Archie Manning couldn’t even bear to watch.
These were lowly times for his youngest son. Thrown into the fire after watching Kurt Warner for the first nine games, Eli went up against five top defenses in his first seven games and struggled mightily.
Nothing was worse than Baltimore though. Manning’s passer rating was an ugly 0.0 that day, and like every other game that rating was misleading. He played even worse than the number indicated.
But Papa Archie saw it from a mile away. In a rare instance, both Peyton’s Colts and Eli’s Giants were on the road, so he didn’t have a game to attend. Therefore, he was left with his DirecTV Sunday Ticket to watch both his sons. But the night before he couldn’t sleep. He knew the destruction that was coming.
So he revved up his engines and made the four-hour trip to Reliant Stadium in Houston to go to Peyton’s game. He told his wife Olivia to call him if something good happened. I think it’s implied how often he picked up his phone on that Sunday.
There have been several low points in Eli’s career, and it is debatable which was rock bottom for him. But the Ravens game was his first low point. After just four games, his ability to become an upper-tier quarterback was being questioned.
Kevin Gilbride, the underrated offensive coordinator for the Giants, pulled up a seat next to Eli on the train ride home from Baltimore. Then the quarterback coach, Gilbride explained the same thing Ray Lewis and his buddies explained that Sunday, only in gentler terms. Being an NFL QB ain’t easy.
That was four years ago. And for any type of competitor, that type of embarrassment brings out something. A good something. It’s tough to erase a memory like that, and the only way to do that is to outplay your past. On Sunday, I have a feeling Manning will try to do that.
The Ravens secondary is suspect right now. As ferocious as their front seven is, there are plays to be had down the field. Peyton Manning did just that last month, throwing for three touchdowns in a 31-3 Colts rout.
Eli won’t put up those numbers, but I have a feeling that “slump” will be broken this Sunday. The Ravens defense will play the run as if their lives were on the line on Sunday. They have so much pride, and for the first time in years they are depicted as the underdog in a battle between the trenches.
This commitment to the run should allow Eli to have some success. On a more personal front, it will allow him to exorcise his final NFL demon.
The story about Archie Manning is one of many interesting anecdotes in Ralph Vacchiano's "The Making of a Quarterback," a great read for all football fans.