In 2008 when the Patriots were hoping to complete the perfect season an Eli Manning hail mary pass to David Tyree helped create one of the biggest shocks in NFL history.
In the wee hours of Monday morning, it happened again. Manning threw a hail mary just before half-time and running back Ahmad Bradshaw reached highest to grab the pigskin from a sea of hands. The Green Bay Packers had been the season-long favourites to win the Superbowl. But that touchdown and the Giants’ second-half defence ensured a 37-20 New York victory.
That Manning led them to the playoff victory while the side’s running game continued to be almost non-existent put the quarterback up the nation’s pecking order alongside his more illustrious brother Peyton. But his father Archie was slow to jump on the bandwagon.
“I don’t play that quarterback match up [storyline],” he said when asked about Eli besting Aaron Rodgers. “This isn’t tennis or golf. The Giants beat a good team on the road. But Eli didn’t beat anybody.”
Always the second fiddle, always the little brother, Eli is now just 60 minutes in San Francisco away from another Super Bowl.
Before they return though they must meet the San Francisco 49ers, who beat them 27-20 in the regular season. They rallied to beat New Orleans 36-32 with a Vernon Davis touchdown with nine seconds remaining.
It seems inevitable the winner of that NFC championship game will meet the Patriots. Coming in under the radar, the New England side would love revenge over the Giants.
This time they’ve avoided the media glare. There’s no ‘unbeaten’ tag hanging over them. Tom Brady threw six touchdowns and a team record for passing yards as they thumped Tim Tebow’s Denver Broncos 45-10.
While Brady wouldn’t bite on whether this game had become somewhat personal with all the attention placed on Tebow, he chided the media and public for focusing on one man.
“A lot of people focused on one player,” Brady said. “We were focused on the entire Denver team because we knew the challenge we were facing.”
All he has to do now is steer them over two more obstacles. The first is the Baltimore Ravens who secured a berth in the AFC championship game defeating the Houston Texans 20-13. It was the Ravens’ first home playoff win since 2000 gave them a 9-0 record at M&T Bank Stadium this season.
Now they’re heading to Boston, Foxborough to be precise. They are 1-6 all-time against New England, but that one win was a 33-14 rout in the 2009 playoffs.
“We’ve gone out there and played before,” said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. “We have won in New England. They are one of the teams, like us, that’s tough to beat at home. We’re going to have to make sure we prepare well all week and bring our A-game up there.”
Sunday fixtures: AFC Conference Championship: Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots, (Sky Sports 2, 7.30pm).
NFC Conference Championship: NY Giants v San Francisco 49ers, (Sky Sports 2, 11.15pm).