In the NFL, every good fourth quarter comeback requires masterful quarterback play, the defense being able to get three-and-outs or turnovers, and of course, a little luck. Luck can only take you so far however, and it is no coincidence that Eli Manning has earned the reputation as being one of the best at helping the Giants "snatch victory from the jaws of defeat."
As we will see, Eli's accuracy is magnificent when the game is on the line. Anyway, here is a list of Eli Manning's top 5 non-playoff comebacks (if I included playoff games, everyone knows what the top 2 would be).
#5) October 23, 2005: New York Giants 24, Denver Broncos 23
This game was Eli Manning's first comeback that earned him national recognition. With 13:22 remaining in the fourth quarter, Denver's Jason Elam kicked a 27 yard field goal giving the Broncos a 23-10 lead over the Giants. On the next drive, Tiki Barber carried much of the load as Eli was only in his second season, but Eli did go 4-6 for 40 yards which culminated in Barber's 4 yard touchdown run with 9:15 remaining in the 4th quarter cutting the Denver lead to 6.
As I mentioned earlier, sometimes a little luck is needed to pull of a comeback and the Giants got it when, with 5:24 remaining, Denver's normally reliable kicker Jason Elam missed a 49 yard field goal which kept the deficit at 6. After each team had another possession, which included a Manning interception, the Giants got the ball back with 3:29 left at their own 17 yard line. Eli moved the Giants down the field, all the way to the 2 yard line and on third and goal, hit Amani Toomer for a touchdown with 10 seconds left giving the Giants a 24-23 victory. From the time of Jason Elam's field goal that gave the Broncos their 23-10 lead, Manning was 14-21 for 122 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception.
#4) November 6, 2011: New York Giants 24, New England Patriots 20
This was a very strange game as it was scoreless at half time, but Tom Brady and Eli Manning made up for it in the second half, both putting together go-ahead touchdown drives late.
A Stephen Gostkowski field goal gave New England a 13-10 lead with 7:08 remaining in the fourth quarter. Manning then drove the Giants down the field and found Mario Manningham in the corner of the end zone with 3:07 left to give the Giants the lead, 17-13. Tom Brady answered with a drive of his own and completed a 14 yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski giving the lead back to the Patriots, 20-17. But as many others have found out over the years, no lead is safe when Eli Manning is on the other team, especially when he is given 1:36 to work with.
The game-winning drive was not necessarily a thing of beauty as the Giants were aided by a pass interference penalty committed by the Patriots, the lone exception being a pinpoint pass to tight end Jake Ballard over the middle for 28 yards. The pass interference was costly though, as it was committed in the end zone, giving the Giants the ball on the 1 yard line. After one incomplete pass, and a run of no gain by Brandon Jacobs, Manning hit Ballard on third down to give the Giants a 24-20 lead with 10 seconds left which held as the final.
This game stands out to me for two reasons: 1) Hakeem Nicks did not play, and 2) it ended the Patriots 20 game home regular season winning streak. After the Gostkowski field goal at 7:08, Manning was 7-11 for 85 yards and a touchdown.
#3) October 2, 2011: New York Giants 31, Arizona Cardinals 27
I will never forget this game because it was one of the few games that I did not get to watch. I live in the northeast so I do get to watch most Giants’ games, however, I do not live in the New York area so I am not guaranteed to get the games live on television. Unfortunately, this was one of those times, but I was following the game online and was listening on the radio as I was driving to dinner.
As I pulled into the restaurant parking lot, it was the third quarter and the Giants were getting their “you know what’s” handed to them by Arizona. They couldn’t run the ball and they couldn’t stop the run so as I sat down to dinner, I had assumed that the Giants had lost. When I got home and turned on ESPN, boy was I pleasantly surprised!
A 2 yard touchdown run by Beanie Wells gave the Cardinals a 27-17 lead with 5:20 left. From that point, Eli Manning did what he does best. Going in the "no huddle," Manning put on a clinic and marched the offense right down the field. Jake Ballard caught a 2 yard touchdown pass from Manning with 3:44 remaining, cutting the Cardinals' lead to 27-24.
As I wrote before, to get a comeback win in the NFL, the defense also needs to do its part and that is exactly what the Giants did. They forced a three-and-out and gave Eli the ball back with 3:10 to go. From there, it only took Manning two plays to grab the lead back as he completed a touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks with 2:46 left, giving the Giants the winning score.
Although this game lacked the drama of a score in the final 2 minutes, the fact that the Giants trailed by 10 with 5:16 left and were able to regain the lead with 2:46 left was downright incredible. And Manning was 7-8 for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns in that span!
#2) September 17, 2006: New York Giants 30, Philadelphia Eagles 24 (Overtime)
For some reason (maybe it’s my unabashed hatred of the Eagles), this is my favorite comeback win of Eli Manning’s career. Not the best one, but my favorite. Nonetheless, it deserves to be on the top 5 as the Giants really had no business winning this game.
I know that I sound like a broken record, but the defense, stupid penalties on the part of the Eagles and a little luck helped the Giants pull this one out. With 4:22 left and the Giants trailing 24-14, running back Brian Westbrook of the Eagles fumbled on his own 33 yard line giving the Giants a chance to comeback. Four plays later, Manning found Amani Toomer for a nifty 22 yard touchdown cutting the lead to 24-21.
The Giants defense held their ground from there, and gave Eli and the offense the ball back with 58 seconds on their own 20 yard line, but with no timeouts. Manning drove the team down the field and completed a pass to tight end Jeremy Shockey with 15 seconds left on the 32 yard line, putting the Giants in position for a makeable field goal. But an aformentioned untimely penalty committed by Trent Cole tacked on another 15 yards, making the kick that much more makeable. With 10 seconds left, Jay Feely's 32 yard field goal tied the game, sending the bitter rivals into overtime.
After trading punts in overtime, the Giants got the ball with 9:55 left in the extra session. On this drive, the Giants were faced with a third and eleven at the Eagles' 31 yard line, within Feely's range. In an effort to back the Giants out of field goal range, the Eagles blitzed Manning leaving Plaxico Burress with one-on-one coverage. Manning took advantage of Burress' height and lofted a pass to the end zone that Burress came down with, giving the Giants the 30-24 win. After the Brian Westbrook fumble, Manning was 14-17 for 164 yards and 2 touchdowns.
#1) December 11, 2011: New York Giants 37, Dallas Cowboys 34
After some strong internal debate (don’t worry, it wasn’t out loud), I just had to make this #1 because if the Giants don’t win this game, they do not make the playoffs, and obviously there is no Super Bowl. Big Blue had lost their previous four games heading into "Big D" making them 6-6. With Dallas at 7-5 and in first place, the Giants had to win this game if they had any chance of making the post season.
I consider myself to be an optimistic fan of the Giants. I usually feel confident that they can pull out a victory until there is a 0:00 on the clock, but when watching this game on a Sunday night, I strongly considered just going to bed when the Cowboys scored a touchdown with 5:41 left, extending their lead to 34-22. But I decided to stay up and the rest, as they say, is history. After that Cowboy score, Eli Manning quickly moved the ball down the field, resulting in a touchdown pass to Jake Ballard with 3:20 left, cutting the lead to 34-29.
As I mentioned earlier, to pull off a comeback, the defense needs to step up which, until that point, they were not able to do in this game so I wasn’t very hopeful that the Giants could even get the ball back. Also, and perhaps more importantly, you need a little luck on your side and the Giants were able to get it when on third and five, the Cowboys decided to let Tony Romo throw for a first down. As the play unfolded, Miles Austin was able to break free (which seemed to be the norm on this night), but Tony Romo overthrew him. Had Romo and Austin been able to connect, the game would have essentially been over.
The Giants got the ball on their own 42 yard line with 2:12 remaining and Eli Manning quickly went to work. Since hindsight is 20/20, luck was on the Giants side when Mario Manningham dropped the go-ahead score in the end zone with 1:33 left. This proved to be lucky for the Giants because this was a “last team with the ball wins” kind of game and had Manningham caught that pass, the Cowboys would have had enough time on the clock to potentially win the game. As it was, they had enough time to tie the game when Brandon Jacobs ran the ball in from the 1 yard line with 51 seconds to go. A 2 point conversion gave the Giants a 37-34 lead, but the Giants weren’t out of the woods yet. Dallas got in position for kicker Dan Bailey to attempt a 49 yard field goal to send the game to overtime, but Jason Pierre-Paul was able to time his jump perfectly and get his hands on Bailey’s kick, preserving a 37-34 Giants win.
Though elated with the win, I still felt that the Giants would not make much noise after that because of their lackluster defense, especially after, to be fair, the whole team "laid an egg" the next week against Washington. Luckily, as we all know, the defense straightened themselves out at the right time after victories over the Jets and the Cowboys, all the way to Super Bowl XLVI which would not have been possible without this fantastic comeback win in Big D! When the Cowboys took a 34-22 lead with 5:41 left, Manning was 8-11 for 122 yards and a touchdown.
9/16/12: Giants 41, Buccaneers 34- Manning 510 yds, 3 second-half TD's
10/21/12: Giants 27, Redskins 23- Manning to Cruz in final two minutes
11/27/05: Seahawks 24, Giants 21 (OT)- Manning throws tying TD and 2 pt conversion, then drives team down again where Feely misses 40 yard field goal with 4 seconds, sending game to OT