By Sean Hartnett
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Giants fans need little reminding of Eli Manning’s MVP performance in Super Bowl XLII. Manning’s game-winning touchdown drive will be constantly be replayed throughout his career and for decades to come as part of great moments in Super Bowl history.
It was a defining moment for Eli that will be forever be locked into the annals of the NFL, one that will be passed down to fans of a future generation to the next and so on. As magical as his Super Bowl-winning touchdown drive was, Manning doesn’t want to be remembered as a one-off champion. Sure, an all-time quarterback in Dan Marino never won the big game but there’s something about Eli that makes me believe that he can again lead the Giants to the promised land. It may not happen this year but I’d put down a decent wager that Super Bowl XLII won’t be his last appearance in the big game.
In the very same building that Manning lifted the Lombardi Trophy, he again engineered a thrilling fourth quarter comeback. The stakes obviously wasn’t as high as his most famous visit to the University of Phoenix Stadium but it was still impressive nonetheless. The Giants’ 31-27 victory over the Arizona Cardinals is the kind that can spur on the confidence needed to maintain the togetherness and fight required to make a deep playoff run.
Trailing 27-17 with five minutes remaining, it was up to Eli to command the Giants’ offense on two pressure drives to come away with the victory. Twice Manning launched crucial completions to Hakeem Nicks. The first set up a pinpoint pass in the back of the endzone to Jake Ballard that put the Giants within three points.
In his own territory and with little more than three minutes left on the clock, Manning completed a 33-yard missile to Victor Cruz. Despite what rival fans or the media may have said, it was a clearly secured catch that Cruz took to the ground. Not fumble, not a reviewable play – end of story.
On his next snap, Manning lofted a nicely-thrown ball into the hands of Nicks who had gotten past the Cardinals’ coverage and streaked into the endzone. In a span of just five minutes, the Giants had gone from 10 points down to leading by four. If not for the heroics of the Big Blue defense that as a whole tightened the clamps on the Cardinals, Manning’s magic wouldn’t have been possible.
It’s a sign of a team playing together that has each other’s backs and Eli is at the forefront of New York’s improbable 3-1 start to the 2011 season. In consecutive weeks, Manning has not only been the star man for the Giants, but one of the top performers around the NFL. That’s no disrespect to the clutch defensive play Osi Umenyiora demonstrated his return but instead a tribute to Manning. He currently ranks 3rd in the NFL in passer rating at 105.6, only behind superstar quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady… that’s some company!
Eli’s steady play galvanized the Giants who appear ready to take advantage of the stumbles by the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys and match pace with the Washington Redskins. Manning and his teammates are collecting the kind of momentum that can lead to big things. That momentum should continue next Sunday against Seattle.
Giants fans – how vital will Manning’s 4th quarter comeback be in shaping the Giants’ season? Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.