Eli Manning shows he can still make big plays when Giants need it

Eli Manning’s still got it – not only the clutch quality to score a big touchdown in the fourth quarter, but the fire in his belly to motivate both himself and his teammates to be great.

Before Manning directed the game-sealing touchdown drive in Sunday’s 17-6 Giants win over the Detroit Lions, before he and Odell Beckham Jr. connected on a 25-yard corner route and a 4-yard touchdown, he and Beckham and the offense hit the lowest of lows.

Lions end Ezekiel Ansah beat left tackle Ereck Flowers to sack Manning on first down on the final play of the third quarter. Manning rose from the ground irate, looking at Beckham, and after the Giants’ victory, the quarterback didn’t hesitate to call out his receiver without naming names for forgetting his route. He also called himself out for missing the next two throws to backs Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen.

“We had one bad drive there where the very first play, we were in the huddle and we were kinda talking about everybody’s routes, and we get a bust on one of the guys’ routes,” Manning said, going into great detail. “Ya know, how does that happen? I just told everybody what their route was, what we’re doing, and to take a sack right there (is frustrating).

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“The next play I tried to hit (Paul) Perkins, didn’t throw a great ball, get a drop, third down missed Shane,” Manning added. “So just three plays right there, where we had pretty good field position, I just wanted to get a bigger lead than what we had. So besides that I thought the guys played well, did a lot of good things.”

Beckham, who redeemed himself with his one-handed TD grab, was not asked about that specific play. But the Giants’ Human Highlight Reel generally echoed Manning’s dissatisfaction with himself and the offense.

“I feel like we left some meat on the bone,” Beckham said. “The breakout game is coming soon … It’s just hard for me to accept good. I need it to be great; above that – legendary.”

Eli Manning completes 71.4% of his passes and throws two touchdowns, leading the Giants to their 10th victory of the season.

Eli Manning completes 71.4% of his passes and throws two touchdowns, leading the Giants to their 10th victory of the season.

(Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports)

Manning, who will turn 36 years old Jan. 3, knows he hasn’t played well enough this season. So Sunday’s win and postgame were critical for this team’s leader, because Manning reminded everyone that he is a proud pro with a short memory, a short leash for poor performance, and a history of coming up huge.

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“I’m confident every series,” Manning said.

The Lions’ Matthew Stafford strutted into MetLife Stadium as the NFL’s 2016 comeback kid, with eight game-winning fourth-quarter drives, the most by any quarterback in a single season since 1970. But Manning, you may have heard, has directed 33 career game-winning drives in his regular season career along with five in the playoffs, including two in Super Bowl victories.

The question is, as this Giants defense turns the lights out on everyone: Is Manning still that same big-game QB who will make the plays when it matters most this January and even February perhaps? He’s going to need to, especially for a team that always finds itself in nail-bitingly close games.

“I think I just look at it week by week and understand OK, our defense is playing (well), we’ve got to play smart offensively, but we want to go out there and score on offense,” Manning said, pushing for more from himself and the offense. “We know we can make plays and we can have that game where we score 28 or 35. We can’t force it. We’ve got to just say wait for the opportunities, be patient with them, but I thought guys stepped up and made plays today, and we’ve just got to keep doing it.”

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Manning stepped up enough on Sunday, even though his offense certainly was unremarkable, with three 3-and-outs prior to that pivotal touchdown drive. He compiled his second-best quarterback rating (115.3) of the season behind only his 115.4 in Week 12 against the pitiful and winless Cleveland Browns.

Manning shows on Sunday he can still make the plays to win games for the Giants.

Manning shows on Sunday he can still make the plays to win games for the Giants.

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Manning completed 20-for-28 passes (71.4%) for two touchdowns and no interceptions, the absence of turnovers critical given how difficult it is for opposing offenses to score on Big Blue’s defense scaling the full field. Beckham technically dropped Manning’s first pass, but officials ruled it a 4-yard completion, and Manning starting the game 12-for-12 on his first dozen attempts made a difference with confidence.

So did directing an impressive game-opening 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Manning, who has failed to target both Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz in separate games this season, hit all of his weapons on that one possession with completions to Beckham, Cruz, tight end Will Tye and Shepard on a 6-yard fade for a touchdown.

“That was big,” Manning said. “Especially after last week we struggled offensively (against Dallas), for us to win the toss and then Coach McAdoo says we’re gonna take the ball and we go down and score, that’s big for the offense, gives us some confidence.”

The true measure of Manning’s mettle, though, was how he rebounded from that frustrating three-and-out early in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. Specifically, on third-and-10 from the Giants’ 39-yard line and 8:12 to play, up 10-6, Manning hit Beckham with a strike for a game-changing 25-yard gain.

“The biggest thing for me was the corner route,” Beckham said. “Eli dropped a dime.”

He sure did, and that’s how Manning’s Giants reached their first 10-win season since 2010, how they compiled the best record ever at MetLife Stadium since its opening that same year (7-1), and how they can continue to dream big:

Their two-time champion quarterback knows he still isn’t playing well enough, even after making the throws on Sunday that mattered most.

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Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News

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