Giants' WR Mario Manningham's promising NFL career has been one that has been held back by incessant ailments and inconsistent performances. This year, he almost became an afterthought with both Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz having monster seasons.
Last night, with the Patriots pulling out all the stops to neutralize Cruz and struggling to keep up with the prolific Nicks, Mario made the best of the opportunities QB Eli Manning presented him with. His 38-yard reception on 1st-and 10 from the Giants' 12-yard-line with 3:46 remaining jumpstarted the Giants' game-winning drive.
“On the sideline they were going like this (gesturing a successful catch), so I knew I was in. It was a perfect throw," Mario said. "They rolled into cover-two at the last minute and I saw the corner was acting like he was going to backpeddle, but he came up to play cover-two and I extended to the side a little bit and worked him outside. Eli (Manning) just put the ball on the money. Great pass protection, great ball. I knew where I was on the sideline. I knew I didn’t have that much room. Good thing I wear (shoe size) 11s, because if I wore 11.5s, I don’t think I’d have been in.”
Manning described the play, which will be remembered as the turning point of the game.....
“They were in cover-2. Usually that is not your match-up. They had us covered pretty well to the right. I looked that way. I saw I had the safety cheated in a little bit and threw it down the sideline. Great catch by him (Manningham), keeping both feet in. That’s a huge play in the game right there; when you’re backed up, to get a 40-yard gain and get to the middle of the field. That way we can pace ourselves a little bit, run the ball a little bit. It was a big, big, big-time play right there.”
On whether the previous long pass that he couldn’t stay in bounds for was in his head....“Eli said my bad, ‘I should have kept the ball in.’ We’re a team though, it’s both of us. I could have stayed in and he could have thrown a better ball.”
On comparing his catch to former Giants WR David Tyree’s Super Bowl catch.... “I’m not going to compare catches. We won the game. You can’t really compare the catches. He caught the ball with his helmet, I had good footwork.”
On his catches on the game-winning drive....“I just go out and do my job. I know that plays are going to come. You have to have a short-term memory playing wide receiver. Just take advantage of every ball that comes your way.”
On keeping his feet inbounds on the sideline catch on the game-winning drive....“I knew I had to freeze my feet when the ball touched my fingertips. Wherever I was at when the ball hit my fingertips, I just froze my feet and fell. I knew I was either going to get hit or hit the ground. I knew something was going to happen, but I knew that I couldn’t let that ball go.”
On making plays down the stretch..... “We knew that one of us was going to have to make a big play. We didn’t know when though. Just bite your tongue, be patient and the ball is going to come to you.”
On the run game setting up the pass game.....“They played a two-deep zone. We knew we had to run the ball and the run game was going to open the pass game for us. That’s how football is. You just have to be patient and wait your turn.”
On whether he felt extra pressure on the last drive of the game....“There’s no pressure. It’s football, except you have a little bit more people watching.”
On what Eli Manning said in the huddle....“He didn’t say anything. He just said the play. We knew what it was going to come down to. We’ve been in this situation all year. We’ve been in that situation, it’s just the Super Bowl. You have to dig deep and go out there and make a play.”