Monday, February 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning comes through again in Super Bowl

INDIANAPOLIS

Some quarterbacks can be found in the record books. They spend season after season stacking up numbers until it becomes their legacy.

Some quarterbacks you can find in the gossip pages. They date models, they film commercials and they chase celebrity as if it was a trophy.

Eli Manning?

You can find him in the fourth quarter.

The eternal little brother stood in the middle of Lucas Oil Stadium, his fist in the air, the confetti raining down like a waterfall. You have seen Eli like this before, and odds are, you will see him like this again, walking toward another trophy stand, celebrating another championship.

So, Peyton. What do you think of the kid now?

At the end of the day, it was Eli-as-in-elite all over again. Once more, Manning pulled his team out of the fire, and once more, he outdueled Terrific Tom Brady on his way to doing so. Once again, it was Manning, and once again, it was in the fourth quarter because this is who he is and because this is when he thrives.

At this point, should this surprise anyone?

For a long time now, Eli has been the man in charge of turning out the lights for the Giants. This time, too. Manning was pretty good for most of the night, but in the final quarter, he was magnificent, and because of it, the Giants pulled out a 21-17 victory in Super Bowl XLVI.

Did you see Manning in the final moments Sunday night? With 88 yards to go, with 226 seconds left to play, he claimed the game as his own. Manning was so sharp, so patient, that he made you forget about the time and distance. Manning was just out for a Sunday drive, and he could have driven his team to Cincinnati if it had been needed.

"In a game like this, I didn't expect anything else," Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks said. "He was as calm as he always is."

This time, Manning didn't even need a receiver to catch a ball with his helmet the way former teammate David Tyree did four years ago.

He did get a great catch from Mario Manningham, who managed to get both feet inbounds on a 38-yarder to get their final drive going. But the Giants still drove 50 yards after that. Manning hit five of six passes for 74 yards on the drive, and if there was a quibble, it was that he scored too quickly.

There are a lot of ways to measure quarterbacks, including the way one performs in the times when the pressure is mounting and the clock is running and the scoreboard is leaning the wrong way. More and more, this is the way to measure Eli. By the deficits he overcomes and by the champion­ships he collects.

"We've had a bunch of (comebacks) this year," said Manning, who completed 30 of 40 passes for 296 yards. "When we had an opportunity in the fourth quarter … we had been in those situations before. We knew we had no more time left. We had to go down and score."

This season, only the Packers' Aaron Rodgers had a better quarterback rating in the fourth quarter than Manning's 110.4. Of his 29 regular-season touchdowns, 15 came in the final quarter. Of the Giants' nine regular-season victories, he led them from behind in the final quarter five times (and engineered a winning drive in a tie game another time).

This is not new. In eight seasons, Manning, 31, has led his team from behind 21 times, including twice in the Super Bowl. They won't think of Eli as Peyton's equal in Boston, but he's probably right up there with Bucky Bleeping Dent.

Think of it like this. This was only the fourth time the winning touchdown has been scored in the Super Bowl's final minute. Manning has produced two of those. (San Francisco's Joe Montana did it once, Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger did it once.)

"This is twice now," Giants guard Chris Snee said. "The biggest stage where we've gone down to score a touchdown. It starts with Eli. He was tremendous in that situation. Eli is just so at ease in that situation."

Then there is this:

Two times, Manning has crossed lightsabers with Brady, who will be remembered as one of the top handful of quarterbacks ever to play the position. For much of the night, Brady seemed intent of making a mockery of the New York media that spent much of the past week suggesting he lacked courage. Tom Fraidy? That's silly. Brady missed a couple of throws late, but fear was not his problem.

Eli? He didn't miss anything late.

"I don't need to say anything about Eli," Giants running back Brandon Jacobs said. "Two hundred and twenty eight countries just saw Eli. I don't have to say anything."

For those who have big brothers, there will be plenty to say. This was for those who were pinned down and given chest noogies by an older sibling, for those who have lived in the shadow of their accomplishments, for those whose ears grow numb of hearing how they cannot measure up. This one was for little brothers everywhere.

"He just hung in there," said Archie, Eli's father. "He was patient, and he had to be patient. There wasn't anything easy out there. He plays like a quarterback needs to play."

Calm. Confident. Clutch. Champion. This time, all of the praise fits Eli.

Little Brother. Big winner.

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