In one of the least suprising stories of the NFL season, a Manning is in the Super Bowl. In one of the most suprising stories, it's Eli, not Payton, that will be taking the field in Glendale. That's right, one of the most noted chokers in football in the last three years, the guy who has been blamed for keeping the Giants from the Super Bowl, has made it. The question is, how?
Even Eli's not sure. "I'm really not sure how this happened, to be honest," Manning said after leading a stunning upset of the Packers in Green Bay last weekend. "Every time I threw the ball, I was ready to make a tackle. I thought they were all going the other way."
And really, who can blame him for that? As long as Eli's been in the league, people have doubted his ability to lead his team to a championship. Every big game in his career, Manning has found a way to choke. Even in games that don't matter, Eli somehow loses the game. Take the final regular season game this season. Eli played a phenomenal game, then threw a horrible interception in the 4th quarter, which led to New England's winning touchdown. One pass erased all the good that he had done to that point. He was ready for it to happen again.
He had one possible explanation, however. "Maybe I hung around Brett (Favre) too much this week," he said after the game. "It seemed like I gave my choking habits to him. I mean, he's one of the best, most clutch QB's in NFL history, and he throws up that lame duck in overtime. That's something I would do."
Favre said he didn't blame Manning for the loss. "He played a great game; I don't blame him for my problems," he told reporters. "You know I really blame? Sports Illustrated. Those morons put me on the cover the week before the NFC Championship? C'mon, what were they thinking? Everyone knows the curse that comes with that. They should've put Eli on it instead. At least that way no one would've blamed the magazine when he choked away the game."
"He's probably right. Only one of us could blow the game, and clearly the SI curse is stronger than I am. I couldn't compete with that," Manning replied. "I didn't even need to be on it to lose. Why not use Andy Roddick, he already blew it in the Australian Open. He couldn't choke again."
However Eli managed it, don't expect the same luck next week against the Pats. Unless, of course, Madden '09 comes out 6 months early with Brady as the coverboy.