Why Eli Manning Is the Most Clutch Player in the NFL

Ryan Phillips@@RumorsandRantsContributor IIIFebruary 5, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants poses with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Giants defeated the Patriots by a score of 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Eli Manning did it again. The 31-year-old quarterback led his New York Giants to another comeback win and another Super Bowl victory over the mighty New England Patriots. After the season he has had, there is no other way to look at it: The younger Manning is the NFL's most clutch player.

On Sunday night during Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants got the ball back trailing 17-15. Manning proceeded to lead his offense on a nine-play, 88-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown and put the Giants up 21-17 with just 57 seconds remaining. 

Manning finished the night completing 30-of-40 passes for 296 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

We should have all expected this, as during the regular season, Manning was Mr. Clutch. The Ole Miss product led the Giants to six comeback wins this year and set an NFL record with 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes.

He was just as good on the team's final drive on Sunday, as he placed a perfect 38-yard strike into the hands of receiver Mario Manningham on the sideline. Manningham's incredible catch set the tone for the drive, as the Giants methodically chewed up yards and ran the clock down before Ahmad Bradshaw reluctantly scored a six-yard touchdown after the Patriots purposely let him go.

Tom Brady and the Patriots had a chance to answer, but they simply couldn't get it done. When Brady's Hail Mary attempt fell harmlessly to the Lucas Oil Stadium turf, it was clear that his days as the league's most clutch player had come and gone. 

Manning led the Giants to a 7-7 record through 15 weeks of the season. After that, New York was outstanding, ripping off six straight wins including the Super Bowl. After dispatching the Atlanta Falcons to open the playoffs, Manning and Company knocked off the top-seeded Packers in Green Bay before traveling to San Francisco and outlasting the second-seeded 49ers 20-17 in overtime.

It was a playoff run for the ages, and Manning was stellar throughout, playing the best football of his career over the team's six-game tear through the end of the season. During that run, he completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 1,790 yards (298.3 yards per game) with 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions. 

As a fan of the San Diego Chargers—who Manning publicly spurned on draft day back in 2004—seeing him have success is never fun. But I've got to give credit where it's due, and Peyton's younger brother has earned the title of most clutch player in the NFL after the way he played this season.