Wiedmer: Eli Manning proves he is one of the greats

Wiedmer: Eli Manning proves he is one of the greats

February 6th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

In the final minutes before Super Bowl XLVI began, NBC's Bob Costas asked New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady a simple but telling question.

If there were two minutes left in the game, would Brady prefer to be up three points and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning possessing the ball? Or would he rather be down three but the Pats owning the ball?

"I'd rather have the ball," Brady answered.

Trouble was, by the time Brady got the ball a final time Sunday night, there were only 57 seconds to play and Manning's Giants owned a 4-point lead of 21-17.

And that's how it ended, Eli engineering yet another fourth-quarter game-winning drive to get the better of Tommy Touchdown for the second time in four years, a victory that will surely elevate Eli once and for all to the very top tier of NFL quarterbacks.

Typical of Peyton's little brother, the softspoken baby of the Manning family quarterback dynasty downplayed the fact he had just passed big brother in Super Bowl rings inside Peyton's place -- Indy's Lucas Oil Stadium -- saying, "It just feels great to win a Super Bowl. It doesn't matter where you are."

But where Eli and the G-Men are now is heady stuff. Historic stuff. Dynastic stuff. The Giants franchise has now won four Super Bowls to trail only the Pittsburgh Steelers (6), San Francisco 49ers (5) and Dallas Cowboys (5) and tie the Green Bay Packers.

Moreover, the Giants have won their last two against the Patriots and Brady, who have generally been regarded as the NFL's gold standard the past decade.

Certainly, the best play of this game was Mario Manningham's spectacular sideline catch early in the Giants' 88-yard game-deciding drive, a catch that will likely be saluted almost as long as David Tyree's catch against his helmet in the 2008 Super Bowl.

Hopefully for Manningham, his career will last longer than Tyree, who never caught another pass in an NFL game.

Asked about that catch afterward, Manningham sounded a lot like Manning the Man, saying, "You've just got to be patient with this game. I knew the big plays would come."

Patient? Manning's touchdown pass to beat the Pats in the 2008 Super Bowl came with less than a minute to play. The Giants again took the lead for good in this one with less than a minute to play against the defensive genius Bill Belichick.

"I used to say that Eli looks disinterested," said ESPN analyst Tom Jackson after Manning earned his second Super Bowl MVP award and the Chevy Corvette that went with it.

"Now we know that it's his calm. That was his 16th fourth-quarter touchdown drive this season. He's always there when you need him most."

Much as this game was an emotional roller-coaster from start to finish for both franchises and their fans, the peripheral stuff that frames this event -- the National Anthem, the commercials, the halftime, was also up and down.

Kelly Clarkson delivered a stirring Anthem. Whether you like or dislike Madonna, the (R-rated) Material Girl put on a spectacular halftime show.

As for the commercials, Madison Avenue certainly seems to believe sex sells. From soccer star David Beckham's tattooed body for an underwear ad, to the GoDaddy.com spots to a Fiat spot, if you had small children in the room you did a lot of channel surfing between plays.

Not that every commercial was for mature audiences only. Elton John was at his campy best in a Pepsi spot. Jerry Seinfeld's Acura ad -- with a little help from Jay Leno -- was cute. Chevy's truck commercial involving the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse was a keeper.

To refresh your memory for those of you who side with either Chevy or Ford, a guy covered in dust emerges from a Chevy truck after driving through a scorched Earth to meet up with a couple of other guys driving Chevys.

"Where's Dave?" he asks.

"Dave didn't drive the longest lasting, dependable truck on the road," said a second man with a sad face. "Dave drove a Ford."

Finally, there was an emotional Chrysler ad featuring Clint Eastwood, who looks into the camera as only Eastwood can and says, "This country can't be knocked out by one punch. Yeah, it's halftime, America. And the second half is about to begin."

But the best part of this Super Bowl was on the field, where the Giants beat the Patriots by the same four points they did in early November, which was also the last time New England had lost before Sunday night.

Said former Patriot Rodney Harrison, repeating a statement he'd surprisingly made earlier, "This is why I said I trusted Eli Manning more in the fourth quarter than I did Tom Brady. Brady missed a couple of throws in the fourth quarter, Eli didn't."

Come the Super Bowl, Eli never misses.