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Manning keeps MVP trophy in family
Eli followed up his older brother's Super Bowl feat a year later.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Move over, Peyton. Make room in the Manning family trophy case, Archie.
Baby boy Eli is coming home with hardware all his own -- an MVP trophy to place alongside the one his big brother brought back only a year ago.
The youngest son of a great quarterback and the baby brother of an even better one came into his own Sunday night in the desert, proving cooler than the falling temperatures by leading the Giants 83 yards on a final scoring drive to stun the Patriots 17-14 and cap one of the greatest upsets in sports.
"That's a position you want to be in. You want to have the ball in your hands ... down, where you've got to score a touchdown," Manning said after accepting the MVP trophy from Terry Bradshaw, a pretty fair quarterback himself.
"I talked about it before with Peyton," Manning added a few moments later. "You want to be down four [points], where you have to score a touchdown. Because if you're down three, maybe we go for the field goal."
Just a few weeks after fans and the media wanted to run Manning out of town, the kid will head back to his adopted hometown as the king of New York. His stats won't bowl over people back in the Big Apple -- 19-of-34 for 255 yards, two touchdowns and an interception -- but the way he performed on that fateful final drive certainly will.
"I can't be happier for anybody else. This is a guy who took all that criticism," Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "Well, you can't criticize the MVP. ... Making all those plays with his feet; it was a beautiful thing to watch."
Starting from his own 17 with 2:39 left, Manning hooked up twice with Amani Toomer, the second leaving the Giants facing a fourth-and-inches. After Brandon Jacobs plowed his way to a first-down up the middle, Manning showed some surprising footwork by escaping the New England rush and scrambling for five yards. Turns out that was just the prelude.
One play later, the Patriots threw another kitchen-sink blitz at Manning; linebacker Adalius Thomas had his shirt and tried to throw Manning to the ground. Instead, he ducked down and used the momentum to spin away, then set his feet and fired a high strike 32 yards down the field. Receiver David Tyree made a spectacular grab on the ball, pinning it against his helmet as he fell to the ground with New England safety Rodney Harrison draped across his shoulders.
"You try to get small sometimes and see if you can squeak through," the 6-foot-4 Manning said with typical understatement. "You just try find a hole to squeeze through and make a throw."
By comparison, the deciding touchdown throw to Plaxico Burress was routine. After finding Steve Smith in traffic in the middle of the field for 12 yards and another first down, Manning found Burress on a fade route in the left corner of the end zone and lofted a floater as the New York sideline exploded in celebration.
"He's always being compared to somebody, whether it's his dad or his brother or Phil Simms," said Giants center Shaun O'Hara, recalling Simms' 22-of-25 performance in the 1987 Super Bowl.
This one wasn't about precision, but grit.
"Tonight," O'Hara added, "I think Eli built himself a platform for others to be compared to him."