‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.” He’ll be covering football throughout the season.
So maybe, all statistics aside, Eli Manning is the seventh or eighth-best quarterback in the NFL.
But you know who’s glad he has Manning on his side?
And you know who should be glad Manning is on Tom Coughlin’s team?
Sound strange? Absolutely. The Giants and Jets don’t exactly get along in this town. Their owners have a somewhat prickly co-dependence on each other as they share that big, gray compromise of a stadium in East Rutherford. The teams battle for the back pages of the tabloids. But at least on this day, everybody — blue-clad or green-clad — should be basking in the afterglow of Manning’s fifth fourth-quarter comeback victory of the year.
And if it all comes out right for the Jets at year’s end, Ryan might think about sending Eli a thank you note for beating the Patriots 24-20 up in Foxborough.
What Manning basically did, besides putting his own team at 6-2 with a two-game cushion atop the NFC East, was enable the Jets to pull into a numerical tie for the AFC East lead with New England and Buffalo, the latter of whom the Jets beat 27-11 in Buffalo.
With New England coming up next Sunday night, the Jets now have an opportunity to put the Patriots behind them, at least temporarily. With a head-to-head advantage over the Bills and a three-game winning streak, Ryan’s group appears on a roll. And it never hurts momentum if you get some unexpected help from some buddies across the foyer.
That’s exactly what Manning gave them, though it’s doubtful the Jets were anywhere near his thoughts as he drove his team those last 80 yards for Jake Ballard’s 1-yard touchdown catch with just 15 seconds remaining.
What Manning and his offense did was actually quite amazing when you think about it. Forget that New England has the worst defense in the league. The quarterback still engineered two touchdown drives in the last 3:03, including the last following Tom Brady’s comeback bid of his own.
Brady, down by four after Manning’s 10-yard scoring throw to Mario Manningham, the No. 1 receiver with Hakeem Nicks resting a sore hamstring at home, exploited the Giants’ defense with a couple of effective Danny Woodhead draws and a 20-yard throw to Rob Gronkowski. The tight end eventually beat Michael Boley, who had a great game otherwise with 10 tackles, a strip-sack, and a tip that resulted in a Mathias Kiwanuka interception, for the go-ahead score with 1:36 left.
That, as it turned out, was time enough for Manning to beat a Brady-led team for the second straight time since the 2007 Super Bowl.
Victor Cruz for 18 yards. Ballard for 29. A scramble for 12. A huge pass interference call on Sergio Brown for a first down at the 1.
And then, after a near miss to Ballard and the stoning of Brandon Jacobs (18 carries, 72 yards and a TD in place of injured Ahmad Bradshaw) at the line, came a chancy play-action to Ballard. The tight end made like he has done it all his life, cradling his first game-winner before he fell out of bounds.
Were this later in the season, the Jets might have been huddled around the flat-screens instead of enjoying their short plane ride home from Buffalo. But there’s still a lot of football to be played. Half a schedule, in fact.
Each team will face its share of challenges from here on, the Giants moreso because of the might of their schedule.
On the Jets’ end, though, they’ll gladly accept a little unsolicited help like they received Sunday in Gillette Stadium, where the Giants proved that Bill Belichick, his rings, and his team are not impenetrable.
Giants fans, how happy are you with Eli Manning? Leave a comment below.