(Long Island, N.Y.) Getting his team ready in the huddle, it was difficult not to think back on a similar situation that worked out quite well for him and his teammates. Even at a time where total concentration on the present is paramount, Eli Manning found his mind drifting, albeit so slightly.
“(I was just thinking about) the fact that the last time when we played we had a two minute drive to win the game,” the Giants quarterback said, referring to another late win in his career. As Manning readied his squad for a crucial third down play from the New England one-yard line with 19 seconds remaining, no one could fault him for envisioning his greatest moment as a pro against these same Patriots in the waning minutes of Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona.
In a see-saw battle that had the Pats come back from a ten-point deficit and then score a late touchdown to go ahead by three, the Giants could have played it safe and kicked the game-tying field goal. But Manning was glad that they kept at it after being stopped on the the first two plays after being given a first-and-goal following a pass interference penalty in the end zone.
“You never want to take it into overtime,” he said. “You always want to get the win, if possible. But fortunately enough, we made some big plays. We got into a situation where we could be aggressive and go for the touchdown.”
Tom Coughlin never thought about kicking on third down. “We have to be playing for the win,” the head coach said. “That’s what we were thinking all the way.”
The play that was called ended up being a pass to Jake Ballard, who made a 28-yard reception on 3rd down and 10 earlier in the drive that kept the G-Men alive. The tight end was able to find an open spot in the end zone and Manning hit him.
“The offensive line pinched and I ended up getting off quick and breaking it out because I knew I had to get separation from the linebacker,” said Ballard. “As soon as I turned around, Eli threw it and it was there. I was just concentrating really hard to make sure that I caught the ball.”
That he did and the Giants improved to 6-2 with a quality win over arguably the best team in the league. Because it occurred in New England made the win even sweeter. The Patriots had won 20 games in a row at Gillette Stadium and this was also the first time the two teams have met since that classic in February of 2008. In case a reminder is needed, that loss snapped New England’s attempt at a perfect season.
It seems as if the Giants are making a habit of bursting the Patriots’ bubble and spoiling their party. And both times, Eli Manning was at the center of it.