Ranking Eli Manning's 10 Best Moments as a New York Giant

Nathan TesslerCorrespondent IMay 17, 2014

Ranking Eli Manning's 10 Best Moments as a New York Giant

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    Over the last 11 seasons, the New York Giants have been spoiled through the quiet, understated play and leadership of franchise quarterback Eli Manning.

    Manning has commanded this team for 162 straight games since his first start in November 2004.

    By comparison, the Cleveland Browns have used 16 starting quarterbacks since the 2004 season.

    Partially due to a poor offensive line or poor running game or both, Manning has looked helpless at times. With a respectable 229 career touchdowns and 171 career interceptions, he has not overpowered defenses like brother Peyton has done countless times.

    If Manning records 400 yards and four touchdowns in one game, many believe it is simply Eli being Eli. On the other hand, if Manning throws four interceptions and can’t break 100 yards, many also believe that is Eli being Eli. 

    Regardless of your opinion on Manning, he will go down as one of the best quarterbacks in Giants history. He has had many great moments in a Giants uniform and will likely have many more down the road.

    Manning has become one of the best at executing in the clutch too, which not surprisingly is a theme in many of the slides. 

    Be warned, though, this slideshow does not simply recap Manning’s best games statistically. This slideshow is intended to show the moments that best define Manning’s career.

    Here are Eli Manning’s top 10 moments as a New York Giant:

10. May 5, 2012: Eli’s Saturday Night Live Appearance

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    When Manning won his first Super Bowl, he was apparently courted "a few times" to host Saturday Night Live, especially after the success of brother Peyton.

    After the second Super Bowl victory, Manning felt it was the right time to host.

    While it was not quite as successful as Peyton’s stint, Eli still put on a number of memorable performances and showed a side of him rarely seen by fans.

    Manning’s most famous skit is perhaps a video he made for the "Little Brothers" program, getting revenge on older brothers everywhere. Another of his better skits is a courtroom scene, where some of his character’s text messages that are revealed are downright hysterical, such as the unfortunate picture above.

    While Manning has had plenty of on-field moments worthy of this list, his SNL appearance made the list because fans saw a different and surprisingly humorous side of Manning. The episode also received favorable reviews.

9. 2004, Week 15: Eli’s Breakout Game

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    Two high-profile rookie quarterbacks, Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, had a big matchup in Week 15 at The Meadowlands. Before that game, Manning and Roethlisberger were experiencing polar opposite seasons.

    After journeyman Tommy Maddox suffered a serious elbow injury in Week 2, Roethlisberger was thrown onto the field. Roethlisberger immediately became the king of Pittsburgh, going 10-0 in the 10 starts before the Giants game.

    On the other hand, the Giants went from one ineffective quarterback to another.

    After Kurt Warner struggled, Manning was forced to step in and learn the speed of NFL defenses on the fly. 

    The Giants lost four straight games with Manning starting, and Manning had led just one passing touchdown in the Giants’ prior 45 possessions. In the previous game, Manning was 4-of-18 for 27 yards and two interceptions for an embarrassing 0.0 QB rating.

    It was only a matter of time until the 12-1 Steelers ran over the 5-8 Giants.

    No one expected that the Steelers would win 33-30 on a controversial late call.

    Manning stunned the Steelers all game by continually driving deep into their territory. For the first time, Manning showed poise and a clear ability to produce in the NFL. He finished the game a ruthlessly efficient 16-of-23 for 182 yards, two touchdowns and one late interception.

    The late interception also happened to be the aforementioned controversial call. 

    On 3rd-and-2 from his own 44-yard line late in the game, Manning took a chance and threw deep to Amani Toomer, reading the single coverage. Both players fought for the ball as they fell to the ground, but in the end defensive back Willie Williams came up with it.

    While the play could have been ruled defensive pass interference, the referees had plenty of good reason to let the call go.

    Regardless, this game is on the list for more important reasons; Manning finally showed why he was a No. 1 overall pick, turning in his first quality start as a rookie against a team that would finish the season 15-1.

8. 2004 NFL Draft Controversy

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    If you want to appeal to a fanbase, a good way to start is to openly refuse wanting to be the No. 1 pick in order to play for a certain team.

    Before that year’s draft, the San Diego Chargers had the No. 1 pick, and the Giants had the No. 4 pick. The Chargers met with Manning’s camp shortly before the draft and planned to take him first overall.

    When Eli and his father, former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, returned home, Archie told Eli’s agent to inform the Chargers he did not want them to draft Eli.

    Eventually, the Chargers did draft Eli first overall, before trading him hours later to the Giants for Philip Rivers.

    Did Eli take advantage of the influence of his father to land on the Giants? Probably. 

    Nonetheless, Manning had plenty of reasons to not want to play in San Diego.

    At that time, the Chargers were an embarrassment. 

    Their last winning season was 1995, and they held the first overall pick for the second time in four years. The team had been run poorly for the last two decades, in which they had a total of four winning seasons. Fans were not optimistic that Alex Spanos, the team’s 80-year-old owner, was committed to turning the team around.

    Additionally, the Chargers very likely would have benched Manning for his first season to be groomed under the current starter they drafted in 2001: a talented, injury-riddled player named Drew Brees.

    Manning can be forgiven for not wanting to play in San Diego. At the same time, the trade worked well for both sides, as the Giants got Manning and the Chargers got Rivers and two Pro Bowlers in Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding.

    Meanwhile, the Giants play in one of the biggest and most competitive markets in the world.

    As for the pressure of playing in New York, Manning has proven that he handles pressure so well that it borders on cluelessness.

    Ironically, this moment is one of Manning’s best for the Giants, but it also is one that many have forgotten.

    Similarly, the Baltimore Colts declined three first-round picks and a backup quarterback to draft a two-sport star from Stanford at No. 1 who also refused to play for the team: John Elway.

    In the end, Manning made a grand entrance to the NFL and the Giants.

    And to put the icing on the cake for Giants fans, Manning recently admitted that he doesn’t remember why he refused to play in San Diego.

7. 2009, Week 5: Eli Posts a Perfect QB Rating

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    As clutch as Manning has been all of his career, he is also just as tough.

    During the previous game, Manning re-aggravated the painful plantar fasciitis in his right heel, which has kept some athletes off the field for months. Despite the nagging injury, Manning toughed it out and put together the best statistical game of his life just a week later.

    So why is this ranked just No. 7? Well, Manning only threw 10 passes.

    In a 44-7 drubbing of the Oakland Raiders, Manning was 8-of-10 for 173 yards and two touchdowns, before he was removed before halftime. The Raiders were not able to sack Manning once.

    Manning was simply unstoppable that day. He led the Giants on scoring drives of 77, 79, 94 and 13 yards.

    Had Manning played more of the game, he likely could have put up numbers that would rank this game higher on the list. But with just 10 passes, this brilliant game comes in at only No. 7.

6. 2007, NFC Championship Game

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    In the midst of an improbable playoff run, a 27-year-old Manning pulled off one of the gutsiest victories of his career.

    Just a month before this game, Manning dealt with numerous doubts about his leadership. Manning has always been a quiet leader, but when the Giants barely clinched a wild-card berth, the quiet leadership was suddenly in question.

    In response, Manning had one of the best playoff stretches in history, including this performance through harsh winter conditions against the Green Bay Packers.

    Facing a temperature of minus-3 degrees and a wind chill of minus-24, the third-coldest championship game in history, Manning never once cooled off.

    He finished 21-of-40 with 254 yards and zero turnovers, a significant accomplishment in those conditions.

    Despite the unbearable conditions, Manning continued to put his team in a position to win. Unfortunately, kicker Lawrence Tynes missed a 43-yard field goal with 6:49 left, as well as a 36-yard field goal as time expired following a bad snap.

    With the score tied at 20, Corey Webster intercepted Brett Favre, eventually leading to Tynes’ game-winning 47-yard field goal.

    No one expected the Giants to compete at all in those playoffs. Yet, Manning continued to exceed expectations, overcoming the brutal weather to finish with zero turnovers and one ticket to face the then-18-0 New England Patriots.

5. 2006, Week 2: Eli Erases a 17-Point Fourth-Quarter Deficit, Wins 30-24 in OT

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    This may be one of Manning’s best comebacks.

    For the first three quarters, the rival Philadelphia Eagles handled the Giants easily. Manning was harassed all game by the Eagles defense en route to eight sacks. Going into the fourth quarter, the Giants were down 24-7, although the score could have been much worse. 

    Then, after a big defensive touchdown, Manning followed with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer with 3:28 left, cutting the lead to 24-21.

    With 56 seconds left in the game, the Giants got the ball back at their own 20 with zero timeouts.

    As he would do many times afterward, Manning then marched the Giants down the field in their final drive. Eventually, Manning got the Giants to the Eagles 17-yard line, where Jay Feely kicked the tying field goal and sent the game to overtime.

    In the second drive of overtime, Manning did it again.

    Starting from his own 15, Manning went 5-of-5 for 61 yards, including one beautifully thrown game-winning touchdown to Plaxico Burress.

    As Elias Sports Bureau, Inc. details, that day Manning became the second quarterback in history to throw a game-winning overtime touchdown in the same game where he takes eight or more sacks.

    Early in his career, Manning showed poise beyond his years to lead the Giants to a historic victory over a division rival.

4. 2005, Week 7: Eli’s First Game-Winning Touchdown Pass

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    By Week 7 of 2005, the verdict on Eli was a quarterback struggling with inconsistency, inaccuracy and recklessness with the ball. His days as a starter were numbered.

    The Denver Broncos, riding a five-game winning streak, shut him down all game, holding a 23-10 lead with just 13 minutes left in the game.

    Then, Manning shockingly accomplished something we now associate with him regularly: a fourth-quarter comeback.

    After Manning quickly led a 65-yard touchdown drive, the Broncos’ only threat that quarter was a missed 49-yard field goal. With 3:29 left in the game and two timeouts, Manning had a chance to lead the Giants to a comeback win.

    Manning picked apart the Broncos to get to their 2-yard line, highlighted by a superb 24-yard completion to Jeremy Shockey. With 10 seconds left, Manning completed his classic off-the-back-foot-while-turning-away pass to Toomer for the touchdown. The Giants won 24-23.

    This comeback was going to come in a matter of time; in 13 career starts, Manning already completed three fourth-quarter comebacks on the final drive, including the previous week.

    However, this was the first time the comeback was capped off by a game-winning touchdown pass. Manning finished the drive 8-of-12 for 74 yards. 

    Manning’s later comebacks are just as exciting and impressive. But his first comeback, as a second-year player trying to keep his job, is worthy of the No. 4 spot.

3. 2011, NFC Championship Game

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    Just a month before this game, the Giants were 7-7 following a second blowout loss to the RGIII-led Washington Redskins (Rex Grossman III, of course). Tom Coughlin was on the hot seat once again.

    Following four straight victories, the Giants were facing a decades-long postseason rival in the San Francisco 49ers.

    And once again, Manning pulled off an unbelievable NFC Championship victory away from home.

    On a cold, rainy day, Manning withstood six sacks and constant pressure to throw 58 passes with zero turnovers in an epic 23-20 overtime victory. In total, he was 32-of-58 for 316 yards and two touchdowns.

    Manning showed great character and mental toughness all game. He kept coming after the 49ers, despite relentless pressure, four sacks on third down and six sacks in total.

    The 49ers deserve credit for keeping Manning in check, too. Manning was not as efficient as he could have been, but he patiently waited for deeper passes to eventually open up. 

    Moreover, in 2011, Manning’s interceptions were the most detrimental to his team of any quarterback, per John Parolin of ESPN.com. In other words, the Giants’ chances to win were negatively impacted the most when Manning threw an interception. San Francisco also had an NFL-high 22 interceptions by defensive backs that season.

    Thus, it is extraordinary that Manning had zero interceptions in 58 attempts against the 49ers, especially with the Super Bowl on the line.

    Manning may not have put up his gaudiest numbers, but this game was undoubtedly one of the toughest victories of his career.

2. Super Bowl XLVI: Eli’s Perfect 38-Yard Pass to Mario Manningham

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    Months after the hoopla when Manning claimed he was among the "elite" quarterbacks in the league, Manning solidified his argument on the biggest stage.

    Down 17-15 with 3:46 left in the game, Manning got the ball on his own 12 with a chance to win. Before the drive, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was overheard telling his defense to make them "go to" Mario Manningham.

    On the first play of the drive, Manning unleashed a perfectly thrown 38-yard pass to Manningham.

    That flawless throw was the highlight of yet another come-from-behind victory for the Giants. He finished the Super Bowl 30-of-40 for 296 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

    Ironically, the play may have been a bigger moment for Manningham, who did not live up to the two-year, $7.375 million contract the San Francisco 49ers handed him that offseason.

    Manning has had some magical and improbable moments throughout his career. This throw, in front of millions, was one of his best.

1. Super Bowl XLII: David Tyree Helmet Catch

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    Words cannot do this play justice.

    Trailing 14-10 with 2:42 remaining in Super Bowl XLII, Manning did it again. But this time it was in a way no one saw coming. It was one that has been spoofed by Justin Timberlake and even earned its own Wikipedia page.

    Manning, one of the least mobile quarterbacks in the league, somehow escaped multiple easy sacks from New England Patriots defenders. As if that weren’t amazing enough, Manning also completed the most unlikely pass in Super Bowl history.

    On 3rd-and-5 at his own 44-yard line, Manning heaved the ball over 40 yards to David Tyree, a player who had four catches all season.

    If you somehow haven’t seen it, watch the video of the unbelievable play. Even if you have, watch it again. The play has since received a number of nicknames, my personal favorite being "David and Eliath."

    Four plays after Tyree’s catch, Manning completed the go-ahead touchdown to Burress, completing the shocking upset of the undefeated Patriots.

    Super Bowl XLII will forever be remembered by Tyree’s helmet catch. That play, and the ensuing upset of one of the best teams ever, will also go down as the best moment of Manning’s great career.