Here is the setting: With 5:41 to go in the game, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo connects with a wide open Dez Bryant for a 50-yard touchdown to put the Cowboys up 34-22 over the New York Giants.
It is at this time that the Cowboys had the NFC East by the clutches and it would take only a semi-miracle to grab it from their hands.
Enter Eli Manning.
All the guy does is make fourth quarter magic happen. Manning is a maestro of the fourth quarter, tallying five comeback wins in the game’s final stanza.
With just under six minutes left, Manning and the Giants orchestrated two scoring drives to put the Giants ahead three points. Then stud lineman Jason Pierre-Paul tipped Dan Bailey’s 47-yard field goal that would have tied the game. Commence euphoria in New York.
So in the span of six minutes, the Giants seized control of the NFC East, leaving the Cowboys in their dust.
However, this race is far from over. With the Cowboys winning on Saturday night, the onus will be on the Giants to beat the Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon to keep pace. Also, don’t forget that this NFC East race will probably come down to the final game: a rematch in MetLife Stadium on January 1.
Make no mistake though. The Giants are in the driver’s seat.
With the way Manning is playing and connecting with his elite trio of receivers in Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham and with the running game slightly getting better with Brandon Jacobs having his best game of the year last Sunday, the Giants have all the confidence to lock up the division.
That does not mean that they are free from having a letdown. Remember this is the same team that also had the NFC East all but locked up last year, but blew a 21-point lead to the Philadelphia Eagles in an epic collapse.
This year’s Giants maintain that last year is last year and that this year is new. And with the way Manning is playing, they have a good point.
While Manning did throw up good stats last year, they were skewed by the gaudy 25 interceptions he threw for. This year Manning has only thrown 12 picks.
One area of concern, though, for the Giants is how their defense is playing.
Outside of Pierre-Paul, the defense has been sloppy and ineffective. They are a battered and banged up unit with Osi Umenyiora still out and Justin Tuck playing hurt (he also might miss Sunday’s game). The Giants rank 30th in total defense, while giving up 391.6 yards per game and giving up 26.8 points per game, which places them 27th in the league.
The Giants have their flaws, but with Manning playing over his head and the team brimming with confidence after Sunday night’s exhilarating win, they have seized control of this wacky NFC East race.