Feb. 6, 2012.

The two quarterbacks were brilliant. Manning set a Super Bowl record by starting the game with nine straight completions. Brady connected on 16 in a row during the second and third quarters, breaking Joe Montana’s Super Bowl mark of 13. Manning finished the evening 30-of-40 for 296 yards and one touchdown while Brady was 27-of-41 for 276 yards, two touchdowns and one pick. Manning, though, was the architect of the winning drive. He hit on the game’s key play, a 38-yard strike to Mario Manningham down the left sideline. Ahmad Bradshaw would go in from six yards out with 57 seconds left, as Belichick let the Giants score, hoping for one last shot for Brady.

“This is twice now we’ve been on the biggest stage and gone down the field and scored a touchdown when needed,’’ guard Chris Snee said. “It all starts with Eli. He’s tremendous in the huddle, tremendous in that situation, he just did a phenomenal job.’’

eli manning giants patriots super bowl 46
Eli ManningJeff Zelevansky/NY Post

The previous title may have resonated more since the Giants were such massive underdogs and the Patriots were undefeated, but this one had just as long odds. The Giants were 7-7 at one point, unlikely to even reach the postseason. It turned with a 29-14 win over the rival Jets, the highlight Victor Cruz’s 99-yard touchdown catch. It was the start of a six-game winning streak that saw them manhandle the Falcons and Packers to start the postseason and edge the 49ers in a classic NFC Championship Game in overtime.

“This is just as exciting [as four years ago], probably more so, because of the kind of year we had,’’ coach Tom Coughlin said. “What a wonderful experience it was to see this team come together like it did.’’

The Giants were down at halftime, 10-9, and behind by eight late in the third quarter. But they reeled off the game’s final 12 points, Manning and their fierce pass rush once again overcoming Brady and Belichick and becoming the first Super Bowl champion to get outscored during the regular season. Brady and the Patriots were held scoreless over the final 26:20.

“I’m just happy for the guys. I’m happy for everyone in this organization, Coach Coughlin, all of my coaches, all of the players getting a chance to win the Super Bowl,” Manning said during the postgame trophy presentation in which he was named the game’s MVP. “Some of these guys are getting the first one. I feel great for them. I feel great for everybody.”

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