INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Eli Manning is elite, for sure. A king of comebacks, too. And far, far more than Peyton's little brother now.
Spot-on from beginning to end Sunday night, Eli Manning won his second NFL championship -- and second Super Bowl MVP award -- for leading the New York Giants to a 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots.
Manning went 30 for 40 for 296 yards, with one touchdown pass and zero interceptions. He opened the game by becoming the first quarterback to complete his first nine attempts in a Super Bowl. And he finished his work by directing the nine-play, 88-yard TD drive that put New York ahead with 57 seconds left.
It started on New York's 12, with a little more than 3 1/2 minutes left, and ended with Ahmad Bradshaw easing into the end zone from 6 yards out. The Patriots decided not to contest the run, trying to save some time on the clock for a final drive -- an audacious and risky decision by Patriots coach Bill Belichick. But New England couldn't get the ball back in the end zone, with Tom Brady's final pass falling just beyond the grasp of tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Manning also was the MVP in 2008, when his scoring pass to Plaxico Burress in the final minute allowed New York to upset Brady and New England, ruining the Patriots' bid for a perfect season.
Manning now is one of only five players in NFL history with multiple Super Bowl MVP awards. He joined the guy he one-upped yet again in the big game, Brady, along with Terry Bradshaw, Bart Starr and Joe Montana (the only one with three). And Manning did it in the House that Peyton Built, the stadium where his Big Bro -- a four-time regular-season MVP but owner of only one Super Bowl title -- plays for the Indianapolis Colts.
"It just feels good to win a Super Bowl. Doesn't matter where you are," Manning said, clutching the silver Vince Lombardi Trophy. "It's been a wild season. We had a great, tough bunch of guys who never quit, and had faith in each other. I'm proud of these guys sticking together."
As usual, he was as good as it gets down the stretch, in the crucible of the fourth quarter.
Manning led six game-winning drives to bring New York back from fourth-quarter deficits in the regular season. So it came as no surprise he was cool as could be Sunday, when he was 10 of 14 for 118 yards.
"We've had a bunch of them this year," Manning said.
The greatest comeback of all, though, probably was the way Manning -- with plenty of help, of course -- steered the Giants back after they lost five of six games in one stretch to fall to 7-7. From there, they won their last two regular-season games against the Jets and Cowboys to sneak into the playoffs as the NFC East champions, then continued their surge with four postseason wins in a row, none at home.
"We fought all year," Manning said. "Never got discouraged."
He finished the postseason with nine TDs and only one interception,
Back in August, before the season got going, Manning was asked in an interview whether he considered himself an "elite" quarterback a la Brady. Manning said simply that he belonged "in that class." But it all became quite a big deal in New York -- shocking, right? -- and he was criticized.
Hard to imagine anyone arguing now.