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Published: Monday, 2/4/2008

N.Y. defense hounds Brady

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady watches late in the fourth quarter of the Patriots' 17-14 loss to the New York Giants. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady watches late in the fourth quarter of the Patriots' 17-14 loss to the New York Giants.

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Plaxico Burress miscalculated.

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots couldn't get 17 points against the New York Giants defense.

Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora hounded and hit Brady from start to finish, limiting the NFL's all-time best offense to just two touchdowns in a stunning 17-14 victory that will go down as one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.

The 14 points were a season-low for a team that was looking for a place in history.

Now it has one.

"I don't even think anyone expected us to win the ballgame," said Burress, who created a stir in the week leading up to the Super Bowl by predicting the Giants would upset the then-perfect Patriots 23-17.

"For our defense to go out and play the way it did against Tom Brady, who I have so much respect for, and Randy Moss, the best receiver in football, I would have never imagined that those guys would have held them to 14 points."

Burress admitted his prediction put a lot of pressure on the defense, although they didn't mind as they hounded Brady.

"They [told me] you're giving them too much credit," Burress said. "I said: 'Excuse me,' and they went out and played their hearts out."

The Patriots scored an NFL-record 589 points this season, and Brady threw a league single-season record 50 touchdown passes, including 23 to Moss, another mark. No team had held them under 20 points.

New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan celebrates after the Giants beat the New England Patriots. New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan celebrates after the Giants beat the New England Patriots.

Along came the Giants, a team that won its final 11 road games and limited three previous opponents to an average of 17 points.

Against New England, the Giants were even better. They held the Patriots to 274 yards in total offense, including just 45 yards rushing.

Key to the Giants defensive game plan was pressure. They sacked Brady five times and hit him nine.

"That's wrong," defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. "I hit him that many times by myself. We hit him a lot more than that."

Brady finished 29-of-48 for 266 yards and one touchdown, a six-yarder to Randy Moss with 2:42 to play against a defense that was running out of gas. It capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive on which several exhausted defenders limped off the field.

"You know what, the only thing I was thinking in the final two minutes was that we gave up the touchdown that lost us the ...," first-year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said.

The Giants didn't lose because Eli Manning led a game-winning 12-play, 83-yard drive that he capped with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Burress, of course.

Spagnuolo said the Giants wanted Brady to throw short, tackle after every catch, and limit the running game. Brady said the defense did a good job of mixing things up.

"They were just more than we could handle tonight," Brady said.

It should have been obvious Brady was in for a long day when linebacker Kawika Mitchell and Tuck sacked him on consecutive plays in the second quarter.

The last big play came in the final minute when rookie tackle Jay Alford took over for a winded Fred Robbins and planted Brady on a second-and-10 from the Pats' 26 with 19 seconds to go.

Two more desperation passes from Brady and the Giants were beginning to celebrate their third Super Bowl title.

Strahan, a seven-time Pro Bowler who opted to return this season after mulling retirement for the entire training camp, knelt on the ground and looked up at the roof at the University of Phoenix Stadium. After 15 years, he had his Super Bowl ring.

"We watched a lot of TV," Strahan said. "We had a lot of free time. I remember somebody saying the Giants have a false sense of confidence from the first time they played. We got confident. My guys are the best in the world."

"Honestly we were laughing at the TV saying the Patriots were going to win this football game, like we didn't have a shot," Tuck said.

"Nobody gave us a shot but these 53 guys in the locker room, the coaching staff and the fans. It's amazing what you can do when a small group of guys get together and believe in one thing."

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