It all comes down to this. On Sunday, February 5, the New York Giants and the New England Patriots will meet in Super Bowl XLVI (6:00 PM ET, NBC) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It marks a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, when the Giants defeated the Patriots 17-14 in one of the most exciting Super Bowls in history.
“It’s a great chess match with two elite quarterbacks and two teams with great traditions and great histories,” says NBC’s Al Michaels. “It should be a terrific matchup.”
Super Bowl XLVI is the first Super Bowl in which both starting quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl MVP award. New York quarterback Eli Manning passed for 255 yards and two touchdowns – including the game-winning 13-yarder to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds remaining – in Super Bowl XLII and was named the game’s MVP. New England quarterback Tom Brady has been named Super Bowl MVP twice (XXXVI, XXXVIII) and is one of only four players in NFL history to win the award multiple times, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Joe Montana (XVI, XIX, XXIV), Terry Bradshaw (XIII, XIV) and Bart Starr (I, II).
“I expect greatness from this game,” says NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth.
During the 2011 regular season, Brady passed for 5,235 yards and Manning had 4,933 passing yards. The duo combined for 10,168 passing yards, which would be the most ever by opposing starting quarterbacks in a Super Bowl. Brady and Manning combined for 8,142 passing yards in 2007, which would rank fourth all-time.
For the first time in NFL history, the Super Bowl will feature two teams coming off three-point victories. Both Championship Games were decided by three points and the combined differential of six points is the closest ever for the Championship Games. An average of 53.7 million viewers watched the AFC and NFC Championship Games, making it the most watched Championship Game Sunday since January 10, 1982.
“This is a big game for the Giants organization,” says Manning, who is one of only two players (Pro Football Hall of Famer JIM KELLY, 1990) to take his team to the Super Bowl with back-to-back 300-yard passing games in the Divisional Playoff and Championship Game. “This is a big game for every single player who’s going to be playing in this game. You hope that you can go out there and play the best football that you’ve ever played. That’s always the goal.”
New York has won seven NFL championships (1927, 1934, 1938, 1956, 1986, 1990, 2007), the third-most in NFL history. The Giants enter Super Bowl XLVI having won five games in a row, outscoring opponents 141-67. Head coach TOM COUGHLIN has guided the team to a second Super Bowl appearance in his tenure, joining BILL PARCELLS as the only coaches in franchise history to accomplish the feat.
“I’m delighted and excited,” says Coughlin about advancing to Super Bowl XLVI. “These guys have gone out and done it against the best that we’ve played.”
The Giants (9-7) – who defeated Atlanta (10-6), Green Bay (15-1) and San Francisco (13-3) – are only the second team to reach the Super Bowl via playoff victories over three opponents with a better regular-season record than its own (Arizona, 2008).
In the NFC Championship Game, Manning passed for 316 yards and two touchdowns in the Giants’ 20-17 overtime victory at San Francisco. Wide receiver VICTOR CRUZ had 10 catches for 142 yards and his 10 receptions tied for the second-most in a playoff game by a Giant. Wide receiver MARIO MANNINGHAM caught one of Manning’s touchdown passes and is the first player in franchise history with a TD catch in three consecutive games in a single postseason.
“It feels great because it was a tough game,” says Manning. “We had to fight for every yard that we got. I’m just excited about having another chance to go to the Super Bowl and play New England.”
Defensively, defensive end JUSTIN TUCK – who had two sacks against New England in Super Bowl XLII – had 1.5 sacks as the Giants recorded three sacks against the 49ers.
“Our confidence level is high and we feel good about where we are as a team,” says Tuck. “We feel confident that we can play with anybody.”
On special teams, DEVIN THOMAS had two fumble recoveries on punts which lead to 10 points. In overtime, JACQUIAN WILLIAMS forced a fumble on a punt return that was recovered by Thomas. The turnover set up LAWRENCE TYNES’ game-winning 31-yard field goal. Tynes is the only player in NFL history to score the winning points in two playoff overtime games. In the 2007 NFC Championship Game at Green Bay, Tynes converted a 47-yard field goal in OT to send the Giants to Super Bowl XLII.
“It’s my second NFC Championship Game and my second game-winner,” says Tynes. “It’s amazing.”
The Patriots have won 10 consecutive games, with the team’s last loss a 24-20 defeat to the Giants in Week 9. New England has advanced to its seventh Super Bowl and fifth since the 2001 season.
Head coach BILL BELICHICK and QB Brady are headed to their fifth Super Bowl together, the most ever by a head coach and starting quarterback combination. The duo had previously been tied with Pro Football Hall of Famers TOM LANDRY-ROGER STAUBACH (Dallas), CHUCK NOLL-Bradshaw (Pittsburgh) and MARV LEVY-Kelly (Buffalo).
“It’s certainly a great honor to be representing the AFC in this game,” says Belichick. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity versus the Giants, who are a great team. They’ve had a great year and we know this is going to be our toughest game. We have a lot of work cut out for us, but it’s exciting to have the opportunity to meet the challenge.”
Brady passed for 239 yards in the Patriots’ 23-20 win over Baltimore in the AFC Championship Game. He became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to surpass the 5,000-yard mark in the playoffs (5,009), joining BRETT FAVRE (5,855), Montana (5,772) and PEYTON MANNING (5,389).
“We’re a pretty mentally tough team,” says Brady, who will start his fifth Super Bowl and tie Pro Football Hall of Famer JOHN ELWAY for the most Super Bowl starts at QB. “There’s really some resiliency. We’ve shown it all season. We’re always going to fight to the end. It’s great to be part of a team like this.”
Against the Ravens, New England’s defense had three sacks and an interception while holding Baltimore to 20 points.
“Our defense saved us,” says Brady. “I’m proud of this team and my teammates.”
With the Patriots trailing 20-16, Brady rushed for a one-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. It marked the first go-ahead rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter of Brady’s career in both the regular season and playoffs. Brady is also just the third QB to rush for a fourth-quarter game-winning TD in the postseason, joining KENNY STABLER (1976) and BILLY VOLEK (2007).
In his career, Brady is 16-5 (.762) in the postseason and his 16 playoff wins are tied with Montana for the most in NFL history. Belichick has compiled a 17-6 (.739) postseason record and his 17 playoff wins are tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer JOE GIBBS for the third-most in NFL history. They trail only Pro Football Hall of Famers Landry (20) and DON SHULA (19).