The Top 5: Pivotal Plays In Giants' Super Bowl History

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With their hard-earned 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, the New York Giants are heading to another Super Bowl. It will be their fifth appearance, with three wins under their belt (to go along with the four NFL titles they won in the pre-Super Bowl era). Their first one occurred on Jan. 25, 1987, in Super Bowl XXI, at the Rose Bowl, when they defeated the Broncos, 39-20, with Phil Simms winning the MVP Award. Next was Super Bowl XXV, on Jan. 27, 1991, at Tampa Stadium, where they beat the Bills, 20-19, and Ottis Anderson taking MVP honors. Their third took place back in Tampa at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 28, 2001, in Super Bowl XXXV, when they were beaten by the Ravens, 34-7 (Ray Lewis was the MVP). And just four years ago, on Feb. 3, 2008, they upset the Patriots, 17-14, in Super Bowl XLII at University of Phoenix Stadium, with Eli Manning taking home the MVP Trophy. Of course, there were many key plays in each game, but we've narrowed them down to five, and have included each of the four games to be diplomatic. Here are the biggest plays in Giants' Super Bowl history.

5. Jesse Armstead's Almost Touchdown in Super Bowl XXXV: The Giants never had the lead in this game and the final score of 34-7 was indicative of the blowout it was, but there was one brief moment when the Giants appeared to make it a game. The moment only lasted seconds, though, and the result was a killer for the Giants. Losing 7-0 early in the second quarter, the Giants seemingly tied the game when Jesse Armstead picked off a Trent Dilfer pass and ran it back 43 yards for a touchdown. Only it was called back because of a questionable holding penalty on Keith Hamilton. That was pretty much the closest they would get to making it a competitive game. Down 17-0 in the third quarter (Kerry Collins just couldn't stop throwing interceptions -- four in all), the Giants finally scored when Ron Dixon returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. The momentum lasted only as long as it took the Giants to line up for the kickoff, though, as Jermaine Lewis answered Dixon with a kickoff return touchdown of his own. Three touchdowns were scored in the span of 36 seconds, and the Giants were toast.

4. Jeff Rutledge Runs for First Down on Fake Punt in Super Bowl XXI: Phil Simms had a record-setting day, Phil McConkey made a 1980 World Series Pete Rose-like touchdown catch and the Big Blue Wrecking Crew defense made goal-line stands and key defensive stops all game long, but it was a trick special-teams play that may have given the Giants the momentum for good. Though the final score was 39-20, the game was a close-knit affair going into the third quarter, with the Denver Broncos holding a 10-9 halftime lead. On the first drive of the second half, the Giants set up for a punt after failing to gain a first down after their first three plays. Backup quarterback Jeff Rutledge lined up as a blocking back, took the snap and ran the ball all the way to the Giants' 48-yard line for a first down. The Giants drove down field, and finished off the drive with a 13-yard Simms to Mark Bavaro touchdown pass. The romp was on from that point on, with the Giants outscoring the Broncos 30-10 in the second half.

3. Plaxico Burress' Game-Winning Touchdown in Super Bowl XLII: Eli Manning not only had to lead one fourth-quarter comeback drive, but he had to do it twice. Of course, he was successful, becoming only the second quarterback in Super Bowl history to accomplish that feat (Joe Montana being the other). The New England Patriots took a 7-3 lead into halftime, and with neither team scoring in the third quarter, the Giants went ahead 10-7 on their first drive of the fourth quarter. With 2:42 left in the game, Tom Brady connected with a wide-open Randy Moss on a six-yard touchdown pass after Corey Webster slipped, to give the Pats a 14-10 cushion. The final, historic drive began on the Giants' 17-yard line. Amani Toomer made a couple of catches, Brandon Jacobs ran for two yards on a fourth-and-one, Asante Samuel missed a sure interception, David Tyree did something or other (see below), Steve Smith caught a third-and-11 pass and went out of bounds at the New England 13 -- all of which set up Burress' heroics. The Giants had four receivers running patterns, with Burress alone on the left side and Ellis Hobbs on him in single coverage. Burress faked out Hobbs with a slant, went to the corner of the end zone and Manning's pass fell into his arms for the winning points. Three incomplete passes and a sack later, the Giants completed one of the greatest upsets in NFL history.

2. Wide Right in Super Bowl XXV: Ok, this wasn't a play made by the Giants, as, although they were involved, they were more innocent bystanders. The Giants' game plan was to control the ball on offense, and on defense, play a physical game with the Buffalo Bills' receivers and put extra defensive backs on the field to try and stymie the high-flying Buffalo aerial attack. And it worked like a charm, as Big Blue set a Super Bowl record for time of possession, having the ball for 40:33 of the game and holding Jim Kelly & Co. to 17 points. The two teams traded field goals before the Bills scored their first touchdown on an 80-yard drive and Bruce Smith sacked Jeff Hostetler in the end zone for a safety. Just before the first half ended, though, the Giants drove 87 yards, with the finishing touch being a 14-yard Hostetler to Stephen Baker touchdown strike. The Giants began the second half with a time-consuming, 75-yard drive, with Ottis Anderson scoring on a one-yard run. The 9:29 drive set a Super Bowl record (which has since been broken by the Giants themselves with their first drive in Super Bowl XLII). Thurman Thomas scored on the first play of the fourth quarter, which was later followed by another long Giant drive (7:32), which resulted in a Matt Bahr field goal and gave the Giants a 20-19 lead. With 2:16 left and on their own 10-yard line, the Bills began their final, fateful (fatal?) drive. Kelly led them to New York's 29-yard line, and with eight seconds left, and many Giant players on the sideline praying and not able to even look for fear of the outcome, Scott Norwood lined up his 47-yard attempt and it sailed right, giving the Giants the victory and forever associating the kicker's name with the phrase "wide right."

1. David Tyree's Helmet Catch in Super Bowl XLII: Many forget that Tyree was the one who scored the Giants' first touchdown of the game, but who can blame them, since he made arguably the greatest play in Super Bowl history later in the same quarter. With 1:15 left in the game, and the Giants on their own 44-yard line, they were facing a third-and-five -- and they were in trouble. Manning dropped back to pass, and he was quickly swarmed by New England defenders. But somehow, someway, he slipped out of the grasp of Adalius Thomas, Jarvis Green and Richard Seymour as he -- to quote Felix Unger -- scrambled with the "dexterity of a lizard." Manning broke free and heaved the ball back toward the middle of the field. Tyree and Rodney Harrison had a jump-ball for the pigskin, but Tyree leaped just a little higher, trapped the ball against his helmet with one hand and held on to it for his life as the two crashed to the ground, for a 32-yard completion. The Giants ultimately scored, and the rest is football history.

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