Twelve-point favorite. No history. That tells it all. Along with Eli's bright smile, and Tom Brady's glum sorrow.
The oddsmakers were wrong on this one. So were the rest of us.
Last year it was Eli's older sibling, Peyton, leading the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory and earning the Most Valuable Player award.
Sunday, in the suburbs of Phoenix, it was Eli doing the Xerox trick for the New York Giants and himself.
Quite unexpectedly. Quite impressively.
The New England Patriots came in without a defeat, winners of 18 out of 18 this season, 12-point favorites. Tom Brady was going to win another for the Pats and win another MVP. That was the script.
It wasn't the result, however, the underdog Giants holding the highest-scoring team in NFL history to a touchdown in each half and stunning the Patriots, 17-14, in Super Bowl XLII.
The plan was perfect for the Giants. Run the ball on offense and run Brady ragged on defense.
"There isn't a quarterback alive who can complete a pass from his back," said Giants defensive end Michael Strahan.
Strahan had one of the five sacks on Brady, who in thosefrom Sports 1
previous 18 victories never had been brought down more than three times in any one game.
"They put a lot of pressure on us," said Brady. "They mixed it up. They have a quality defensive scheme."
And now the Patriots have a hole in a dream. They failed to join the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only team in the modern era to finish a season without a defeat.
"I'm sure," sighed Brady, "in the coming months this is going to be tough to swallow."
He was at the podium, in suit and tie. The very spot Eli Manning had stood a half-hour earlier in his white-jerseyed visiting uniform, the quickly produced "Super Bowl champion" hat on his tussled hair.
"Watching Peyton win last year," said Eli, "and then the Giants winning this year, it's just unbelievable. "
For the Patriots and Brady, it was just undeniable. He did complete 29 of 48 passes, but that was only for 266 yards.
"Tonight doesn't take away from the season," sighed Brady, the kid from San Mateo and Serra High. "It's just unfortunate it turned out the way it did. It is extremely disappointing. This isn't something any of us prepare for."
Brady was the one who all season and in three previous Super Bowls had made the big plays, the winning plays.
But this time after the Patriots had gone ahead 14-10 with 2:42 remaining on a Brady to Randy Moss pass, it was Manning who responded by throwing a 13-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left.
Burress, who veritably on Tuesday guaranteed a win, 23-17, to which Brady, the leader, said, "You'd think at least he'd make it something like 45-42."
You'd think Patriots management would have been a bit more careful with its impudence. Before the game, it bought the trademark rights to the phrases, "19-0," and "19-0, The Perfect Season." That so inflamed the provincial New York Post the paper spent $375 to patent the number, "18-1."
That's where the Pats finished. Now they are finished. Defeated. Denied.
"I think because of our inconsistency," said Brady, "it really limited what we could produce in terms of scoring points."
Manning, 27, produced what was needed. He scrambled away from the Patriots rush. He kept drives alive with third-down completions. In a 12-month stretch he added to the Manning family legend.
"We believed in ourselves," said Eli. The Giants, 14-6, made believers of everyone. Including the Patriots, some of whom were in disbelief.
"I don't know if it has really set in or not," said Patriots receiver Wes Welker. "But it will. There's nothing we can do about it now."
There's nothing they can do about it ever. Now they'll be remembered as the team that lost the biggest one.
"It was a three-point win," said Brady. "We're usually on the better side of those three-point wins. But we only scored 14 points. That was our lowest total of the year."
This was one of the lowest-scoring Super Bowls, a bit of irony. The one with the fewest points, VII in 1973, also involved an unbeaten team. But the Dolphins won that one,
Art Spander can be reached at