Eli Manning may have finally justified using the word "elite" when describing his game after he marched the New York Giants 80 yards on eight plays in the waning seconds to defeat the New England Patriots, 24-20, in Foxboro today.
This was the first meeting between the two teams since 2007—when Manning led the Giants to a Super Bowl victory. Even after that momentous victory, the Giants quarterback is still having a hard time trying to convince fans he should be mentioned in the same breath as Tom Brady.
In that game, the Giants broke the hearts of Patriots fans and New England's shot at a perfect 19-0 season. Today, the Giants broke their hearts again along with the Pats 20-game home win streak.
More importantly, Manning proved he could do it again.
Manning—who compared himself to the "elite" Brady in an interview this year— has been criticized for the remark all season. Today, he might have put the Eli-bashers to rest.
The Giants trailed, 17-20, after Brady pulled another patented last minute drive out of his own hat and hit TE Ron Gronkowski just over the end zone line with 1:36 remaining in the game.
After the kick-off, the Giants (6-2) started at their own twenty before Manning began driving the Giants to the winning touchdown. The team was helped by a 20-yard pass interference call on Patriots safety Sergio Brown on the one-yard line two plays before Manning hit TE Jake Ballard with a toss in the left corner of the end zone with :15 remaining on the clock.
The game was a sloppily-played defensive match throughout the first half. The score was 0-0 at half time and the Giants missed tackles and dropped passes. In the fourth quarter, Brady came alive and the G-Men looked tired and beaten.
The Giants quarterback came up big when it counted.
Manning finished the game with 250 yards on 20-of-39 passing and two TDs and one INT. He might have had better stats if his receivers and backs didn't drop half-a-dozen throws and his favorite target, Hakeem Nicks, wasn't sidelined. But in crunch time, Manning was superb or more appropiately—elite. Manning threw both of his TD passes in the final 3:03 of the game.
Brandon Jacobs was the workhorse out of the backfield and finished the game with 72 yards on 18 carries and a 10-yard TD. While he wasn't spectacular, the 260 pound Jacobs—who complained earlier about his lack of playing time— was serviceable in the absence of starter Ahmad Bradshaw.
Manning, meanwhile, proved he is becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He may not have the arm of Aaron Rodgers or the precision of Brady, but he manages to win.
Today's game was the first in a brutal row of teams on the Giants schedule. Manning will have to prove himself against six of the best teams in the NFL over the next eight weeks if he wants to keep in elite company.