In a game that was billed as Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning, it was a wide receiver on each side that ended up deciding the outcome.

 

It was Giants wideout Mario Manningham who set up the winning score, while the Patriots’ Wes Welker was left to face a drop he called the biggest of his life.

 

On second-and-11 from the Giants’ 44-yard line, Welker let a pass slip through his grasp that would’ve put the team in field goal range, if not better.

 

Instead, it was Manningham, the oft-overlooked third receiver, who made a catch on the first play of the Giants’ final drive that will go down in team history right alongside David Tyree’s famous grab in Super Bowl XLII.

 

“The very first play [of the final drive], the Mario Manningham play, was an exceptional football play,” head coach Tom Coughlin said. “It was a great catch ... something that really got us going. It was an exceptional play to put us in a position to win the game.”

The morning after the game, Manning called the play “muscle memory” more than anything else — a throw he’s made thousands of times in practice.

On Sunday, the pair made it a whole new kind of memory.

Manning told Bradshaw not to score

Eli Manning admitted yesterday morning that he outright told running back Ahmad Bradshaw not to score on the go-ahead touchdown.

“As I’m handing the ball off, I see the defensive line just stand up,” he said. “I just yelled ‘Don’t score, don’t score.’ He obviously heard me and thought about going down and he just didn’t know quite what to do. He said, ‘Hey I got a touchdown, I’m going to take it.’”

Manning said in retrospect he felt Bradshaw made the right call.

“You just don’t want to leave anything to chance,” he said. “If something fluky happens and you miss that field goal, you feel terrible.”