Bradshaw tumbled in the end zone, which was exactly what the Patriots wanted. That gave their own quarterback a chance to respond, rather than have the game end with a Giants field goal.
But when Tom Brady's desperation pass into the end zone was knocked around and fell to the ground, the Giants survived and Brady again was denied in his bid for a fourth championship.
Manning, meanwhile, came through in the end. The latest clutch performance came in the town where his brother, Peyton, has built genuine Pro Football Hall of Fame credentials, and Eli is headed along a similar track.
"He just hung in there," said the Manning brothers' father, Archie. "He was patient, and he had to be patient. … There wasn't anything easy out there."
Eli Manning's receivers certainly helped him earn another Super Bowl MVP award during a 30-of-40, 296-yard passing night. So did a New England receiver, for the wrong reasons.
Four years ago in suburban Phoenix, David Tyree's phenomenal catch of a Manning pass sparked the winning drive in a 17-14 victory. But shortly before that play, the Patriots could have clinched the win, only to have Samuel drop a potential interception.
In this case, New England's most dependable receiver had a chance to secure a win. The Patriots had driven from their 8-yard line to the New York 44, and were threatening to do some combination of adding critical points and running out the clock. Wes Welker found himself alone in the secondary on a second-down play with four minutes remaining, but he dropped Brady's pass and he twisted to make the catch.
"It looked like they messed up the coverage a little bit," Brady said. "We just couldn't connect. I'll keep throwing the ball to Wes for as long as I possibly can. I love the guy."
But Welker's rare drop, followed by a missed connection with Deion Branch, forced the Patriots to punt.
The Giants took over at their 12-yard line, and Manning and his receivers went to work. The drive started with Manningham's 38-yard catch along the sideline, and the Giants moved crisply into field-goal range.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick eventually ordered his defense to surrender the touchdown to Bradshaw with 57 seconds remaining. New England reached midfield before Brady's last pass fell incomplete.
So this game started and finished with unusual scores. Brady was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, having delivered a pass down the middle of the field with no receiver in the area. The Giants followed with a touchdown drive and were dominating the game, yet ended up trailing 10-9 at halftime after Brady led a 96-yard march.
Then came another TD pass from Brady on the first possession of the second half. "That could've sucked the momentum right out of us," Manning said, "but we responded."
The answer came gradually, with two drives resulting in field goals by Lawrence Tynes. He would have welcomed one more kick, but Bradshaw accidentally took away that opportunity.
It all worked out. A team that stood 7-7 in late December proceeded to win six games in what became a single-elimination sequence, right through the Super Bowl. The Giants "never got discouraged," Manning said.
They just left the Patriots and a bunch of other playoff opponents feeling that way.
R In short • For the second time in five seasons, Eli Manning directs a winning touchdown drive to lift the New York Giants over New England in the Super Bowl.
Key moment • On the first play of the final drive, Mario Manningham barely keeps his feet in bounds while catching a 38-yard pass to midfield.
Key stat • Manning completes 30 of 40 passes for 296 yards and one touchdown.