Rewind: Super Bowl 42—New York Giants vs. New England Patriots


Over the course of 100 seasons in the National Football League, there has been no shortage of memorable victories from certain underdogs. However, on the evening of the forty-second Super Bowl between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots, the world witnessed one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports. In an exciting and action-packed game, the 2008 Super Bowl is arguably the most exhilarating game of all time for sports fans around the globe.

On paper, the 2008 New England Patriots team was a top-three team in the history of the league. After finishing the regular season with a single loss, the Patriots stayed perfect in the playoffs. A victory on Super Bowl Sunday would declare New England just the second-ever team to complete a perfect season since the Miami Dolphins in 1972. 

Led by future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots were unstoppable offensively. Thanks to tremendous front-office efforts, numerous weapons surrounded Brady on offense. Pass-catchers like Hall of Famer Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Ben Watson gave Tom Brady a plethora of options through the air. Running back Kevin Faulk provided the Patriots a steady hand on the ground, rushing for an average of nearly 100 yards per game. A combined 7,000 yards gained by New England in 2008 proved how easy it was for them to move the ball down the field.

Defensive veterans such as Teddy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, and Asante Samuel held down the fort on the defensive end, creating an extreme powerhouse for a football team. It would be nearly impossible to beat this squad at its best.

On the opposite sideline, the New York Giants were no strangers to being underdogs. After being favored against in its two previous playoff games, New York had nothing to lose heading into the Super Bowl. A 10-6 season for Tom Coughlin and the Giants was enough to clinch a postseason berth, yet the team didn’t even win the NFC East division.

On offense, the Giants were rough around the edges. Inconsistent quarterback play from Eli Manning combined with an up-and-down core of skill position players caused New York to finish 22nd in offensive yards out of 32 teams. However, wide receiver Plaxico Burress and running back Brandon Jacobs stood as the staple of the Giants’ offense.

On the other side of the ball, New York was much more stout. Pass rushers Micheal Strahan, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Mathias Kiwanuka combined for one of the best interior defenses in years. The talent and capabilities of the Giants were clearly sufficient enough to compete for the Super Bowl, yet one question haunted them: How were they going to beat this far-superior New England team?

Favored by nearly 15 points, the Patriots were predicted to win by a vast majority of experts and analysts. However, there was still a game to play. As both defenses stood tall on each team’s first possession, the Giants struck first. A solid drive with just over five minutes remaining in the first quarter saw Lawrence Tynes drill a chip-shot field goal from 32 yards out. This 3-0 lead for New York disappeared quickly, as Tom Brady marched New England down the field on the very next drive. A one-yard touchdown run by Laurence Maroney gave the Patriots a 7-3 lead, regaining morale within the team. 

Following this touchdown, both defenses stole the headline of the game. On the ensuing drive, cornerback Ellis Hobbs intercepted Eli Manning for the first turnover of the game. However, the Patriots gave it back later on when Justin Tuck strip-sacked Tom Brady with just under a minute left in the first half. Although the Giants failed to convert the opportunity into points, the defense did a fantastic job to keep New England from scoring points of its own.

Unlike the first half, the third quarter was extremely uneventful. New England began with a substantial 8-minute drive, but New York came away with a huge stop on 4th down. Following the turnover on downs, both teams traded three-and-outs and ended the third quarter with the score still at 7-3. On the opening drive of the fourth quarter, the Giants struck paydirt. A 5-yard touchdown pass to David Tyree delivered New York a 10-7 lead as they regained the high ground. Striking back like lightning, Tom Brady wasted no time as he found Randy Moss in the back of the endzone from 6 yards away. With less than 3 minutes left remaining in the entire season, the Giants trailed by a score of 14-10. 

In need of a heroic drive, Eli Manning headed out on the field in an attempt to mount a game-winning touchdown drive. If not executed, New England would cap off an undefeated season as just the second team to ever do so. On a 3rd and 5 from the New York 44-yard line, Eli Manning was wrapped up in the arms of several Patriots. To the surprise of nearly one hundred million viewers around the country, Manning somehow managed to escape. He pulled out of the would-be sack and fired a prayer downfield toward David Tyree. Tyree went up for the ball simultaneously with the defender and was able to pin the ball to his own helmet, securing the catch at the New England 24-yard line. This incredible grab by David Tyree will go in the books as one of the most impressive and clutch receptions of all time.

On the heels of a history-defining play, New York finished the job. Eli Manning tossed a gorgeous touchdown of 13 yards to Plaxico Burress, giving the lead back to the Giants at 17-14 with only 32 seconds remaining. Even with Tom Brady at the helm, New England was hopeless. After getting sacked, Brady had just enough time to chuck up two moonshots that were eventually batted down. All Eli Manning had to do was kneel the ball down, ending the game with a Giants’ world championship. 

Even for non-football fans, Super Bowl XLII was a game for the ages.  After facing doubt from nearly the entire world of sports, New York was victorious in a historical game. This shocking defeat for New England proves that anybody can be beaten in the NFL world. On the biggest stage for professional sports, Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning, and David Tyree pulled off arguably the biggest upset in the history of sports.