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The Giants defense came up big again against the Patriots high scoring offense. Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka (94) and his defensive teammates had a lot to celebrate, as they were the driving force behind another Super Bowl victory. Photo by Jeff Roberson (AP)Quarterback Eli Manning is getting the bulk of the credit, but the Giants defense holding the Patriots to only 17 points really won the Super Bowl.By Jason LewisSentinel Sports Editor
This Super Bowl was supposed to build on the legacy of the winning quarterback. For New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, a win would put him into Hall of Fame status. For New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, a win would have put him into Joe Montana status.The Giants won 21-17, and now Manning is an elite quarterback, pretty much on his way to Canton, Oh, to be enshrined with the greatest football players ever. Manning came through in the clutch, just as he did four years ago to knock off the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and he is getting the bulk of the credit again, but in reality, the Giants defense came up big again and they were the driving force to another Super Bowl title. With Brady the Patriots have one of the best offenses of all time, but the Giants defense held them to only 17 points. In the Super Bowl four years ago, the Patriots broke numerous offensive records that season, but the Giants defense held them to only 14 points in that victory. The Giants beat the Patriots four years ago with only 17 points on the scoreboard, and this time around they only scored 21 points. Six of those points the Patriots allowed them to have at the end of the game to get the ball back for one final drive, and two of those points came off of a safety.The Giants have not been an offensive juggernaut under Manning in either game, but defensively they have played lights out. Without great defensive performances, Manning would not have been in a position to lead the team on last minute touchdown drives. If the Patriots were the Patriots that they are against most other teams, then the Giants would have been down by a few touchdowns by that point of the game. It is no surprise that the Patriots fell again, and it is no surprise that the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints made early exits in the playoffs to teams that put an emphasis on defense. Brady may have broken the record for most consecutive completed passes in a Super Bowl with 16, but he in no way put on any type of clinic out there. He completed 65 percent of his passes, but he only completed two passes over 20 yards. One to Chad Ochocinco for 21 yards, and one to Rob Gronkowski for 20. Brady rarely even looked down field as he settled for shorter passes for most of the game. The only deep pass attempted by him was intercepted. On passes that traveled more than 20 yards, Brady was 0-for-5. The last time Brady failed to complete a pass that traveled that distance was in the Super Bowl four years ago, when he was 0-for-8. Brady was efficient for the most part, but there was nothing great about that performance. And Manning was not all that spectacular either. The throw to Giants receiver Mario Manningham to kick off the final touchdown drive was clutch, as it accounted for 38 yards and put them near midfield. But that was Manning’s only completion longer than 20 yards. Manning rarely took any chances downfield, as 80 percent of his passes traveled fewer than 15 yards downfield. The quarterbacks, and namely Manning, are getting all the press for this game, but make no mistake about it, the Giants defensive players were the real heroes. They got after Brady and eventually broke him. Brady started the game completing 20-of-24 passes. But he hurt his left shoulder when he was driven to the ground by the Giants relentless pass rush. He was able to continue, but he only completed 7-of-17 passes afterwards. Even if receivers Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez come up with catchable balls, Brady is still barely over 50 percent passing after he hurt his shoulder. The Patriots averaged 32.1 points per game, third best in the league behind the Packers and Saints. But this year against the Giants twice, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, three of the best defenses in the league, they only averaged 19.2 points per game, which would have put them in the bottom third of the league in scoring offense. The Packers averaged 35 points a game, but when they ran into the Giants in the second round of the playoffs they only scored 20 in a losing effort. As it has been said numerous times in the Sentinel’s Around the NFL column, defense wins championships. The quarterback will get all the glory, but if the Patriots lit up the scoreboard like they normally do, Manning does not have any Super Bowl rings. Before the doors to the Hall of Fame open up for Manning, lets not forget that in both of those Super Bowl seasons his teams were on the verge of not even making the playoffs late in the season. They missed the playoffs the last two years, and when they were at 7-7 late this season, they looked like they would miss the playoffs for a third year in a row, and fans were ready to get rid of their franchise quarterback. And this Giants team has the worst record out of any other Super Bowl winning team. Their 2007 Super Bowl winning team is tied for the second worst record for a championship team. Defense is really an offense’s best friend, and Manning is riding his defense more than his own arm to greatness.
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