Eli Manning: 7 Best Moments from Giants QB's 2011-12 Season

Zachary ParkerCorrespondent IIFebruary 6, 2012

Eli Manning: 7 Best Moments from Giants QB's 2011-12 Season

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    After winning his second Super Bowl MVP in four years, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has officially cemented himself as an elite quarterback in the NFL.

    During a season dubbed the Year of the Quarterback, Manning's phenomenal play was largely overshadowed by Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford. Even his older brother, Peyton, was getting more attention despite being injured the entire year.

    However, now that the Giants are Super Bowl champions, the spotlight is deservedly on Eli.

    This slideshow will serve as a recap of Eli Manning's top moments as the Giants quarterback in 2011-2012.

Week 3 vs the Philadelphia Eagles: The Debut of Cruz's Salsa Dance

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    After losing Steve Smith in free agency, the Giants seemed to be lacking a receiver to compliment Hakeem Nicks. But when the Giants faced the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3, Eli Manning put his trust into an undersized wide out who had only two previous receptions in his career.

    Victor Cruz became an instant star after catching three balls for 110 yards and two highlight-worthy touchdowns against the Eagles' feared secondary.

    Maybe it was something Manning saw in practice, or maybe it was because there was absolutely nobody else remotely open. In any case, when Cruz jumped over Nnamdi Asomugha and another Eagles defender to steal a touchdown, an irreversible quarterback-to-receiver bond formed. 

    This play was one of Manning's top moments of the 2011-2012 season because Cruz asserted himself as the go-to receiver in the Giants offense. Instead of defenses doubling Nicks, they now had to give Cruz equal attention. This opened things up for the rest of the offense and allowed Manning to have the type of season he had. 

Week 9 vs the New England Patriots: The Precursor

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    Week 9 promised to be a great rematch of 2008's Patriots vs Giants Super Bowl. The game did not fall short, as Eli was able to pull out the win late in the game...sound familiar? 

    With just over a minute left in the game, the Giants were down by three points. After a throwing a precise long pass over the middle to tight end Jake Ballard and a defensive pass interference call in the end zone, the Giants had the ball on the goal line with 19 seconds left. To finish off the drive, Manning again hit Ballard in the back corner of the end zone with a pass that was just beyond the fingertips of the defender.

    Now at 6-2, the G-Men established themselves as a team to beat in the NFC. Also, after defeating Tom Brady for the second time on a clutch last-minute drive, Manning proved that he was as good as any quarterback in the NFL when the pressure is on. 

Week 14 vs the Dallas Cowboys: Icing Dallas

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    This game defined the rest of the season for these two NFC East rivals. Late in the fourth quarter, the Dallas Cowboys held a five-point lead and possessed the ball. All they needed to do was run out the clock to win the game.

    Instead, Tony Romo misfired on a third-down pass to a wide-open Miles Austin. This gaffe gave the ball back to Eli Manning and the Giants with just over two minutes left in the game.

    Per usual, Manning casually but confidently led the Giants down the field to the 1-yard line. After handing the ball off to Brandon Jacobs, New York went ahead by three points and were able to win the game (thanks to Jason Garrett icing his own kicker).

    This game was pivotal for the Giants. After a strong start to the season, they had lost four straight and were a game behind Dallas for the lead in the NFC East. Eli's performance late in this game helped propel the Giants to an eventual NFC East title.

Week 16 vs the New York Giants: 99 Yards Later

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    The Giants were down 3-7 against the New York Jets in the closing minutes of the first half. Manning hiked the ball on 3rd-and-10 from his own one-yard line hoping to just gain some positive yards.

    After having time to set his feet in his own end zone, Manning fired the ball to Victor Cruz, who was running a 10-yard out route. After securing the ball, Cruz did an impulsive juke that left two defenders on the ground. He then sprinted down the sideline—at one point leaping over a diving defender's arms—on his way to the end zone. 

    Similar to Manning's game winning drive in Week 14 against the Cowboys, this play is significant because it jolted the Giants back into playoff form. 

    The G-Men essentially needed to win their last two games if they wanted to go to the playoffs. Prior to Manning's 99-yard touchdown pass, the Giants offense looked miserable. However, the momentum gained on the play carried over into the second half, where the Giants scored 19 points to seal the win and set up an epic finish to the 2011 regular season.

Week 17 vs the Dallas Cowboys: The Rematch

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    The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants had their rematch on the final week of the season. The implications of the game were severe, as the winner would go onto the playoffs and the loser would go home.

    In a game that required perfection, Eli Manning delivered. He completed 72.7 percent of his passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns. 

    With Manning leading the way, the Cowboys' hopes were destroyed, as the Giants cruised to a 31-14 victory and an NFC East title. 

    Manning finished the regular season with one of his strongest performances in his career and proved that the Giants were not going to be an easy team to beat in the playoffs. 

Eli Manning Proves the Last of His Doubters Wrong in the Playoffs

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    Despite throwing 29 touchdown passes and nearly 5,000 yards in the regular season, people still doubted whether Manning could lead the Giants back to the Super Bowl.

    Manning silenced his critics with the best four-game stretch of his career. In the 2012 postseason, Manning threw for an impressive 1,218 yards, nine touchdowns compared to one interception and completed 65 percent of his passes.

    What was more impressive than his stats were the circumstances he performed in.

    He out-dueled MVP Aaron Rodgers when he threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns at Lambeau Field.

    Against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game, Manning overcame rainy weather and a relentless pass rush to send his team back to the Super Bowl. 

    His performance throughout the postseason created a Super Bowl matchup featuring two of the league's elite quarterbacks. 

Super Bowl: The Perfect Pass

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    Down by two points with 3:46 left in the Super Bowl, the Giants had the ball on their own 11-yard line. Despite Vince Wilfork driving an offensive lineman into the backfield, Manning was able to launch the ball 40 yards down the sideline to Mario Manningham, who was double covered. 

    The result was a mind-boggling catch by Manningham which overshadowed a perfectly thrown pass by Manning. No written recount of the catch could do the play justice. Both Manningham and Manning were dialed in to a moment of greatness that begs comparison to David Tyree's immortal catch in the Giants' last Super Bowl.

    This play ultimately wrapped the game up, as the Giants were able to milk the clock before scoring a touchdown. 

    Manning appropriately finished off an amazing 2011-2012 campaign with one of the best executed drives in Super Bowl history.

    After winning his second Super Bowl MVP, the conversation will no longer be whether or not Eli is elite, but rather, is he Hall of Fame worthy?