The New York Giants are Super Bowl champions! I had to say that one more time before I get on with some analysis.
I know I am biased, but this will have to go down not only as one of the greatest Super Bowl upsets ever, but as one of the best of the 42 Super Bowls ever played.
The game featured great defense, a classic Tom Brady late-game drive, an even better Super Bowl-winning drive from Eli Manning, an unlikely hero in David Tyree and enough twists and turns that you could spend all day dissecting each and every drive.
This Giants' victory typified the type of team they are, and the type of season they had.
I thought the Giants would have to be perfect to beat the Patriots. They weren't close to perfect. They missed some opportunities in the first half, including a critical interception on a ball muffed by Steve Smith. An Antonio Pierce penalty helped New England get its first touchdown. There were a couple of fumbles that they, fortunately, recovered.
This, though, is the way the Giants have played all year. Never perfect, often not pretty. They continue to believe and continue to press the action, though. And, just when you begin to despair, here comes a 45-yard pass to Kevin Boss. A touchdown pass to David Tyree. Then, after an answering drive by New England, a catch by Tyree that may have been the best ever in a Super Bowl, and a game-winning pass to Plaxico Burress.
Through it all, there was bruising, aggressive, take no prisoners defense. The Giants put more pressure on Tom Brady, and hit him more often than anyone probably has all season.
I suppose this is the way the Giants were meant to win. With grit, determination and unlikely heroes helping them to a victory no one thought they could achieve.
It wasn't easy. It wasn't pretty. It was, however, good enough to win a Super Bowl championship. The Giants, though, would probably have it no other way.
Here are your 'Kudos & Wet Willies.'
Kudos to ...
• Eli Manning: Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, that is. When the Giants needed him the most, Eli answered the call leading a 12-play, 83-yard drive to win the game in the final minutes. The great play he made spinning away from a sack and finding David Tyree for a 32-yard gain will be remembered forever in Giants' lore.
• The entire Giants defense: What New York did to New England, holding the highest-scoring team in NFL history to a paltry 14 points, was absolutely incredible. The front line, led by Justin Tuck, Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, pressured Tom Brady all night. James Butler and Antonio Pierce each made 11 tackles. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had a brilliant plan that frustrated Tom Brady like no one has all year.
• David Tyree: Overlooked as a receiver throughout his career Tyree made the two biggest catches of his life in the fourth quarter. First, catching a go-ahead touchdown pass on a 5-yard pass from Manning. Then, after New England recaptured the lead it was Tyree with an unreal leaping catch against his helmet on the ball Eli simply flung down the field that set up the game-winning score.
• Plaxico Burress: 'Gameday' caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the Super Bowl. Enough said.
• Tom Coughlin: The Super Bowl winning coach deserves kudos not for what he did last night, but for changing his approach and creating the environment and team personality that made last night possible. The Giants are a gritty, imperfect team that doesn't quit and that personality served them well last night.
• Steve Smith: The rookie was huge, catching five passes for 50 yards. Several of those were catches that helped keep the Giants in possession of the ball.
• Jerry Reese: The rookie general manager's brilliant draft and ability to improve the roster during the season -- an NFL rarity -- were a key to this championship. Draft picks like Smith, Kevin Boss, Ahmad Bradshaw, Aaron Ross and Jay Alford were key contributors, as were in-season acquisitions Madison Hedgecock and Domenic Hixon.
• Peyton Manning: Eli's big brother did more than just sit and watch the game. He was into it and showed a lot of emotion. I don't know if anyone else got a kick out of it, but I did.
Wet Willies to ...
• Chase Blackburn: Blackburn's 12th man on the field penalty was very nearly a devastating one for the Giants. Not knowing whether or not you belong on the field on a punt return in the Super Bowl is unforgivable. He's lucky the Giants bailed him out.
• The Patriots: They couldn't finish off the only thing that really mattered in their entire season, winning the Super Bowl. They were outplayed most of the game, had no answers for the Giants' pass rush and couldn't stop Eli Manning when it mattered most.