On Sunday evening, New York Giants quarterback emerged from the shadows of his brother and showed that he was his own quarterback. He showed that he too could lead a team to a Super Bowl. He showed that with a Super Bowl win under his belt and the chance to make that two, that he was much more accomplished than his brother was 8 years into his career. It took older brother, Peyton, nine years to win his first Super Bowl, a win that solidified his spot in the Hall of Fame. This being Eli’s 8th season, he has a chance to win on the professional sports’ biggest stage for a second time.
Eli fought a long, tough game to be able to get to where he and the Giants are now. Thanks in part to teammate Devin Thomas and 49ers kick returner Kyle Williams, the special teams proved to be where the two teams were set apart in a game that could not be decided in 60 minutes of regulation football.
Manning’s toughness is what won the New York Giants this football game. Even though he took 20 hits, got knocked down 12 times, and was sacked 6 times, Manning didn’t go to the press after the game and complain that somebody wasn’t doing their job.
Our own Michael Vick could learn a thing or two from his fellow NFC East quarterback. However, even after taking those 20 hits, Manning was able to scrape himself off the turf each time and finished the game with an impressive 316 yards on a 55.2 percent completion rate on 58 passing attempts.
While the statistics may not be out-of-this-world, Eli had arguably the best game of his career on Sunday. Against one of the league’s best defenses, Manning was able to take a beating and still deliver 32 completions and two touchdown strikes. After the stunning performance on Sunday, number 10 now has eight touchdowns and just one interception in three postseason games this year and 16 touchdowns to just five interceptions in his 10 career postseason games.
During the NFC Championship game, Manning passed the ball 58 times. Fifty-eight times. This number is the highest in Manning’s career and only the third time he has ever passed the ball more than 50 times. Against the league’s number one rush defense, Manning was forced to carry the load of his team and he was up to the task.
With Patrick Willis, Navorro Bowman, Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, and Aldon Smith combining for six sacks, Manning’s task wasn’t an easy one. With his dirtiest jersey in years, Manning was sacked more times than he had been in 162 weeks, since his week 15 meeting against the Cowboys in the 2008 season when he was sacked eight times.
“He’s got a real sense of toughness about him and it’s demonstrated by the way he plays,” says head coach Tom Coughlin of his quarterback. On the Monday following the game, Manning said that basically he was fine and he had little more than a few “bumps and bruises.”
Manning’s zero turnovers also proved that his maturity and awareness of where defenders are has increased greatly since entering the post season. “We knew we had to come in here and not turn the ball over,” Manning said after the game. He did just that. Just as a bit of perspective, Michael Vick only achieved that feat in two games the entire season, and he missed three full games.
All of this being said, do you think Michael Vick could have led the Philadelphia Eagles to a win had they been matched against the 49ers in the NFC Championship? Vick has only started five playoff games as opposed to Eli’s ten. And while they both have three losses, Eli has seven wins as opposed to Vick’s two. All but one of Manning’s wins has come on the road as an away team or at a neutral site (Super Bowl XLII). On the road in the playoffs, Vick’s record is a sad 1-2, both losses at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles while the lefthander was a member of the Atlanta Falcons.
To put it simply, after week 17, Eli Manning became a new quarterback. He is one of the most clutch quarterbacks in the game when it comes to playoff games. As much as Eagles fans hate to admit it, after Sunday’s game Eli may have just proved that he is elite.