By Ernie Palladino
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It has gotten to the point where, whenever you see Eli Manning come on the field at the end of the fourth quarter in a close game, you expect to hear the Ride of the Valkyries coming over the stadium PA system.
He swoops in, waves that magical arm of his, and suddenly the Giants have the lead and, in all likelihood, the win.
It happened again Sunday. On a day that was far from Manning’s best, with two interceptions and a bad, bad misfire in the red zone that should have landed in Victor Cruz’s hands for a touchdown, the coolest head in the NFL produced yet another fourth-quarter comeback win in what is becoming a storied career filled with similar events.
Here’s how it shook down in a 27-23 victory over the Redskins that kept the Giants atop the NFC East.
The Redskins had just scored on two straight possessions — a field goal off Manning’s second interception of the game and then on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Robert Griffin III to Santana Moss over the deep middle following an unsuccessful Giants drive. Score: 23-20 Redskins with 1:38 remaining on the clock.
The arrow was hardly pointing upward at this point. But it never does point down for long when Manning is out there in a pressure situation.
Sitting at his own 23 after the kickoff return, Manning couldn’t complete a throw to Ahmad Bradshaw to bring up a second-and-10 situation.
Manning took the snap and dropped back deep. Spying Cruz downfield with a step on defensive backs Josh Wilson and Madieu Williams, an arm hair before DE Stephen Bowen laid out the quarterback, Manning let loose with a beautiful ball.
Cruz ran it down, gathered it in, and ran untouched into the end zone for the winning score.
It took all of 19 seconds for Manning and Cruz to answer the Redskins.
Linebacker Chase Blackburn then made sure there would be no such shenanigans from the folks who hail from our nation’s capital. His strip of RGIII’s completion to Santana Moss ended the wild affair and exacted some measure of revenge for the Redskins’ sweep of the season series last year.
Actually, Manning’s throw may have been the easiest part of this one. Griffin was his typical madman with the ball, busting runs of 28 and 24 yards in an 89-yard rushing day that complemented nicely a 20-of-28, 258-yard, two-touchdown passing afternoon. The Giants’ defense did give up 248 ground yards and an average rush of 6.5 yards, including 120 to super rookie Alfred Morris. So the numbers were as ugly as could be in that category.
But the numbers were stellar in the turnover area. Though Manning threw two picks, the Giants’ defense turned over the Redskins four times with an interception and three fumble recoveries. Only the interception produced points — a touchdown — but the fumbles got the ever-dangerous Griffin off the field and safely to the sidelines.
That meant the Giants had a chance to keep it close. When that happens, it gives Manning a chance to work his magic, which Giants fans have seen over and over and over again.
RGIII is already a great weapon, and if his health holds, will become an even more potent one in the coming games and years. But the Giants needn’t worry about that just yet. For this one, they got past him. Thanks to Manning putting a single ball right on Cruz’s palms, they turned Griffin’s magic into mere illusion.
There was nothing fancy here, mind you. No Wildcat obsessions, no quarterback dilemmas, no trickery. Just step back, throw the ball accurately, and let the receiver do the rest.
Then again, that’s the way it has always been with Manning.
Sometimes, the magic you think you see really isn’t magic at all. It’s just good stuff, done right.
Was there any doubt that Manning would make something happen? Be heard in the comments below!