INDIANAPOLIS • Mario Manningham is no longer the New York Giants’ forgotten receiver.
Manningham emerged from the shadow of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz with a catch that will rival David Tyree’s Super Bowl helmet grab four years ago, helping the Giants knock off the New England Patriots 21-17 in the NFL championship game on Sunday.
Manningham’s catch wasn’t as improbable as Tyree’s grab that led the Giants to a 17-14 win over New England in 2008. It was just as clutch and just as timely, and Tyree was there to see it.
Running a go pattern up the left sideline on a first-and-10 from their own 12 and down 17-15, Manningham made a 38-yard over-the-shoulder catch between two defenders and right in front of Patriots coach Bill Belichick to help set up Ahmad Bradshaw’s game-winning 6-yard run with 57 seconds to go.
Belichick didn’t hesitate to challenge the catch, also contested by Sterling Moore and Patrick Chung. Referee John Parry reviewed it and saw that Manningham had both feet inbounds, putting the Giants at midfield.
Manning went back to Manningham on the next three plays. On the first, the receiver ran the wrong pattern, but he followed that with catches of 16 and 2 yards to move the ball to the 32-yard line.
“We just tried to be patient,” said Manningham, who finished with five catches for 73 yards. “Got to be patient with this game. We knew big plays was going to come, we just had to take advantage of them.”
Two passes to Nicks and a couple of runs by Bradshaw got the ball to the 6-yard line, where the Patriots let Bradshaw score so they had a chance to win the game with a last drive.
Tom Brady wound up 51 yards short when his desperation pass fell incomplete in the end zone with no time left, giving the Giants their second Super Bowl victory in four years.
“It’s been a wild game. It’s been a wild season,” said Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who was named MVP. “We had a great tough bunch of guys. Guys who never quit and have great faith in each other. Proud of our team and the way we dealt with everything all season and came out strong.”
Nicks, who led the Giants’ receivers in the postseason, had a team-high 10 catches for 109 yards, while Cruz had four for 25, including a short touchdown.
“I feel good, man,” Nicks said. “Blessed to be part of this team, blessed to be in this situation.”