This time, Eli Manning provided the perfect ending.
The New York Giants quarterback cheated the New England Patriots out of their undefeated season by throwing a winning, 13-yard touchdown to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds remaining in a 17-14 win of Super Bowl XLII.
One year after watching older brother Peyton hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the Indianapolis Colts, Eli became his own Manning.
Taking over at the Giants 17-yard line trailing 14-10 with 2:39 left, Manning led his team on an improbable 83-yard drive in 12 plays.
It included a Houdini-like escape from Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour and a 32-yard completion to receiver David Tyree, who pinned the football to his helmet.
After completing a 12-yard pass to rookie Steve Smith for a first down, Manning got cornerback Ellis Hobbs to bite on a pump fake before throwing to a wide open Burress in the end zone.
Manning, who was beleaguered most of the regular season after throwing 20 interceptions, was named the game's most valuable player, matching his brother's feat there too.
The victory denied the Patriots (18-1) a chance at football immortality. Instead, the 1972 Miami Dolphins retained their title as the only undefeated team in NFL history. Meanwhile, the Giants won their third Super Bowl and their first in 17 years.
"I've talked about it before with Peyton about what situation do you want to be in," Manning said. "You want to be down four where you have to score a touchdown. If you're down three, you might just settle for a field goal. You've got to like being down four when you know you have to score to win the game in the Super Bowl. You can't write a better script. To be able to do it, you can't write a better script."
The storybook ending appeared to belong to Tom Brady, though he was sacked five times and soundly beaten up by the Giants fierce pass rush.
As he did in his three previous Super Bowls, Brady led a go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter.
With New England trailing 10-7, Brady led his team on a methodical 12-play, 80-yard drive in 5:12. His 6-yard touchdown to Randy Moss with 2:42 remaining wasn't enough this time.
"It isn't something we really prepared for, but anytime you go into a game you know somebody's got to win and somebody's got to lose," Brady said.
"I'm sure it's going to be hard to swallow in the months to come."
Manning had his share of doubters in the regular season as poor decisions led to 20 interceptions. Giants fans questioned his toughness. But since throwing four touchdowns in a 38-35 loss to the Patriots in Week 17, he had played near-perfect football, not throwing an INT in leading his team to three straight playoff wins on the road until Sunday.
He finished 19-of-34 for 255 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
"The New England Patriots are a great team, they really are," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin, whose defense held the Patriots to their lowest point total of the season.
"We came in here and we knew what we had to do. We had to get after the quarterback, and the response we got out of our team was unbelievable. These guys play with great heart. They're tough-minded. They never say die. They just keep coming."
Trailing 7-3, Manning engineered what might be recounted as the signature drive of his career.
He began with a 45-yard pass to rookie tight end Kevin Boss, a fifth-round pick from Western Oregon. Then on third and 4 from the Patriots 29-yard line, he drilled Smith for a 17-yard completion. Two plays later, he capped the 80-yard drive with a 5-yard strike to Tyree - his first touchdown reception of the season.
The Patriots led 7-3 at halftime but were dominated everywhere but on the scoreboard.
The Giants walloped Brady in the first half, sacking him three times, hitting him 10 times and hurrying him six. Two of those sacks belonged to defensive tackle Justin Tuck, who also forced a fumble.
Meanwhile, the Giants offense controlled the football on the ground, holding it for more than 19 minutes in the first half.
Half of that came on the opening possession. New York held the ball for a Super Bowl record 9:59. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw pounded the soft underbelly of the Patriots defense while Manning converted on his first three third- down situations.
But the Giants were forced to settle for Lawrence Tynes' 32-yard field goal with 5:01 left in the first quarter.
Brady, who was trying to join Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls, answered the Giants drive with one of his own. He completed passes to Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk for first downs. His pass to tight end Ben Walker in the end zone fell incomplete, but linebacker Antonio Pierce interfered on the play, moving the ball to the Giants' 1-yard line.
Two plays later, running back Laurence Maroney bulled across for a 1-yard touchdown and the Patriots led 7-3. That was the way it stayed until three lead changes in the fourth quarter, a Super Bowl record.
GIANTS SUPER BOWL TITLES 1986 - 1990 - 2007
Super Bowl XLIII
Feb. 1, 2009, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa. It will be the fourth Super Bowl in Tampa and the second at RJS.