Giants O-line steps up in crunch time for Manning in NY Life Protection Index

NORTHBROOK, Ill. (STATS) – When it mattered most, Eli Manning

received just enough protection to help lead the New York Giants to

their second Super Bowl victory in five years.

On the other side of the ball, the Giants defense stepped up its

pressure at just the right times to bring Tom Brady down in

critical situations and keep the New England Patriots from yet

another championship.

“The offense did their job and we had to do our part,” defensive

end Mathias Kiwanuka said after New York’s 21-17 victory in Super

Bowl XLVI on Sunday. “They put us in position to win the game.”

In the highly-anticipated title rematch between two of the NFL’s

best when it comes to protecting their quarterback, the Giants

posted a 74.2 rating in the New York Life Protection Index to top

the Patriots, who graded out at 62.0 on the NFL’s biggest stage in

Indianapolis.

The NYLPI is a proprietary formula created by STATS LLC which

measures pass protection by using metrics such as length of passes,

penalties by offensive linemen, sacks allowed and quarterback

hurries and knockdowns.

Two weeks after Manning was sacked six times, hurried another

six and knocked down 12 overall in a 20-17 overtime win at San

Francisco in the NFC championship game, he stayed off the Lucas Oil

Stadium turf for the most part Sunday. He was sacked three times,

but hurried only once and knocked down just five in all.

For the game, Manning finished 30 of 40 for 296 yards with a

touchdown and no interceptions en route to earning MVP honors for

the second time. And when the game was on the line, Manning was

hardly touched as he again directed a late-game rally over New

England for the Lombardi Trophy.

“That last drive, looking at each other in the huddle, looking

in each other’s eyes, we said we’re going to finish this thing,”

tackle David Diehl said.

Four years after leading New York on a 12-play, 83-yard drive he

capped with a 13-yard TD pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds

remaining in a 17-14 win in Super Bowl XLII, Manning and Co. were

at their best in the clutch again.

Trailing 17-15 with 3:46 remaining, Manning drove the Giants 88

yards in nine plays. They took the lead with 57 seconds left when

the Patriots allowed Ahmad Bradshaw to score in order to give Brady

time to lead the Patriots back down the field.

But the biggest play of the drive was its first. Backed up at

their own 12, Manning’s offensive line gave him just enough time to

unleash a pinpoint throw, hitting Mario Manningham, who made a

remarkable over-the-shoulder catch while keeping his feet inbounds

for a 38-yard gain to midfield.

Stuck in the shadow of brother Peyton for so long, the

oft-maligned younger Manning seven times has led the Giants to

fourth-quarter victories.

“He is confident,” coach Tom Coughlin said of Manning, who

became the first quarterback to complete his first nine attempts in

a Super Bowl. “He looks to his teammates. He is a guy who is an

outstanding leader. He has taken responsibility for his team.”

And Manning’s line has taken responsibility for him. The unit

finished eighth in the NYLPI rankings at 71.7. It was whistled for

one false start and one holding call Sunday, and was critical in

allowing New York to hold the ball for more than 37 minutes,

keeping Brady and his weapons at bay on the sideline.

Defensively, the Giants set the tempo early against New

England’s front five with a play that altered the game on New

England’s very first play.

After New York failed to score on the game’s opening drive,

Justin Tuck pressured Brady enough in his own end zone that the

three-time Super Bowl champ hastily threw a deep incompletion down

the middle of the field. But there were no receivers in the

vicinity, and Brady was whistled for intentional grounding,

resulting in a safety.

“Tuck, I think, was coming and about to get me. I had to get rid

of it,” said Brady, who was 27 of 41 for 276 yards with two

touchdowns, one interception and the victim of some key dropped

passes while playing with a shoulder injury suffered on Tuck’s

first sack in the third quarter.

Brady, who saw his protection settle down for much of the game

after that, set a Super Bowl record with 16 straight completions.

But he was unable to get rid of the ball on the Patriots’ final

drive when Tuck dropped him on third-and-10, forcing New England to

call its final timeout.

Five plays later, Brady’s desperation heave to the end zone was

knocked down, along with the Patriots’ Super Bowl chances.

In the end, Tuck sacked Brady twice and the Giants hurried him

six times, knocking him down seven overall. Pro Bowl defensive end

Jason Pierre-Paul batted down two passes for a New York defense

that, over the final 26 minutes, shut out a New England offense

that averaged 35.8 points during the regular season.

“They had a great scheme there and they had something going

there to stop our rush,” said Tuck, who also helped harass Brady

during New York’s 24-20 win at New England on Nov. 6. “But we

changed our coverage, and the secondary did a good job so we could

eat up front.”

Despite falling short in Indianapolis, New England fared well

enough to rank fifth overall with a 77.1 rating in the final NYLPI

rankings.

New Orleans’ quarterback Drew Brees enjoyed a record-setting

season thanks to some consistently strong protection that helped

the Saints record an NYLPI-season high 87.9 rating – the only

rating above 80.0.

Plagued by a late season-ending thumb injury to quarterback Jay

Cutler, the Chicago Bears ranked last at 43.2.