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Ahmad Bradshaw is Giants’ reluctant hero

slider -- Indianapolis, IN - 02/05/12 - New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw (44) falls backwards into the end zone to put the Giants up 21-17 late in the fourth quarter. The New England Patriots took on the New York Giants in Superbowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis - (Globe Staff Photo / Barry Chin), section: Sports, reporter: Shalise Manza Young, slug: 06superbowl, LOID: 5.0.803289577. nd zon to score the gam winnin© †øuchdown

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

The Giants’ running back Ahmad Bradshaw fell backwards into the end zone to put the Giants up 21-17 late in the fourth quarter.

INDIANAPOLIS - When the Giants broke the huddle Eli Manning knew there was something he had neglected to say. The quarterback knew he should have talked to Ahmad Bradshaw. So he started yelling.

“Don’t score,’’ Manning called out, a strange message to a running back in the red zone. Especially when his team was trailing, 17-15, in Super Bowl XLVI last night. “Don’t score.’’

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He wasn’t sure if Bradshaw got the message, as he watched the back shoot through a wide-open Patriots defense designed to let him score as quickly as possible.

“It was a mistake by me,’’ Manning said after the Giants’ 21-17 win. “I had a feeling they might do that. I should have got to him and told him not to score. As I broke the huddle, it kind of crossed my mind. As I got the snap, I saw their [defensive] line just ease up and I was yelling to Ahmad not to score.’’

Bradshaw got the message. He just couldn’t stop. The Giants had 6 more points, when they didn’t exactly want them. At least, not that soon.

“I heard Eli yelling,’’ Bradshaw said. “I tried to declare myself down, but then I just fell into the end zone. I tried to go down.’’

It was an awkward moment, a moment unworthy of an athlete like Bradshaw. He slowed as he approached the goal line, turned, and attempted to put his hand down. The hand went down, but his momentum was too much. His backside dropped, and he sat down in the end zone.

Touchdown.

And yet, the Giants weren’t thrilled. They had left too much time on the clock, nearly a minute, for the Patriots to take a shot at history.

They didn’t, and so the Giants could laugh about it after the game. But, at the time, Bradshaw had the bizarre potential to score a touchdown and be a goat.

“We were trying to let him score,’’ Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo said. “That was the best play to make, let him score and get our offense on the field. It was situational football. We were going to drag him into the end zone pretty much.’’

Tuck and roll

Justin Tuck gave motivation and got some before the game ever started.

First, he gave a pregame speech in the end zone during warm-ups.

“I pointed to every guy that didn’t have a ring and I told them, ‘You don’t know how it feels.’ ’’ Tuck said. “And I pointed to every other guy that had one and I told them, ‘You know how it feels.’ You don’t want to walk off this field thinking you missed an opportunity, because you never know when you’re going to get an opportunity to be back here.

“I just told them we’re built for this, go out here and grab it.’’

Then he was slighted during the coin toss, with the Patriots captains shaking every hand but his.

He responded by blowing up the Patriots line. On the very first play, he pressured Tom Brady into throwing a deep pass to no one in particular while still between the hash marks for an intentional grounding penalty that led to a safety. He got to Brady for two more sacks.

“We feel very confident up front that if we get a little extra time, we are going to be able to get to anybody,’’ he said.

Mutual respect

The Giants’ season turned around with a win over the Jets in December and Jets chairman and CEO Woody Johnson congratulated his city rival immediately following last night’s win.

“It was a closely contested game that showcased all of the best elements that our sport has to offer,” Johnson said. “The Giants demonstrated poise and resolve in earning a hard-fought victory in Super Bowl XLVI. Also, I want to congratulate the Kraft family, Coach Belichick and the New England Patriots on a tremendous effort and an excellent season.’’

He got a leg up

Until the fourth quarter, punter Steve Weatherford was making a case as the most important Giant on the field. Weatherford pinned the Patriots on their 6-yard line, leading to the safety that opened the scoring. He had four punts on which he averaged 40.8 yards, with three landing inside the 20. The Patriots didn’t have a single punt return yard . . . The Giants lost two tight ends to injury. First was Travis Beckum in the second quarter, when he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament. Then Jake Ballard - who scored the winning touchdown against the Patriots in their regular-season meeting - suffered a left knee injury in the fourth quarter. He could be seen testing the knee on the sideline and immediately collapsing in pain . . . The Super Bowl win was the fourth for the Giants, tying the Packers for fourth most behind the Steelers (six), and Cowboys and 49ers (five). They have only lost one Super Bowl . . . The Giants were the first team to be outscored in the regular season and still win the Super Bowl. They were also the first team to go 9-7 in the regular season and still win a championship. Two other teams won Super Bowls with fewer than 10 wins, but those teams did not play 16-game seasons . . . Defensive tackle Chris Canty responded to an ESPN producer’s call for a prediction with Giants 28, Patriots 17 . . . There were no surprises among the Giants inactives. Injured linebacker Mark Herzlich did not play, along with wide receiver Ramses Barden, running back Da’Rel Scott, offensive linemen Jim Cordle and James Brewer, and defensive linemen Justin Trattou and Jimmy Kennedy.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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