Bucs vs. Giants: More Proof Eli Manning Is NFL's Most Clutch QB as G-Men Survive

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistSeptember 16, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 16:  Eli Manning #10 and  Kevin Boothe #77 of the New York Giants celebrate a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a game at MetLife Stadium on September 16, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

For the first seven quarters of the 2012 NFL season, it certainly looked as though the New York Giants were suffering from a Super Bowl hangover. 

There's no such thing as a must-win game in Week 2, but with two difficult road games on deck and the rest of their NFC East rivals still yet to lose, the Giants had to find a hangover cure in time to salvage things against a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers team.

The cure, again, was Eli Manning, who led the Giants on three fourth-quarter touchdown drives as they outscored the Buccaneers 25-7 in the final frame.

They survived despite three Manning picks in the first half. "Three interceptions nobody cares about," said Fox play-by-play man Joe Buck as the Giants wrapped up the victory.

And that's what's so great about Manning, who is probably the league's most clutch player. One year after throwing an NFL-record 15 fourth-quarter touchdown strikes, he proved Sunday that wasn't an anomaly. 

Manning finished with a career-high 510 passing yards, but it wasn't a one-man show. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks stepped up huge, amassing 378 of those yards on 21 receptions.

Cruz bounced back after a three-drop performance against Dallas. Manning bounced back after seven mediocre quarters of quarterback play to start the year. Nicks fought through the pain resulting from an injured foot that was roughed up again Sunday.

And they survived despite another poor performance from a shoddy/depleted secondary. 

And they survived despite only getting one sack from the three-headed pass-rushing monster of Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, who have a grand total of one sack this season.

And they survived despite losing Ahmad Bradshaw, David Diehl and Domenik Hixon and not having Keith Rivers and Prince Amukamara, all of whom are crucial cogs on either side of the ball.

This probably isn't sustainable. The Giants will have to learn to perform at their best for more than one quarter per week. Simply surviving isn't ideal, but it sure beats the alternative. 

The G-men might struggle with consistency until they get healthier, but in the meantime, they can take solace in the fact that they're probably the league's best-coached team, they're probably the league's most mentally strong team, and they possess the league's best bail-out quarterback.

That alone might not be a Super Bowl formula, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to bet against Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning.