INDIANAPOLIS — When the drama ended Sunday, with a Tom Brady Hail Mary landing incomplete in the end zone just inches from Rob Gronkowski's fingertips, a Super Bowl pinata erupted at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Silver streamers rained from the roof. Four confetti cannons fired tiny shreds of red, white and blue ribbon. And the Giants raced wildly in divergent directions, delirious after their latest championship triumph.
In another down-to-the-wire classic, the Giants captured Super Bowl XLVI thanks to the poise of quarterback Eli Manning, the unfathomable body control of receiver Mario Manningham and a strange final-minute touchdown by Ahmad Bradshaw that provided a 21-17 victory over the Patriots.
Brady's final pass was knocked down in the end zone.
"The game came down to the last couple seconds and when Tom Brady threw that pass in the air — man, I just went down to my knees," said Giants defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul, a former USF standout. "I closed my eyes and (fell to) my stomach. I didn't know if anyone caught the ball. All I heard was the crowd go crazy."
Bradshaw's 6-yard touchdown run with 57 seconds left capped another remarkable Manning rally, this one an 88-yard touchdown drive. Manning's magic came four years and two days after he led an 83-yard march to beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. That rally also featured a remarkable catch, by David Tyree.
The biggest play Sunday was a 38-yard completion down the left sideline that Manningham caught between Sterling Moore and Patrick Chung while barely tapping his feet inbounds.
Eight plays later, realizing the Giants could run down the clock and kick an easy winning field goal, the Patriots allowed Bradshaw to score, the running back trying to stop short of the end zone at the 1 but falling in.
"It's the greatest thing in the world," Bradshaw said of the win.
For years Brady and the Patriots built their legacy by torturing Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. Who knew the payback would come with Peyton's younger brother delivering magic in Peyton's home stadium against Peyton's biggest nemeses?
Eli was 30-for-40 for 296 yards, winning the game's MVP.
"A wild game, a wild season," Manning said. "But we have a great bunch of guys, a group that never quit. … The New York Giants are world champions. That's the story."
"Obviously he's a great quarterback," said Brady, trying to smile. "I'm going to keep trying. I'd rather come to this game and lose than not get here."
The Patriots' 17 points matched their lowest of the season. The Giants' biggest defensive plays came in the fourth — an interception by linebacker Chase Blackburn with 14:17 left, the game's only turnover, and a sack by Justin Tuck with 36 seconds left.
Brady (27-for-41, 276 yards, two TDs) was most brilliant on New England's final drive of the first half, a 14-play march on which he completed all 10 of his passes. The final bullet of that possession was a 4-yard scoring strike to Danny Woodhead. That gave the Patriots a 10-9 halftime lead.
During a two-possession stretch sandwiching halftime, Brady set a Super Bowl record with 16 consecutive completions.
The Giants dominated the first 13 minutes, running 19 plays to New England's one. Tuck forced Brady into an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone, resulting in a 2-0 New York lead early in the first quarter.
The Giants followed immediately with a nine-play, 79-yard scoring drive capped by a 2-yard Manning to Victor Cruz TD.
"I thought we played very competitive,'' Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We were in the lead for a good part of the game. We just came up a couple of plays short. We could have just played a tiny bit better."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said: "What I was concerned with was these guys making their own history. This is such a wonderful thing, these guys carving their own history."
Giants 21, Patriots 17