Super Bowl XLVI was the perfect way to end the 2011 NFL season. The game was a great balance of phenomenal offensive plays with tough defensive stops and special teams plays that stole the show.
Here is how the game broke down from quarter-to-quarter.
First Quarter: Giants 9, Patriots 0
The Giants came out in the first quarter and dominated on both sides of the ball.
On offense they were able to orchestrate two offensive drives that resulted in 19 plays and took up 11:18 of game clock. This left a dangerous Pats offense to hold the ball under five minutes in the game’s opening quarter.
While the Giants were unable to score on their first drive, their special teams play pinned the Patriots on their own six-yard line. From there, the Giants defense forced Patriots quarterback Tom Brady into an intentional grounding penalty resulting in a safety.
The Giants took their second drive and put the Patriots in a deep hole when Eli Manning found Victor Cruz with a perfect throw on a two-yard touchdown throw.
Second Quarter: Patriots 10, Giants 9
The Pats finally put something together at the end of the first quarter, when they started on their 29-yard line. They took their opening drive of the second quarter an impressive 60 yards on 10 plays, resulting with a Stephen Gostkowski 29-yard field goal to cut the lead to 9-3.
After a nice back-and-forth between the Patriots and Giants defense that saw both teams trade off drives that resulted in each team punting and playing field position, New England took their final drive of the first half and crafted a perfect drive.
Led by 10 completions on 10 passing attempts by Brady, the Pats marched 99 yards on 14 plays to end the first half with the lead behind a touchdown pass to running back Danny Woodhead.
Not only did it give the Pats the lead to end the first half, but because they opted to receive the opening kickoff, they were able to open the second half with the ball.
Third Quarter: Patriots 17, Giants 15
The Pats continued their offensive dominance that ended the first half, with an opening drive in the third quarter that saw Brady complete five more passes resulting in an Aaron Hernandez 12-yard touchdown catch.
However, the Giants responded on their first possession of the second half, after giving up 17 unanswered points, by marching down the field on a 10-play, 45-yard drive that resulted in a Lawrence Tynes field goal.
The play that changed the entire Super Bowl happened at the end of the Pats' second drive of the third quarter.
Brady’s protection around him broke down and he was hit hard by Giants defensive end Justin Tuck. The sack saw Tuck land with all of his weight down on Brady’s left shoulder. After the play you could see Brady trying to stretch out his shoulder, trying to get it back to 100 percent.
After that possession, Manning and the Giants took another drive nine plays and only 20 yards, but the end result was another field goal by Tynes, cutting the lead to only two points.
Fourth Quarter: Giants 21, Patriots 17
The first possession from New England saw Brady miss on two of his three throws, with an interception on an under-thrown ball to tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Manning and the Giants took over deep in their zone and could not do anything, despite moving the ball 51 yards on 10 plays and eating up almost five minutes of clock.
New England had a chance to run the clock out after converting on three first downs. However, on their drive—and possibly due to the hurt shoulder—Brady’s deepest throw was only 19 yards to Woodhead, and the majority of those yards were after the catch.
Plus, Brady was unable to complete two clutch throws at the end of the drive, missing Wes Welker and Deion Branch on consecutive throws.
Despite taking up five minutes and 31 seconds of game clock, the Patriots punted to the Giants with 3:46 left on the game clock.
Eli took the Patriots' shortcomings and drove the Giants down the field on nine plays for 88 yards, resulting in the game-winning touchdown run by Ahmed Bradshaw with less than a minute left on the game clock.
Brady did have a chance to march his team down the field for a miraculous touchdown to end the game.
He completed only on two of his seven throws, with the last pass of the game being a Hail Mary that fell just inches away from a diving Gronkowski.
Final: Giants 21, Patriots 17
Do the Pats win if Brady's shoulder isn't injured?
This game will be remembered for a Giants defense that came out strong, forcing a safety to open the game, but then was overwhelmed by a near-perfect performance by Brady. However, they were able to rebound after a sack by Tuck to hold on to the win.
Who knows what would have happened if Brady wasn’t sacked and hadn't injured his shoulder? Maybe Brady would have completed one of those passes to Welker or Branch and the Pats would have been able to run the clock out.
We will never know. But what we do know is that Eli has won his second Super Bowl, both coming against the mighty Patriots.