Dr. Russell Warren stood on the sideline agonizing, a mother hen fearing for her brood as he watched the Giants mount the greatest drive in their history.
"Guys doubling over, cramping, I didn't think some of them would make it," New York's team doctor said after Super Bowl XLII on Sunday. "Plaxico Burress, my God, what pain he played in. He fell in the shower on Tuesday. I thought he'd torn his MCL. You didn't know that, did you? Of course you didn't. No one knew. And he'd injured his knee in the Green Bay game.
"He said, 'Shoot me up for this one if you have to. I'm not going to miss the Super Bowl.' "
And he was on the field for the New York march that began with 2:39 left and New England leading 14-10. "Chaos, the whole drive was chaos," said left guard Rich Seubert. "They weren't going to go quietly. They were bringing guys, doing twists and stunts and games, flying all over the place."
The drive, which gave the Giants their winning points in the 17-14 triumph, was a series of crises. In each case the stakes were the same: Fail and the Super Bowl goes poof. The first crisis in the 83-yard, 12-play march came on fourth-and-one at the New York 37. Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride likes to put the ball up in short yardage. Not this time. In came the big boys, 264-pound running back Brandon Jacobs and 266-pound fullback Madison Hedgecock. Jacobs, who had spent the afternoon running into the heart of the defense, went over the right side this time, Hedgecock leading.
"The only play they used me on the whole drive," Hedgecock said. "I knew it had to be special. Tedy Bruschi was in the hole. He dove for my legs, tried to chop me. I knew I had to get as low as he was, lower even." Hedgecock dug out Bruschi, and Jacobs got his first down with a foot to spare.
The next crisis came three plays later, third-and-five at the New York 44. "Blitzing, coming from odd angles, changing every play, that's what they were doing," said Gilbride. "I told Eli Manning, 'Let's go with a combination route.' And what I called was Phantom, a middle read off a hook."
Linebacker Adalius Thomas came barreling in from the edge, defensive linemen Jarvis Green and Richard Seymour came inside. They caught Manning in a squeeze. He was a dead duck, but somehow he escaped. "My man had his jersey," Seubert said. "I yelled, 'Go, Eli, go!' "
"I had a good view because nobody rushed over me," right guard Chris Snee said. "I turned around, and there were a couple of guys mugging Eli. Somehow that scrawny body got away."
"No one pulled me down. . . . I felt a tug," Manning said. "I tried to stay small."
He got off a pass that went 32 yards to David Tyree, a special teams whiz and the No. 4 receiver. He was open at first; then Rodney Harrison caught up. Tyree made a leaping grab, then kept the ball away from the veteran safety as the two fell.
"I guarantee you," Peyton Manning said, standing by his brother's locker afterward, "there were guys on that Patriots defense who thought the play was already over. He gets sacked, that's it, it's over. Fourth-and-15."
"Most amazing play I've ever seen on a football field," Hedgecock said.
The next crisis was third-and-11 at the New England 25. Manning converted it on an out pattern to Steve Smith. "Quick, we wanted to hit them quick because they were coming so hard on their rush," Gilbride said. Nine of the Giants' 11 plays on the drive had been passes, against a wildly rushing defense. Now it was time for pass number 10.
"Café, that's what the play was called," Gilbride said. "Curl with a flag route over the top. They went to blitz zero . . . everyone coming. Harrison blitzed; Plax was left in man coverage. He gave the corner an inside step and then came down the seam. Six points."
And Super Bowl XLII.