INDIANAPOLIS -- Mario Manningham made the catch Wes Welker couldn't make. That's why the New York Giants, and not the New England Patriots, are flying home with the Vince Lombardi Trophy today.
"That's what it comes down to in football," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "It's one play. Certainly, you look at our game four years ago, and it was a miracle play that they make. We had a chance to make one of those today and didn't come up with it.
"It always comes down to one or two plays in this game. If you make it you're celebrating. If you don't, you don't sleep for a week."
Though not quite as dramatic as David Tyree's catch four years ago in Super Bowl XLII, Manningham's catch forever will link him to Tyree in Giants' lore. Manningham's 38-yard catch late in the fourth quarter was the play that allowed the Giants to score the game-winning touchdown with 57 seconds left.
"Eli [Manning] put a great ball up there," Manningham said. "After I caught that, man, I kind of figured like, 'We're about to win this.' It gave us confidence, getting way down there, knowing you have three minutes left or something like that."
Manningham might not have gotten a chance to play the part of hero, though, if Welker hadn't turned himself into the goat only seconds earlier.
Though Welker led the league with 122 catches and had only five drops this season, he dropped the biggest one of his career. The Patriots held a 17-15 lead with 4:06 remaining when Brady, from the Giants 44, had Welker wide open at the 20. Welker couldn't hold on.
"It's one of those plays I've made a thousand times," Welker said. "Just didn't make it."
The Patriots punted two plays later, and on the Giants' first snap, Manning found Manningham single covered on a go-route against a Cover 2 defense.
Manningham somehow got both feet down, with the ball securely in his hands, at the 50-yard line. The Patriots challenged the play, figuring there was no way Manningham could do what he did.
"It was a great catch by him, keeping both feet in," Manning said. "That's a huge play in the game right there. When you're backed up, to get a [38-]yard gain and get to the middle of the field is huge. That way we could pace ourselves a little bit, run the ball a little bit. It was a big, big, big-time play right there."
Manningham finished with five catches for 73 yards, three of them coming on the game-winning drive for 56 yards.
"It was great for him to come up big when we needed him most," Giants receiver Victor Cruz said. "He's been coming up big this entire playoff run and to come up big in this game on this stage is just great."