Patriots 0, Giants 3 - First quarter
First bloodThe Giants won the toss and elected to keep the ball away from the Patriots as long as possible. Plaxico Burress quieted doubts about his ankle and knee with a 14-yard reception on New York's first series. Randall Gay and Rodney Harrison collided on a first-down catch by Steve Smith and both needed attention. Harrison returned a play later, but Gay suffered an arm injury. The Patriots sent Eugene Wilson on a blitz on the next third down, but Eli Manning rolled right and found Smith again, this time for 9 yards to the 17. New York tried for the end zone on the next play, but a pass intended for Burress was knocked away by Ellis Hobbs. The Giants stalled, settling for a Lawrence Tynes 32-yard field goal. Laurence Maroney returned the ensuing kickoff 43 yards, and Tom Brady and Co. finally had the ball. Brady failed to connect on his first two passes, but soon found the groove, hitting his next two (Donte' Stallworth and Wes Welker). On third and 10 from the 17, Brady went for the end zone, and Benjamin Watson was interfered with by Antonio Pierce, giving the Patriots first down at the 1. The Patriots tried hammering it with Maroney on the final play of the quarter, but the Giants held, momentarily.
Patriots 7, Giants 3 - Second quarter
Forging aheadMaroney found pay dirt on the first play of the quarter, running behind Stephen Neal and Nick Kaczur (who didn't play in the Week 17 meeting). Stephen Gostkowski sent the next kickoff out of bounds, handing great field position to the Giants. New York made it 4 for 4 on third-down conversions when Manning heaved a prayer down the sideline that was caught for a 38-yard gain by Amani Toomer, who beat Hobbs at the New England 19. Third down soon arrived again, and Manning again looked for Smith. But the ball went through his hands, and Hobbs was there for the pick (Manning's first turnover of the postseason), returning it 23 yards to the Patriots' 33. After the Giants responded with a three-and-out defensive series, New York averted disaster when Ahmad Bradshaw fumbled, but was able to outfight Pierre Woods for the ball. Brady was later sacked on consecutive plays, going down hard on the second, but walked off with no difficulty. The Giants nearly lost the ball twice on their next drive - when Manning was stripped by Adalius Thomas, and when Gay (his arm still hurting) nearly came down with an interception. The Patriots' final possession ended when Brady was sacked again, with Osi Umenyiora recovering the fumble. New England's record-breaking offense had 81 yards through two quarters.
Patriots 7, Giants 3 - Third quarter
Challenging timesThe Giants continued to batter Brady, but after completing 8 of 14 passes for only 82 yards in the first half, the league MVP connected on four of his first five attempts of the third quarter (two each to Welker and Kevin Faulk). Regardless, the Patriots were forced to punt near midfield. Patriots coach Bill Belichick challenged that a 12th Giant was on the field at the time of the punt snap, and after replays showed Chase Blackburn hadn't made it to the sideline, the Patriots had a first down. With the Patriots in field goal range, Michael Strahan sacked Brady for a 6-yard loss, and instead of calling on Gostkowski for a 49-yard attempt, New England went for it on fourth and 13. Brady's pass to the end zone for Jabar Gaffney was well out of bounds, and the Giants gained possession. Faulk, who had five receptions, appeared to hurt his hamstring. Manning then went to the air, including deep to the end zone for Burress, but the Patriots' defense was stout, and Brady soon had the ball back in his hands. Welker had catch-and-runs of 16 and 19 yards, giving him seven receptions and helping the Patriots move from their 5 into Giants' territory, but New England faced fourth and 6 from New York's 45 as the quarter ended.
Patriots 14, Giants 17 - Fourth quarter
All the answersThe Giants took over at their 20, and Manning connected with tight end Kevin Boss, who likely wouldn't have been on the field if not for Jeremy Shockey's broken leg. The rookie proved tough to take down, and 45 yards later, the Giants were threatening. Manning went back to his favorite third-down target - at least on this day - Smith, for 17 more. Bradshaw (7 yards) brought it to the 5, where Manning found David Tyree for the touchdown, picking a good time for his first of the season. The Patriots had a promising start to their next possession - a 17-yard Brady-to-Randy Moss hookup - but New England was forced to relinquish the ball again with 9:30 remaining. The Giants were stopped a yard shy of a first down with 8:21 left, and punted. The Patriots needed a score and their passing offense reverted to form, Brady finding Welker four times and Moss and Faulk twice each, before Moss scored on a 6-yard reception. It would have been Brady's 29th career comeback drive in the fourth quarter or overtime to give the Patriots a win, but trailing, 14-10, the Giants answered. They went 83 yards in 12 plays, including one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history (by Tyree), and scored when Manning lofted a pass to Burress in the left side of the end zone with 35 seconds left.
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