NEW YORK (WFAN) — Sure, Victor Cruz had on his dancin’ shoes Sunday.
But it was fellow wide receiver Mario Manningham who saved the Giants with his feet.
Manningham made a magnificent over-the-shoulder catch and managed to stay inbounds on the opening play of a game-winning, 88-yard touchdown drive that carried New York to another come-from-behind win over the Patriots in the NFL championship game.
Manningham’s 38-yard reception — with two defenders bearing down on him — propelled the Giants to a 21-17 win and their fourth Super Bowl title.
“It was a great ball,” said Manningham. “I knew where I was on the sideline. I knew I didn’t have that much room and it’s a good thing I wear (size) 11s because if I wore 11 1/2s I would not have been in.”
Manningham got both feet down before getting smacked out of bounds in front of the Patriots’ bench, a catch that was upheld on replay and reminded the 68,658 fans at Lucas Oil Stadium — one in particular — about that other catch four years earlier.
“In those situations you are always looking to see who is going to be the guy,” Tyree said in the Giants’ locker room. “I am so happy for that man, fighting through those injuries and emerging to help his team.”
Manningham, relegated to No. 3 on the Giants’ depth chart because of knee injuries and the emergence of Cruz, had three catches on the nine-play drive capped by Ahmad Bradshaw’s uncontested 6-yard touchdown run.
“Wherever I was at, as soon as the ball hit my fingertips I just froze my feet and just fell. I knew I was either going to be hit or hit the ground,” said Manningham. “I knew something was going to happen, but I knew I couldn’t let that ball go.”
David Tyree said Manningham’s catch didn’t bring back memories of his reception in 2008 “but the more I thought about how important it was, it should.”
“I think they are both spectacular catches,” said Giants coach Tom Coughlin. “I think with Mario’s earlier tonight, the way he kept his feet inbounds and held on to the ball going out of bounds was a remarkable thing.”
Manningham’s big moment came after offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride saw New England’s defense playing its two safeties deep and shading them to the right side to cover Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.
Running a go pattern up the left sideline on a first-and-10 from their own 12 and down 17-15, Manningham made the catch between safeties Patrick Chung and Sterling Moore and right in front of Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
“It was a great catch by Mario and a great throw by Eli,” Gilbride said. “He knew he was going to get hit and he kept his feet in bounds and held on.”
Manningham said he never lost track of where his feet were.
“We knew that one of use was going to have to make a big play,” he said. “We didn’t know when, though. So, you know, bite your tongue, be patient, the ball’s going to come to you.”
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