The Giants were not even supposed to be here, taking an unlikely playoff path through the behemoths of their conference and regarded, once they alighted on Super Bowl XLII, as little more than charming foils for the New England Patriots’ assault on immortality.
But with their defense battering this season’s National Football League’s most valuable player, Tom Brady, and Giants quarterback Eli Manning playing more like Brady than Brady himself, the Giants produced one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history Sunday night, beating the previously undefeated Patriots, 17-14.
The Giants had seemingly been enlivened for the postseason by a 3-point loss to the Patriots in their regular-season finale on Dec. 29, a game in which the Giants had nothing on the line but pride and competitive spirit. A little more than a month later, they topped themselves, winning the franchise’s first championship since the 1991 Super Bowl.
Back then, Bill Belichick was the Giants’ defensive coordinator. On Sunday, he was the coach who had led the Patriots to the brink of a historic 19-0 perfect season, had survived a spying scandal that cost him money and his team a first-round draft pick, had weathered whispers in recent days that a previous title might be tainted. But he could only watch as it all collapsed under the weight of the Giants’ ferocious pass rush. For another year, the 1972 Miami Dolphins will stand alone with the only perfect season in N.F.L. history. The Patriots are, in the end, only almost perfect.
“It’s the greatest victory in the history of this franchise, without question,” the Giants co-owner John Mara said, his voice hoarse. “I just want to say to all you Giants fans who have supported us for more than 30 years at Giants Stadium, for all those years in Yankee Stadium and some of you even back to the Polo Grounds, this is for you.”