Early this season, Eli Manning was asked by a reporter if he was an elite NFL quarterback. His reply came as no surprise when he answered in the affirmative.
The notion that Manning, the New York Giants’ field general wasn’t in the discussion along with New England’s Tom Brady, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, or Peyton Manning, his older brother who’s been sidelined the entire campaign after undergoing neck surgery, was absurd.
It’s true Brady has led the Patriots to three Super Bowl titles and Roethlisberger two, while Brees, Rodgers, and the elder Manning one each, the younger Manning has been a star since tabbed the overall top pick in the NFL draft by San Diego, who later traded him to New York.
Manning’s been highly-productive, is enjoying his best season to date, already has a Super Bowl ring, and is clearly one of the best during this era.
This past Sunday at Gillette Stadium, Manning passed for 250 yards, while connecting on 20 of 39 attempts with two scoring tosses and one interception.
With the spotlight shining in his face, Manning marched the visiting Giants 80 yards and ended the eight-play drive with a game-winning one-yard toss to tight end Jake Ballard (67 yards and four catches) as 15 seconds remained giving New York a 24-20 victory over New England.
Manning did the same thing against the Patriots in the Super Bowl four seasons ago when he directed the Giants to a come-from-behind 17-14 win.
Brady forced Manning’s hand this time by driving New England 64 yards while using nine plays. The capper was a 14-yard throw to tight end Rob Gronkowski (101 yards and eight receptions) on fourth and eight. The play gave New England (436 total net yards) a 20-17 lead with 1:36 left, but it was short lived.
The Giants (6-2) have won three in a row, while the Patriots (5-3) are in the middle of a two-game losing streak.
Neither team scored in the opening half, and it had the earmarks of Saturday’s most-recent edition of the “Game of the Century” between top-ranked Louisiana State and No. 2 Alabama.
In that one, it was tied 3-3 after 30 minutes, and 6-6 in regulation. It took a 25-yard field goal by Drew Alleman in overtime before the Tigers could lay claim to a 9-6 win over the Crimson Tide.
The Giants (361 total yards) led 3-0 when Lawrence Tynes hit a 22-yard field goal with 10:09 left in the third quarter, and when running back Brandon Jacobs (72 yards on 18 carries) bulled his way over from 10 yards out about a minute later, New York had a 10-0 lead.
New England finally perked up as Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 32-yard field goal with 5:29 left in the third quarter, and Brady’s five-yard toss to tight end Aaron Hernandez (four receptions for 35 yards) knotted it at 10-10 early in the fourth quarter.
Brady hit 28 of 49 attempts for 340 yards and threw two scoring passes. Brady fumbled and was picked off twice.
Gostkowski’s 45-yard field goal about midway through the final quarter made it 13-10, but Manning came back with a 10-yard pass to wide receiver Mario Manningham (33 yards and three catches) with 3:03 showing to make it 17-13.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.