Keidel: Hail Manning
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By Jason Keidel
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As I watched Eli Manning pinball in the pocket, slinging one clutch, third-down laser after another while mashed by monstrous linemen, I wondered if Ernie Accorsi was onto something…
Nothing bugs Little Brother – not pundits, the Packers, fear, or the Frozen Tundra. With a nod to Hakeem Nicks, Eli Manning is the reason the season continues for the New York Football Giants.
The stat line – 21-33, 330 yards, 3 TD – is impressive but doesn’t tell the entire tale. With his simple face and Southern refrain, Eli Manning looks like he should be thumbing his overalls on the sideline. But the younger Manning is every bit the man (even if not quite the QB) his iconic kin has become.
In a game with more gaffes than a Marx Brothers movie – from countless drops to fumbles inexplicable onside kicks – you could argue the Green Bay Packers gave the contest to the Giants. But that’s not the playoff parlance. The Giants took it. Specifically, the aw-shucks, Ole Miss kid who can’t miss these days.
And while a game could have a few plays on which it pivots, for my buck I focus the Hail Mary (or Hail Manning) at halftime, where Nicks leaped like Derrick Rose for the ball, snatching it from Charles Woodson, putting the G-Men up by ten. The team trotted to the locker room with swagger, knowing they could beat the heretofore-unbeatable Packers.
The Giants did a discount double check on the Packers, melting the blessed, frigid slab of grass in otherwise anonymous farmland. And while Aaron Rodgers (26-46, 264 yards, 2 TD) is still the best player on Earth, he is an Earthling, now relegated to rehearsing his touchdown dance on those silly insurance commercials.
You’ll also hear that the bye week brings rust to otherwise regal teams. Gibberish. Three of the four teams with the extra rest won their games. The Packers didn’t; the Giants did. All roads to the Super Bowl are paved with as much will as skill, and the New York Giants had far more of the former than the Packers.
If you say you knew the Giants would win this game, you’re lying. But nonetheless there’s a Big Blue tide rising from Wisconsin to San Francisco, with another upset inside its high curl. And why not? It smells alarmingly like 2007 now. No denying that.
Speaking of which, I was wrong about the co-pilots of the ship that shut down New England, that it was time for Tom Coughlin to enjoy his golden years on the golf course and Eli simply rode a ravenous defense to a title. To me, 2007, while wonderful, was an anomaly, one of those leap year flukes. Now the term Leap Year serves as a delicious double entendre for Giants fans, who bring a blue tint to Candlestick Park, ready for a not-so-fluky fourth year run.
Now the Giants are injected with all the mojo to needed make another Super Bowl run. The 49ers dismissed the most overrated team (and quarterback) in football on Saturday, making it a Super Sunday for the Giants, in many ways.
And these aren’t the Joe Montana Niners, replete with Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott and a conga line of Hall-of-Famers that Big Blue beat in 1990. This San Francisco team is mortal. Now we’ll see if the Giants are immortal. You can be sure Eli will show up, his humble drawl drawing us just a little closer.