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Dottino: Believe In Eli

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Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants celebrates after Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants caught a two yard touchdown pass in first quarter against the New England Patriots during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants celebrates after Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants caught a two yard touchdown pass in first quarter against the New England Patriots during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

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By Paul Dottino
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So what’s left for Eli Manning, other than to go for three Super Bowl MVPs, right?

Manning was sensational in leading the Giants to a 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. He directed the winning TD drive (nine plays for 88 yards) by going 5-of-6  for  74 yards. Three of those passes went to Mario Mannigham, beginning with a 38-yard strike  down the left sideline to open the drive and bring the Giants to the 50.

On the final play of the drive, Ahmad Bradshaw darted up the middle for a 6-yard TD (with the momentum taking him the final yard after he tried to stop to work the clock) as the Patriots played soft to preserve the final 57 seconds for quarterback Tom Brady.

But the Patriots ran out of time and the Giants had their second Super Bowl title in five seasons.

It marked Manning’s seventh fourth-quarter come-from-behind victory of the season and allowed him to become the game’s MVP for the second time (repeating his effort from Super Bowl XLII).

GAMEBALLS

Offense-QB Eli Manning. He professed the confidence to be an elite quarterback before the season and he delivered in impressive fashion, leading the Giants to a season-ending six-game winning streak – two regular season wins, followed by three playoff victories and a Super Bowl title.  His Super Bowl numbers (30-40-296 yards and 1 TD) don’t do him justice. The Giants relied on him, realizing that if they kept the game close, he could pull it out in the end.

Defense-DE Justin Tuck. He provided the pressure that forced Tom Brady to take an intentional grounding from his own end zone (and a safety) on the Patriots’ first snap. Tuck also had a sack on the Pats’ final possession. And it should not be overlooked that Tuck delivered a passionate pre-game speech to his teammates as they came off the field from warm-ups.

Special teams-P Steve Weatherford. The unsung hero of this team all season, he dropped three of his four punts inside the New England 10 – the final punt to the 8 with 9:24 to play and the Pats on top, 17-15.

GASSERS

Offense-LG Kevin Boothe. He got flagged for two very costly penalties, the first of which changed the course of the game and allowed the Patriots to remain within striking distance in the second quarter (they went into the half with a 10-9 lead). Leading 9-3, the Giants had a 3rd-and-1 from the New England 46 and Brandon Jacobs rumbled for 10 yards with 4:40 left, but Boothe was called for holding. The ensuing pass fell incomplete and the Patriots responded with a 14-play, 96-yard touchdown drive. In the fourth, Boothe got flagged for a false start on a 3rd-and-5 from the New England 38 and the Giants down, 17-14, with 9:35 to play.

Defense-None. We will give this unit a pass despite allowing Brady to complete 16 consecutive passes spanning the second and third quarters. The Patriots came in with the NFL’s second-ranked offense and limited them to 17 points, including none in the second half.

Special teams-None. Both the kicking and coverage units performed up to spec and the Giants did not commit any turnovers in the return game.

FINAL PREDICTION RECORD VS. THE SPREAD: 12-8

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