INDIANAPOLIS -- It was almost the greatest ending in Super Bowl history. It was almost the miracle of all miracles for the New England Patriots. It was almost Tom Brady winning his fourth championship.
Instead, it was the same story, eighth verse for Eli Manning and the New York Giants this season, after winning Super Bowl XLVI 21-17 at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday night in Indianapolis.
"It was great confidence, great faith by our guys, just believing," Manning said, "and some big-time plays by a number of guys."
Brady's 51-yard Hail Mary pass on the final play of Super Bowl XLVI was tipped by Giants safety Deon Grant before falling just in front of diving tight end Rob Gronkowski. Should've. Could've. Would've.
"It was a very hard-fought game," Brady said. "We fought to the end. We just came up a little short."
With that, the Giants were champions for the second time in four years, and Manning again was MVP. The Giants beat the Patriots in both games -- Super Bowls XLII and XLVI -- winning by a combined seven points.
"What a game," Giants co-owner Steve Tisch said. "I thought four years ago was exciting. That was a dress rehearsal."
Manning set a record in the regular season with 15 fourth-quarter touchdowns. He has directed seven fourth-quarter comebacks and eight game-winning drives, including the postseason.
The Giants trailed 17-15 with 3:46 remaining when they got the ball back on their own 12. Their chances of winning at that point were 38.5 percent, according to ESPN statistics. But the computer didn't factor in Manning.
He was 5-for-6 for 74 yards on the game-winning drive, including a 38-yard pass to Mario Manningham on the first snap on a go route. It was reminiscent of the play David Tyree made for 32 yards against the Patriots late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLII that led to the Giants 17-14 victory.
"They're both spectacular catches," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "With Mario's tonight, the way he kept his feet in bounds and hung onto the ball going out of bounds was a remarkable thing. Of course, David's is forever etched in history. That's never going to change. His was incredible. This just continues along that fashion."
The Gatorade bath for Coughlin, the Rozelle Trophy for Manning, the confetti shower and the all-night party was the culmination of the Giants' season-long mantra of "Finish!"
But it didn't come without one breath-holding last play after Brady had driven the Patriots from their own 20 to the 49 with 5 seconds remaining.
"We never doubted," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "We had been in that situation all year, and we just kept telling ourselves one game at a time, one play at a time, and we finished it."
Manning went 30-of-40 for 296 yards with a touchdown and a 103.8 rating. He outplayed Brady, who was 27-of-41 for 276 yards with two TDs, an interception and a 91.1 rating. Manning became the 11th starting quarterback to win multiple Super Bowls, something his older, more acclaimed brother hasn't done.
"I'm just excited to win a championship; I'm excited for my teammates," Manning said. "We have a number of guys who this is their first one. ... This isn't about one person. This is about our whole team coming together and getting this win. I'm proud of the team, the way we fought all year. We never got discouraged. We kept our faith, kept our confidence and fought to the very end."