By Scott Kacsmar
Cold, Hard Football Facts Comeback King
After a season with six fourth quarter comebacks, seven game-winning drives, and a NFL record 15 touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, Eli Manning has finally gone mainstream as a “clutch quarterback.”
The reality is Eli Manning has always
been a clutch quarterback.
Now he just gets the credit for it, as he continues to become a better overall quarterback in his eighth season. The biggest obstacle Manning
has had to overcome is a lack of consistency, particularly with his accuracy and decision making. His inconsistent play has often led to second-half collapses
for the Giants. Even this season, easily the best of his career, he makes some off balanced, risky throws that just leave you scratching your head. And getting swept by the Washington Redskins? That could end up on a trivia card some day.
But when the game has been on the line, Eli has delivered with the consistency
few quarterbacks can match.
You could see this as far back as his early seasons before he won a Super Bowl. He was a better quarterback when the game was close and he had to work a
lot out of the shotgun. He was better when they used the no-huddle and he could operate the offense. He was even significantly better on the road than at home from 2005-07, which is uncommon.
In 2007, he was slumping again in the regular season. But an impressive performance in a Week 17 loss to the undefeated Patriots, and the proverbial “light bulb” finally turned on. That paved the way for Manning to become the only quarterback in NFL history to lead three game-winning drives in the same postseason, and doing so in consecutive weeks, on the road, and in the Super Bowl against the 18-0 Patriots.
Lest we forget, Eli Manning already has engineered the greatest drive in NFL history
when he beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
That was the sixth game-winning drive Manning led in the 2007 season alone. After that career-changing postseason, Manning’s regular season performances would improve as he became a better quarterback. In 2009, the Captain provided some data for a Forbes article
, and the younger Manning actually beat out his brother Peyton, percentage-wise, to rank third in the league in comeback opportunities behind Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.
However, after losing the first playoff game in 2008, then failing to even make the playoffs the next two seasons, Manning’s status as a clutch quarterback was quickly forgotten. He only led three game-winning drives total in the 2009-10 seasons, and did lead the league in 2010 with 25 interceptions.
Then this year came. As the only Manning in the game, with a team that allowed 400 points to their opponent, that had a depleted offensive line, and a running game that went from the best
in the league the last seven years to the worst this season, it was Eli that led the team on so many clutch drives to even make the playoffs. Had one of those game-winning drives not happened, the Giants could have easily been at home with a losing record and watching the playoffs on TV.
But here they are in the Super Bowl, thanks in large part to the quarterback that delivered a season that masked his team’s deficiencies so well.
Eli Manning – he starts games like Archie, but can finish like Peyton.
That’s the line we have used in the past to describe him. Now, he’s doing enough to carve out his own legacy that is no longer buried in the shadow of his famous family. He’s his own Manning.
In the spirit of our well-received Tony Romo article
from earlier this season, here is a game-by-game, season-by-season recap of all of Eli Manning’s performances in games where he had an opportunity for a fourth quarter comeback and/or game-winning drive. That means having the ball in the fourth quarter or overtime with a tie or 1-8 point deficit.
Not to stir the raging NFC East pot, but if you read through each game, it’s hard not to say Manning is the guy you would pick over almost any quarterback in the league for this situation.
As the title says, he’s always been clutch.
2004 (1-3 Record)
Week 11 vs. Atlanta (L 14-10)
– The first start of Manning’s career was not a great success. He completed 17/37 passes for 162 yards, TD, 2 INT against an Atlanta team that would claim the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Down 14-7 in the fourth quarter, Eli was 1/3 for 2 yards in the red zone, and the Giants settled for a 24-yard field goal (14-10). With 1:52 and one timeout left, he needed to drive 74 yards for the winning touchdown. At the ATL 49, he threw two incompletions, a 7-yard pass, and finally an incompletion on 4th
and 3 to end the game.
Week 15 vs. Pittsburgh (L 33-30)
– Against the stingy Pittsburgh defense, the Giants led 24-23 to start the fourth quarter. It was the first meeting between Manning and fellow rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger, who put the Steelers ahead on a field goal drive (26-24). Manning completed 3 passes for 49 yards, and Tiki Barber scored a 1-yard touchdown run. Eli was sacked on the two-point conversion. The Steelers regained the lead on a touchdown (33-30), giving Eli 4:51 to answer. After two short completions, his long pass was intercepted, and the Steelers ran out the final 3:19 on the clock.
Week 16 at Cincinnati (L 23-22)
– Trailing 17-16 to start the fourth quarter, Eli was 3/4 for 35 yards, leading to a go-ahead 41-yard field goal with 12:38 left. The Giants would add another field goal before the Bengals scored the game-winning touchdown with 0:44 left to lead 23-22. Manning had 0:36 left at the CIN 47. Only needing a field goal, his first pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted to end the game. On the previous drive he had a 3rd
and 5 that could have ended the game with a first down, but that pass was also tipped at the line.
Week 17 vs. Dallas (W 28-24)
– After going 0-6 as a starter, Eli turned in the best performance of his rookie season with a comeback win over Dallas. Down 16-7 to start the fourth quarter, the ball was already at the DAL 15, and Manning found David Tyree for the touchdown pass. Vinny Testaverde fumbled for the Cowboys, and the Giants had the ball at the DAL 20 to start the next drive. Eli converted a 3rd
and 11 with a 12-yard pass to Tyree, and then threw a 3-yard touchdown to Tiki Barber on 3rd
and goal to take a 21-16 lead. Dallas would regain a 24-21 lead with a late score, leaving Eli with 1:41 left at his own 34. A 23-yard pass to Barber plus 15 yards for roughing the passer moved the ball to the DAL 28. Manning would complete another pass for 5 yards, and Barber finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run with 0:11 left to secure the first win/comeback/game-winning drive of Manning’s career.
2005 (2-3 Record)
Week 6 at Dallas (L 16-13 OT)
– Trailing 10-6 in the fourth quarter, Manning completes a 59-yard pass to Jeremy Shockey. With the ball at the DAL 21, Manning is sacked and fumbles the ball. Dallas adds a field goal (13-6). After converting a 4th
and 10 with a 14-yard pass to Shockey, Eli hands the ball off to Brandon Jacobs, who fumbles at the DAL 1 with 1:18 left. The Cowboys go three and out, and Eli has 0:52 left, one timeout, and needs 52 yards. He completes a 28-yard pass to Plaxico Burress followed by the 24-yard touchdown to Shockey with 0:19 left on a 2-play touchdown drive. The game goes to overtime, but the Giants never get the ball back as Dallas scores a game-winning field goal on the only drive of overtime.
Week 7 vs. Denver (W 24-23)
– Denver led 23-10 with 13:12 left in the fourth quarter. Manning went 4/5 for 40 yards, and Barber scored a 4-yard touchdown run. On their next drive, Champ Bailey intercepted Manning with 4:46 left. Denver went three and out, and Eli got the ball back with 3:29 left, needing to go 83 yards for the winning touchdown. He would face a 3rd
and 10 at the DEN 32 with 0:27 left, and converted with a 24-yard pass to Shockey. Three plays later, with just 0:10 left, Eli found Amani Toomer for a 2-yard touchdown with 0:05 left to win the game. On the winning drive Manning was 9/13 for 74 yards and the touchdown.
Week 10 vs. Minnesota (L 24-21)
– The Vikings have been a personal struggle for Manning
in his career, and this was the first meeting. Minnesota led 21-13 in the fourth quarter. After reaching the MIN 40, Manning lost 10 yards on a sack before throwing incomplete on 3rd
and 20 to bring up a punt. Minnesota went three and out. A 5-yard touchdown pass to Barber was nullified by an illegal man down the field penalty. With the ball at the MIN 10, Eli’s pass was intercepted by Darren Sharper in the end zone, which was the 4th
interception for Manning in the game. Minnesota again went three and out, and Eli had 3:17 left at his own 33. He completed 4/6 passes for 48 yards, and Barber scored on the 3-yard touchdown run and then a game-tying two-point conversion with 1:21 left. The Vikings would kick the game-winning field goal with 0:10 left. With the ball at the 40, Eli threw an 8-yard pass that was then lateraled to the 50 before Tim Carter was tackled and time expired.
Week 12 at Seattle (L 24-21 OT)
– This game is famous for two reasons (or maybe three
). The first bit of fame comes from the 11 false starts the Giants had playing at Qwest Field that day. The next comes later. Trailing 21-13 with 4:26 left, Manning put together a 61-yard drive that ended with a difficult 18-yard touchdown by Toomer. Manning went to Shockey for the tying two-point conversion with 1:59 left. Seattle went three and out, and the Giants had 1:23 left at the 50. Eli completed two passes for 19 yards, and Jay Feely eventually came out for a 40-yard field goal. He was wide left, and we went to overtime. After converting a 3rd
and 13 to Burress for 23 yards, the Giants had their 11th
false start of the game, and Feely would miss a 54-yard field goal. Getting the ball again, Barber ripped off a 49-yard run to set up Feely for a third try. This time he badly missed a 45-yard field goal. Finally the Seahawks were able to drive for the winning field goal, and their kicker made it. Feely missed three game-winning kicks for the Giants.
Week 14 at Philadelphia (W 26-23 OT)
– Sometimes you pick up a cheap game-winning drive. The Giants led 20-17 to start the fourth quarter, but the Eagles would eventually tie the game at 23-23 with 1:52 left. Reaching the PHI 46, Manning threw his second interception of the quarter, but the Eagles were unable to score, bringing up overtime. After an Eagles punt, the Giants faced a 4th
and 3 at the PHI 35. They went for it, but Manning was intercepted by Brian Dawkins. However, the Eagles fumbled the ball at their own 27, and the Giants had great field position. Manning ran for a 2-yard gain before handing off twice to Barber for 7 more yards. Jay Feely came on and made the 36-yard game-winning field goal with 3:55 left in overtime.
2006 (2-6 Record)
Week 1 vs. Indianapolis (L 26-21)
– The first “Manning Bowl” was played at the start of the 2006 season. The Colts had opened up a 23-14 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Giants would answer with a 78-yard touchdown drive. The Colts punted. But after an offensive pass interference penalty, Eli threw an interception deep in his own territory. It led to an Indianapolis field goal, and the Giants trailed 26-21 with 1:06 left at their own 23 (no timeouts). After a 10 second run off for a penalty, it came down to one Hail Mary and Manning’s last gasp was incomplete. Big brother beat little brother.
Week 2 at Philadelphia (W 30-24 OT)
– The Eagles had a commanding 24-7 lead to start the fourth quarter, but Manning had just converted a 3rd
and 18 deep in his own end with a 20-yard pass to Burress on the last play of the third quarter. Three plays later he went back to Burress, but he fumbled, and it was eventually recovered by teammate Tim Carter in the end zone for a touchdown with 13:40 left. The Giants’ next drive would end with Eli being intercepted on a 4th
and 2 at the PHI 41. After a Philadelphia four and out, the Giants would have to punt, and then Brian Westbrook fumbled. The Giants had 4:11 left at the PHI 33, and Manning completed two passes to Toomer, including a 22-yard touchdown with 3:28 left (24-21). The Eagles punted, and Manning had 0:58 left at his own 20 with no timeouts. He completed three passes for 40 yards, spiked the ball, then found Shockey for 8 yards. Trent Cole was flagged for a personal foul, adding 15 yards. Jay Feely kicked the 35-yard field goal with 0:07 left to force overtime. After each team punted, the Giants faced a 3rd
and 11 at the PHI 31. Manning found Burress for the game-winning touchdown to complete the big comeback victory. The winning touchdown drive was 85 yards, and Manning was 5/5 for 61 yards on it.
Week 9 vs. Houston (W 14-10)
– Trailing 10-7 in the fourth quarter, the Giants went on an 11-play, 67-yard touchdown drive, ending with Manning’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Shockey with 7:49 left. Manning was 5/7 for 45 yards on the drive. Houston fumbled, and the Giants ran out the final 5:11 on the clock.
Week 10 vs. Chicago (L 38-20)
– This is one of the more unique losses in NFL history. Down 24-20 to start the fourth quarter, the Giants moved the ball to the CHI 29. Manning lost 14 yards on a sack, but they were able to move the ball to the CHI 34 to save a 52-yard field goal attempt for Jay Feely. His kick was no good, but Devin Hester caught the ball in the end zone, and returned it 108 yards for a crippling touchdown and 31-20 lead. Manning would throw an interception on the following drive, and the Bears added another touchdown for a 38-20 final.
Week 12 at Tennessee (L 24-21)
– New York led 21-0 to start the fourth quarter. On the first play of the final quarter, Manning threw incomplete on a 4th
and 3 at the TEN 31. On his next drive, he was intercepted with 12:55 left. The Titans scored their first points of the game, but still trailed 21-7 with 9:35 left. The Giants went three and out, and the Titans inched closer with another touchdown. The Giants punted with 3:07 left, and the Titans overcame a 4th
and 10 (the infamous Mathias Kiwanuka play when he didn’t wrap up Vince Young) to score the game-tying touchdown with 0:44 left. After a 9-yard pass to Tyree, Eli was intercepted, and the ball was returned to the NYG 49. The Titans kicked the game-winning field goal with 0:06 left, capping off a wild 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter.
Week 13 vs. Dallas (L 23-20)
– The Giants started their drive as the fourth quarter began, and they trailed 13-10. They went 68 yards, but settled for a 22-yard field goal after Manning threw two incompletions at the DAL 4. The Cowboys went on a long drive for a touchdown and 20-13 lead. Manning had 3:28 left at his own 37 and all his timeouts. He went 6/6 for 59 yards and a 5-yard touchdown pass to Burress to tie the game with 1:06 left. The Giants’ offense never touched the ball again. The Cowboys scored the game-winning field goal with one second left.
Week 15 vs. Philadelphia (L 36-22)
– Philadelphia led 14-13 to start the fourth quarter. The Giants had the ball at the PHI 7 after a Jeff Garcia fumble, but had to settle for a 24-yard field goal and a 16-14 lead. The Eagles regained the lead with a touchdown. Manning passed to Visanthe Shiancoe, who fumbled at the NYG 46. Philadelphia gave it back after a Garcia interception. Brandon Jacobs scored a 1-yard touchdown run, and Barber’s two-point conversion attempt failed. The Giants led 22-21 with 6:59 left. The Eagles took a 29-22 lead after their touchdown and conversion. With 2:57 left, Manning’s pass was intercepted and returned 19 yards for a touchdown by Trent Cole. The game would end with Manning’s pass to the PHI 10 as time expired.
NFC Wild Card at Philadelphia (L 23-20)
– The Giants snuck into the playoffs at 8-8 and faced the Eagles in their third close meeting of the season. Trailing 20-10 as the fourth quarter began, the Giants were already driving. Manning’s 3rd
-and-2 pass was incomplete, and the Giants kicked a 24-yard field goal on the second play of the fourth quarter (20-13). On their next drive, Manning was 6/7 for 66 yards and a game-tying touchdown to Burress for 11 yards with 5:04 left. The drive was 80 yards. The Eagles would simply take the rest of the time off the clock and kick the game-winning field goal with no time left for a 23-20 win.
2007 (6-2 Record*)
Week 3 at Washington (W 24-17)
– Looking to avoid a 0-3 start, the Giants trailed 17-10 to start the fourth quarter. Reuben Droughns scored a 1-yard touchdown run to tie the game. After the teams exchanged punts, Jason Campbell fumbled, and the Giants had the ball at the WAS 44. On the fourth play of the drive, Manning threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Burress for a 24-17 lead with 5:32 left. On their final drive, the Redskins were stopped on three straight plays at the one-yard line to secure the victory for New York.
Week 5 vs. NY Jets (W 35-24)
– In the battle of New York, the Jets had a 24-21 lead to start the fourth quarter. Chad Pennington threw an interception, and the Giants took over at their own 2. They would march 98 yards for a touchdown, with Manning completing 3/4 passes for 64 yards; including a 53-yard touchdown to Burress with 7:52 left. Pennington would later throw a pick six to clinch it for the Giants.
Week 10 vs. Dallas (L 31-20)
– After losing 45-35 in Dallas to start the season, the Giants trailed 24-17 at home at the start of the fourth quarter in the rematch. The Giants were already on a long drive, and a touchdown was nullified by a holding penalty. They settled for Lawrence Tynes’ 26-yard field goal and a 24-20 deficit with 13:18 left. Dallas went ahead 31-20 after a 50-yard touchdown from Tony Romo to Terrell Owens. The Giants went three and out, and then on their next drive Manning was incomplete on 4th
and 4 at the DAL 31. The game would end with Eli throwing up a Hail Mary interception on the final play.
Week 13 at Chicago (W 21-16)
– Down 16-7 in the fourth quarter, the Giants went three and out on their first possession, with Manning throwing three incompletions. Their next drive started with 11:45 left, and they went 75 yards for a touchdown, as Manning hit Toomer with a 6-yard pass. The Bears went three and out, and the Giants had it back with 4:55 left. This time they went 77 yards, and Eli was 4/4 for 62 yards. Droughns scored the 2-yard rushing touchdown with 1:33 left. Rex Grossman’s last three passes fell incomplete as time expired.
*Week 16 at Buffalo (W 38-21)
– This is the type of game that is hard to classify with the rest, because of how things happened. The Giants trailed 21-17 to start the fourth quarter. On the very first play, Manning fumbled the ball at the BUF 11. Two plays later, Trent Edwards threw an interception returned for a touchdown, and the Giants led 24-21. They would never give up that lead, and would add two more touchdowns for a 38-21 final. Technically, two things happened here: Manning had a comeback opportunity, and the Giants won the game. But the two weren’t connected, as only the defensive score won the game. You can’t say the quarterback won with a comeback or game-winning drive, because he didn’t. You also can’t say he lost it, because the team still won. It has been included for the sake of completeness.
Week 17 vs. New England (L 38-35)
– Even though they had nothing to play for, the playoff-bound Giants gave history a shot with a crack at the 15-0 Patriots. They handed New England their toughest game and largest deficit of the season, leading 28-16 in the third quarter. But the Patriots had trimmed that lead to 28-23 before the fourth quarter began, and would later take a 31-28 lead with 11:06 left. With just under ten minutes left, Manning’s pass was intercepted by Ellis Hobbs. The Patriots went 52 yards for another touchdown and a 38-28 lead. Manning drove the Giants 68 yards for a touchdown, but only 1:04 remained on the clock. New England recovered the onside kick and was able to run out the clock to clinch the 16-0 season. But the value of this loss was immeasurable for the Giants heading into the playoffs.
NFC Divisional at Dallas (W 21-17)
– In a game that featured a pair of 90+ yard touchdown drives, the Giants started at the DAL 37 late in the third quarter after a 25-yard punt return by R.W. McQuarters. Trailing 17-14, Manning completed 3/4 passes for 28 yards, and Jacobs scored a 1-yard touchdown with 13:29 left in the game. The Cowboys were stopped on their next two drives, and the Giants went three and out twice. On their final chance, Romo was intercepted in the end zone with nine seconds left, sending the Giants to the NFC Championship and making up for that season sweep at the hands of Dallas.
NFC Championship at Green Bay (W 23-20 OT)
– On a frozen night in Green Bay, the Giants led 20-17 to start the fourth quarter. Green Bay would tie the game with a field goal, and the Giants went on a long drive to set Tynes up for a 43-yard field goal. He missed it with 6:49 left. Each team punted, and then with 2:15 left, Ahmad Bradshaw took off for a 48-yard touchdown run, but it was wiped out by a holding penalty. Eli completed three passes for 29 yards, then spiked the ball with four seconds left. Tynes came out again, and in shades of Jay Feely at Seattle in 2005, missed the kick from 36 yards away. The game went to overtime. Green Bay won the toss, but Brett Favre threw a bad interception, and the Giants were in business at the GB 34. Manning threw incomplete on third down, but Tynes came on and this time made the 47-yard game-winning field goal to send the Giants to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XLII vs. New England (W 17-14)
– The upset-ready Giants held the New England juggernaut to just 7 points through three quarters, but trailed 7-3 to start the fourth quarter. On the first play of the drive Manning found TE Kevin Boss for a big 45-yard pass. Three plays later he converted a third down with a 17-yard pass to rookie WR Steve Smith. Two plays later he threw a 5-yard touchdown to Tyree for the 10-7 lead. Later, the Patriots would put together their own touchdown march, and regained a 14-10 lead. Manning had 2:39 left, needing to go 83 yards for the winning touchdown, and he had all his timeouts. Brandon Jacobs would convert a key 4th
and 1 with a 2-yard run. Three plays later, a miracle happened as Manning escaped a sack and was able to fire a pass to Tyree, who pinned it to his helmet in coverage against Rodney Harrison. It’s the greatest play in Super Bowl history. Three plays later, Manning found Smith for a 12-yard gain to convert a 3rd
and 11. Then it was the game-winning touchdown to Burress in the end zone with 0:35 left to put the Giants on top 17-14. The Patriots went four and out, and the upset was complete; the perfect season was over. In the fourth quarter Manning was 9/14 for 152 yards and 2 TD. He was named Super Bowl MVP for his performance.
2008 (3-0 Record)
Week 3 vs. Cincinnati (W 26-23 OT)
– Playing with that newfound confidence, Manning made this win look routine. With the game tied at 13 to start the fourth quarter, he led a 67-yard drive that ended with John Carney’s 26-yard field goal. Eli was 5/6 for 47 yards on the drive. The Bengals took a 20-16 lead on a touchdown from Carson Palmer with 4:39 left. The Giants took over at their own 32, and Manning was 3/5 for 33 yards and a 4-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Boss with 1:50 left. Cincinnati forced overtime with a last second field goal. After each team punted, Manning completed a 28-yard pass to Burress and then a 31-yard pass to Toomer on 3rd
and 10 to set up Carney for the 22-yard game-winning field goal.
Week 8 at Pittsburgh (W 21-14)
– Trailing the Steelers 14-9, the Giants took over at their own 32 and drove to the PIT 4. But after two incomplete passes, they settled for Carney’s 24-yard field goal. Pittsburgh went three and out, and after losing their long snapper, emergency replacement James Harrison botched the snap and it turned into a game-tying safety. The Giants got the ball at their own 47, and three plays later Manning found Smith for a 25-yard gain on 3rd
and 7. Four plays later, Manning threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Boss with 3:07 left. The Steelers didn’t gain another first down, and Manning took two knees to end the game.
Week 16 vs. Carolina (W 34-28 OT)
– Though the loss of Plaxico Burress is considered very damaging to the 2008 Giants’ season, they did rally for a big victory over the Panthers, who were trying to win the top seed in the NFC. Carolina extended their lead to 28-20 early in the fourth quarter. Manning was sacked on 3rd
and 7 at the CAR 30, pushing the Giants out of field goal range. On their next drive, Jacobs scored a 1-yard touchdown run and Manning threw a two-point conversion pass to Domenik Hixon to tie the game with 3:21 left. Eli was 3/3 for 40 yards on the drive. The game went to overtime. Each team went three and out. On their second possession, Derrick Ward (215 yards rushing that night) started things with a 51-yard run. Five plays later, Jacobs rushed for the 2-yard touchdown to win the game. Manning only threw an incomplete pass on the winning drive.
2009 (2-3 Record)
Week 2 at Dallas (W 33-31)
– To open the new stadium in Dallas for the regular season, the Giants and Cowboys played a classic primetime game. Dallas led 24-20 to start the fourth quarter, but Manning completed a 49-yard pass to Mario Manningham on the final play of the third quarter. On the third play of the fourth quarter, Manning went to Smith for a 22-yard touchdown on 3rd
and 8. The Giants would add a field goal to their lead (30-24) on their next possession. The Cowboys regained the lead with a touchdown. Manning had 3:34 left at his own 25, and went 7/9 for 64 yards to set up Tynes for the 37-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.
Week 7 vs. Arizona (L 24-17)
– The streak of seven straight close wins came to an end in primetime against the Cardinals. New York trailed 24-14 to start the fourth quarter. A promising drive ended with a punt, which Arizona responded to with a three and out. The Giants went 42 yards, ending with a 20-yard field goal by Tynes with 8:14 left. After a 25-yard pass to Boss, Bradshaw fumbled in Arizona territory. The Cardinals went three and out, and Manning had 2:52 left, needing to go 91 yards to tie the game. He had all three timeouts. The drive reached the ARZ 39, but Manning threw two incompletions, including an interception to Antrell Rolle with 1:08 left. Arizona ran out the clock after that.
Week 9 vs. San Diego (L 21-20)
– It was the first meeting with the quarterback he was traded for, Philip Rivers. The Chargers had the 14-7 lead to start the fourth quarter. Eli was 3/5 for 36 yards on a drive that ended with Tynes’ 38-yard field goal. On the next drive, Manning threw an 8-yard go-ahead touchdown pass to Boss with 8:58 left. Later, Rivers would throw an interception returned to the SD 4. But a holding penalty pushed the ball back to the 14, and the Giants had to settle for a field goal and 20-14 lead with 2:07 left. San Diego went on a classic 80-yard drive, with Rivers throwing the winning touchdown to Vincent Jackson with 0:21 left. Eli got the ball back with just 0:15 left at his own 29. His two pass attempts were dropped, and then the Chargers dropped him on the last play of the game as time expired.
Week 11 vs. Atlanta (W 34-31 OT)
– After starting the season 5-0, the Giants lost four in a row, and were coming off the bye week. They had a 24-17 lead to start the fourth quarter, and added to it with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Madison Hedgecock. Matt Ryan answered with a touchdown drive for Atlanta. The Giants punted after one first down, and the Falcons tied the game with another touchdown with 0:28 left. New York had a quick three and out before regulation ended and we headed to overtime. The Giants won the toss and received. Eli threw a 7-yard pass to Hakeem Nicks on 3rd
and 2. He then went to Manningham for a 29-yard gain. After a 3-yard completion to Nicks brought up fourth down, Tynes kicked the 36-yard game-winning field goal.
Week 14 vs. Philadelphia (L 45-38)
– Falling into a shootout, the Giants trailed 37-31 to start the fourth quarter. A questionable run call with Bradshaw on 3rd
and 5 led to a punt. The Eagles scored a touchdown to go up 45-31 with 5:48 left. The Giants went on an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Boss with 1:31 left. The onside kick went out of bounds, and then the Eagles went three and out. Eli only had 0:28 left backed up at his own 5, with no timeouts left. On the second play of the drive, he was sacked and fumbled, effectively ending the game.
2010 (1-2 Record)
Week 11 at Philadelphia (L 27-17)
– The Eagles had a 16-10 lead, but Michael Vick fumbled on a sack early in the fourth quarter, and the Giants took over at the PHI 27. Manning completed two passes for 27 yards, including the go-ahead 5-yard touchdown pass to Derek Hagan. Later, the Eagles go for it on fourth down, and score the go-ahead touchdown and conversion with 4:25 left (24-16). Eli’s pass is intercepted by Asante Samuel, but he fumbles it right back to the Giants. However, with his new chance Manning scrambles on a 4th
and 6 for a first down, but he fumbles the ball as he goes to slide before he is contacted, and the Eagles come away with the turnover. They add a field goal to the lead late, and Manning throws a meaningless interception with one second left.
Week 12 vs. Jacksonville (W 24-20)
– Trailing 17-9 to start the fourth quarter, Manning hits on a pair of deep passes: 25 yards to Kevin Boss, and a 26-yard touchdown to Manningham. Bradshaw runs for the tying two-point conversion. After the Jaguars regain the lead with a field goal, the Giants go three and out. On their next drive, Manning faces a 3rd
and 10 and throws a 32-yard touchdown pass to Boss with 3:15 left. Jacksonville turns the ball over, and the Giants run out the clock for the win.
Week 15 vs. Philadelphia (L 38-31)
– The 21-point blown lead in Tennessee in 2006 was bad enough, but this game took things to another level. Manning threw an 8-yard touchdown to Boss to take a 31-10 lead with 8:17 left in the game. Those are usually safe. But the Eagles scored one quick touchdown, recovered an onside kick, scored another touchdown, and then eventually forced the Giants to punt. Philadelphia tied the game with 1:16 left. Manning threw two incompletions, and then was sacked to bring up a punt. Matt Dodge kicked it right down the middle, and DeSean Jackson took off 65 yards for the game-winning touchdown with no time left. It was a stunning defeat, and it cost the Giants the NFC East.
2011 (7-5 Record)
Week 1 at Washington (L 28-14)
– The season didn’t get off to a good start for Manning, as he struggled at Washington in the opener. Washington led 21-14 to start the fourth quarter, and the Giants went three and out. Even after a Grossman fumble put the ball at the WAS 27, the Giants couldn’t get a first down. Tynes’ 38-yard field goal attempt was blocked with 10:57 left. The Redskins then went 70 yards for a touchdown (28-14) with 5:04 left. The Giants’ last two drives ended with a punt and Manning getting sacked as time expires.
Week 3 at Philadelphia (W 29-16)
– After three straight close losses to the Eagles, the Giants once again trailed them 16-14 to start the fourth quarter. But after a New York three and out, the Eagles failed to convert on a 4th
and 1. Manning threw a 28-yard touchdown to Victor Cruz, and Jacobs scored on the two-point conversion for a 22-16 lead. Michael Vick’s backup Mike Kafka threw an interception, and the Giants went 56 yards for Manning to throw his fourth touchdown of the day to Bradshaw for a 29-16 lead. Kafka threw another interception, and Manning took three knees to end the game.
Week 4 at Arizona (W 31-27)
– In what might be Manning’s favorite NFL stadium to play in, the Giants trailed 20-10 to start the fourth quarter. They capped off a 13-play, 75-yard drive with Jacobs’ 1-yard touchdown run. Kevin Kolb threw an interception, but the Giants had to punt. Arizona regained the 10-point lead after another touchdown drive with 5:16 left. Manning completed 5 passes for 78 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown to TE Jake Ballard with 3:37 left. The Cardinals went three and out, and the Giants picked up a controversial 19-yard gain after Cruz was ruled to have given himself up, thus no fumble. One play later Manning found Nicks with a 29-yard touchdown pass with 2:39 left. It’s the 10th
game-winning touchdown pass of Eli’s career. The Cardinals were unable to finish their drive, and Manning took three knees to end the game.
Week 5 vs. Seattle (L 36-25)
– After the Seahawks extended their fourth quarter lead to 19-14, Victor Cruz showed off his playmaking ability with a 68-yard touchdown on 3rd
and 13. Bradshaw rushed for the conversion and New York led 22-19. But on their next drive, Cruz fumbled, and the Seahawks used it to get the game-tying field goal. The Giants would drive 72 yards for Tynes’ 26-yard go-ahead field goal with 4:49 left. But the defense allowed a game-winning touchdown drive to Charlie Whitehurst. Down 29-25, Eli had 2:37 left at his own 20. He reached the Seattle 5, but a false start moved them back to the 10. His pass was off the mark to Cruz, and it deflected off his hand into Brandon Browner, who returned it 94 yards for a game-clinching touchdown (36-25). Manning threw one more interception with 0:15 left.
Week 6 vs. Buffalo (W 27-24)
– The Giants led 24-17 to start the fourth quarter, but Buffalo went 60 yards for the game-tying touchdown. A holding penalty led to the Giants going three and out. Fitzpatrick forced an interception, and the Giants had the ball at their own 19 with 4:02 left. They moved it 76 yards to set up Tynes for the 23-yard game-winning field goal with 1:32 left. Manning’s stats were just 1/2 for 3 yards on the drive, but he did gain 26 yards on two pass interference penalties. Buffalo turned the ball over on downs to secure the win for the Giants.
Week 8 vs. Miami (W 20-17)
– The winless Dolphins had a 17-10 lead on the Giants in New York to start the fourth quarter. On the first play, the Giants faced a 3rd
and 9 at their own 27. Manning found Cruz for a 26-yard gain. He passed for 79 yards on the drive, but the Giants settled for a 29-yard field goal. On their next drive, Manning converted a 3rd
and 12 with a 25-yard touchdown to Cruz with 5:58 left. That proved to be the game-winner, as Miami went three and out and then Matt Moore was intercepted on their last two possessions.
Week 9 at New England (W 24-20)
– The first-half shutout put on by both teams produced a lower scoring game than expected, as the Giants led 10-3 to start the fourth quarter. But a flurry of scores were about to come, starting with the Patriots tying the game on a Tom Brady touchdown pass. The Giants punted, and New England took their first lead with a field goal. The Giants went 85 yards for a touchdown, capped off by Manning’s perfect 10-yard pass in the back of the end zone to Manningham. The Patriots responded with their own touchdown drive with 1:36 left to take a 20-17 lead. But Manning took over at his own 20 and led another long drive, completing a 28-yard pass over the middle to Ballard on 3rd
and 10. After a pass interference penalty put the ball at the NE 1, on third down Manning threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Ballard with 0:15 left to cap off another stirring comeback over the Patriots. It’s the only fourth quarter comeback the Patriots have allowed at home since 2001. Manning accounted for 152 yards on the two go-ahead touchdown drives in the fourth quarter.
Week 10 at San Francisco (L 27-20)
– As a Championship preview, the Giants led 13-12 to start the fourth quarter. The 49ers took a 20-13 lead. Manning had a miscommunication with Manningham, and Carlos Rogers made the interception. One play later the 49ers were in the end zone with a 27-13 lead. Manning came back with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Nicks. On the next drive, Manning converted a 4th
and 6 with a 18-yard pass to Manningham. Four plays later, he converted a 4th
and 5 with a 10-yard gain to Cruz. But after facing a 4th
and 2 at the SF 10, his pass was batted down at the line by Justin Smith, ending the comeback attempt.
Week 11 vs. Philadelphia (L 17-10)
– Trailing 10-3 to start the fourth quarter, Manning threw a 47-yard pass to Nicks on a 3rd
and 8. Two plays later he found Cruz for the 24-yard game-tying touchdown. The Eagles went on an epic, 18-game drive that converted six third downs, including the go-ahead touchdown. Down 17-10, Eli had 2:39 left at his own 9 with two timeouts left. After taking an intentional grounding penalty, Manning passed 17 yards to Nicks, and then 47 yards to Cruz. But on the next play Manning moved to his right and was sacked, fumbled the ball, and the Eagles recovered. They ran out the final 1:17 on the clock.
Week 13 vs. Green Bay (L 38-35)
– Against the undefeated Packers, the Giants trailed 28-24 to start the fourth quarter. They would settle for a 50-yard field goal by Tynes. After a Green Bay punt, the Giants went three and out, setting up a touchdown drive for the Packers (35-27). With 3:29 left, the Giants got the ball back at their own 31. Manning was 5/8 for 66 yards on the drive, including the 2-yard touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks with 0:58 left. DJ Ware tied the game on a two-point conversion run. However, the Packers would get a game-winning field goal with no time left.
Week 14 at Dallas (W 37-34)
– In what could be viewed as the ultimate season saver, the Giants led 22-20 to start the fourth quarter. Dallas took a 27-22 lead. Manning drove the Giants to the DAL 21, but a tipped pass was intercepted with 6:35 left. Two plays later Dallas scored another touchdown for a 34-22 lead. The Giants had just 5:41 left on their season. Manning drove the Giants 80 yards, finding Ballard for an 8-yard touchdown with 3:14 left. Dallas went three and out, and the Giants had 2:12 left at their own 42. Jacobs scored a 1-yard touchdown, and Ware added the two-point conversion with 0:46 left. On their attempt to force overtime, the Cowboys had their 47-yard field goal blocked with one second left, securing a stunning comeback win for the Giants.
NFC Championship at San Francisco (W 20-17 OT)
– With both offenses struggling in the second half, the 49ers held onto a 14-10 lead in the fourth quarter. The Giants went three and out, but a terrible play on the punt by Kyle Williams resulted in New York recovering the loose ball at the SF 29. Manning threw a 14-yard pass to Nicks on 3rd
and 7, then went to Manningham for the go-ahead 17-yard touchdown on 3rd
and 15 with 8:34 left. The 49ers would tie it with a field goal. After that point, Manning struggled the rest of the game, but in overtime, Williams fumbled another punt, putting the ball at the SF 24. Three runs by Bradshaw and a center-field positioning by Eli, and Tynes came out to make the 31-yard game-winning field goal to send the Giants to another improbable Super Bowl.
Eight seasons, and when you add it all up, the overall record is 24-24 (.500). Just based on fourth quarter comebacks, the record is 20-22 (.476).
The 2007 Buffalo game is floating somewhere in purgatory among those records, which are quite good considering some of the alternatives we’ve looked at throughout the season. Most notably of course, is Aaron Rodgers
and his 3-18 (.143) record at comebacks; 6-20 overall (.231).
Even in the losses you can find a lot of positives for Eli. Averaging 2.04 points/drive in games the Giants lost
is an outstanding number. He has 6
lost comebacks, or games where he did everything to fulfill the requirement for a comeback win, but the team still lost because they gave up the lead again.
Maybe just as impressive are the 6
other games where he led a game-tying touchdown drive late, but either didn’t get the ball back again, or the kicker kept missing field goals (Jay Feely in Seattle). Those games alone make up half (12) of the 24 losses.
That’s the Captain’s book of Eli up to this point. A new chapter will be written Sunday night. Will it be the climax?
Scott Kacsmar is a football researcher/writer who has contributed large quantities of data to Pro-Football-Reference.com, including the only standardized database of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. Like Emmitt, he knows Eli Manning has been given the rice of passage. You can send any questions or comments to Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.