Can Eli still be the Mann?
He’s a two-time Super Bowl MVP with two of the greatest game-winning two-minute drives in Super Bowl history.
So, with the Giants still on the verge of making the playoffs as a wild card team — after failing to clinch in Philadelphia — is it too much to ask for Manning to produce a little more January and February magic one more time?
Can he be The Manning Of Old or is he just An Old Manning?
There’s been a search party the entire season looking for the Giants offense. They have yet to score 30 points in a game and they are averaging fewer than 20 points a game, down about a touchdown a week from 2015. Ben McAdoo’s play calling at times defies logic. The running game, until rookie Paul Perkins’ recent emergence, has been nonexistent. Jerry Reese’s refusal to give Manning a pass-catching tight end or upgrade the offensive line has been overshadowed by his $200 million spending to fix the defense that was historically bad because of his poor drafts.
Eli Manning has shown an uncanny ability to win games in the fourth quarter over the course of his career, but that hasn’t been the case in 2016.
(Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Perhaps the real reason for the lack of offensive production emerged Thursday night in Philly. Close your eyes, count to 10 and when you open them up Eli Manning will be staring right back.
The franchise QB has struggled all season. Whether it’s just a slump he’s been unable to shake, having to share McAdoo with the rest of the team, or whether it’s because he’s going to be 36 on Jan. 3 and the extraordinary amount of hits in his 13-year career are finally taking their toll, he hasn’t been the same player.
He threw a franchise record 63 passes in Philly. So many lacked the zip he’s had his entire career. Too many floated, even early in the game. By the time his pitch count got past 55, his arm looked tired.
This doesn’t mean that Manning can’t be energized in the playoffs and go on one of those runs he had in 2007 and 2011. He won three road playoff games nine years ago and he’s going to have to do it again for the Giants to get to Super Bowl LI in Houston.
Eli Manning had three chances to win it for the Giants in the fourth quarter Thursday night, but he couldn’t deliver.
(Al Bello/Getty Images)
It’s just not likely.
But remember this: Older brother Peyton, who was damaged goods in the playoffs last year and playing at a level far lower than what Eli is now, was carried to his second Super Bowl title by his dominating defense. The Giants defense is not the equal of Denver’s last year, and they don’t have anybody like Von Miller, but perhaps it will be the defense, and not Manning like it’s been in the past, that makes the one play that can decide these playoff games.
Manning used to own the fourth quarter, especially the last couple of minutes. He had three chances in the final 8:42 in Philly to take control and prove he’s still clutch. He couldn’t get it done.
After the Eagles expanded their lead to 24-16 on a 41-yard field goal, the Giants took over at their 25. Manning completed a fourth down pass to Odell Beckham Jr., but the drive stalled at the Eagles 23 and the Giants settled for a 41-yard field goal to get within 24-19 with 5:17 remaining.
The defense did a great job getting him the ball back just 1:02 later and without having to use a timeout. This time, the Giants took over at their 27 with 4:15 on the clock. They had all three timeouts and still had them all when they reached the two minute warning with a fourth and 1 at the 32. But John Jerry was flagged for a false start — Manning should have just went with a quick count rather than making his linemen hold their position — and then no flag was thrown on Nolan Carroll, who seemed to hook Sterling Shepard, who couldn’t secure Manning’s pass.
Incredibly, the Eagles were not called for one pass interference or defensive holding even with Manning putting the ball in the air 63 times. Manning was not sacked once, which indicates the line also probably got away with a few holds. The officials let them play, except for the atrocious roughing calls on Eli Apple and Olivier Vernon.
After the failed fourth down play, Manning still had one more chance to win the game. The defense used two timeouts and got him the ball just 23 seconds later at the Giants 15. Manning then completed six out of seven to move the Giants to the Philly 34 with 25 seconds left.
Okay, it was Manning Time this time for sure, right?
Eli Manning attempted a Giants record 63 passes Thursday night.
(James Lang/USA Today Sports)
The Eagles rushed three and tripled Beckham. Even so, there was a small window for Manning to drill the ball to OBJ in the end zone to win the game, but he sailed it past him.
“I had him. I had a shot,” Manning said. “Not a route we throw all the time, kind of a desperation moment right there, but definitely had one of those plays again that we didn’t make it. It was there and we didn’t make it and it could’ve been a winner.”
Then he tried to connect with Will Tye neal the goal line along the ride side, but he was hit as he released and couldn’t get a lot on the ball. It floated and became his third interception. Manning had one play to clinch the playoffs and he was throwing to Tye?
Manning was brilliant in his game-winning drives to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. He went 83 yards in Super Bowl XLII when he was 27 years old and 88 yards in Super Bowl XLVI when he was 31 years old.
As poor as the offense has been, I was convinced Manning would finish off one of those last drives Thursday night and the Giants would be celebrating on the bus ride home from Philadelphia.
Big Blue Nation can only hope he’s saving it for the playoffs.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News