For the second time since Super Bowl XLII, the Giants offense was placed in a do or die situation. Go down the field and victory shall be yours. Relinquish the ball on downs, and watch that “W” slip out of the palms of your hands, and be replaced with a less appetizing “L.”
As long as Eli Manning has been at the helm, the latter has been as commonplace as a quiet day out of Jets camp. Even when Manning was struggling to establish himself, the youngest Manning had been shockingly calm when the stakes were highest.
Although the final tally culminated in 33 points for the road team at the Jones Mahal, the offense had been erratic for most of the game. Manning will be the first to admit that there were poor decisions and equally deplorable throws that flared up throughout the game.
Gift-wrapping a present for Spencer that was just out of his grasp. An overthrow of a wide-open Steve Smith after evading pressure, and an under throw of him on a critical third down at midfield.
Manning’s same eyebrow raising throws and goofy twitch were just as prominent on Sunday night as they had been during his roller-coaster ride that spanned his first three seasons.
But amidst all the fanfare and sideshows that transpired in a semi-circus like fashion, Manning proved once again to a record-breaking audience (on both television and literal setting), what the Giants have known for a while now: The guy will lead you to victory.
The drive immediately paralleled to Big Ben’s ominous beginning of his Super Bowl drive with a questionable holding call on Rich Seubert.
On second and 18, Manning displayed the poise that is starting to define him. With pressure coming from his blind side, Manning calmly slid to his right and set up a manageable third down with a completion to Derek Hagan. He converted, as he did in his next opportunity. Manning threw the ball over the middle of the field with precision en route to setting up Lawrence Tynes’ game winning 37-yard field goal.
Michael Strahan summed it up best in a 140-word characterization of Manning on twitter: “Eli is [playing like a champion] too. Looks like a schoolboy but playing like a man.”
As recently as a month ago, Peter King and an array of scouts league wide analyzed aspects of the game that were considered essential for a great quarterback to have. Manning did not make his way on the top five for any of these lists.
Nothing Manning will ever do will catch your eye.
He’s not dropping in passes over triple coverage for touchdowns like his 2004 classmate Phillip Rivers did on Sunday. He may not be the secondary torching in-your-face leader that many were expecting when the Giants mortgaged their future on his shoulder. He may not rack up Pro Bowls and annually lead the league in major passing categories. He won’t be the first name to pop in your head when you plot a list of the league’s best quarterback.
Oh well, I guess 28-9 and a Lombardi in the last two seasons will just have to suffice.