Eli Manning knows the deal.
His days are numbered as the Giants quarterback. These next few weeks are going to be his swan song with the Giants. There’s no way he can be back after another hideous season. The Giants know it, and he knows it. The Giants need a fresh start, and if he chooses to play next season, he needs a fresh start.
After a bye week, he has come to grips with the harsh reality of the NFL. Now, he’s going to have fun and finish his Giants career on a good note that the Giants and their fans can remember. Maybe this explains why he had a competent game and a thrilling finish in the Giants’ 27-23 victory over the San Francisco 49ers Monday night at Levi’s Stadium.
It wasn’t Manning’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard with 53 seconds left that won the game that made it impressive. It was the nine-play, 75-yard drive in itself.
It started when Manning threw a deep pass to Evan Engram at the 49ers’ 44 in the Giants’ second possession. After a couple of penalties that aided him to get first downs on a couple of good throws, he was in 49ers’ territory. He threw a 23-yard completion to Saquon Barkley at the 49ers’ 12. He then threw another pass to Engram at the 49ers’ 5 that helped set up his game-winning touchdown pass to Shepard.
Yes, the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback was aided by the 49ers’ stupidity. Yes, it was short passes. So what? It was still beautiful. It brought memories of what he used to do in this situation. For all of his weakness, he was the guy to trust when it comes to engineering the last drive with a minute to go in the game. That’s what made Monday night’s Giants’ win the best win of the season.
No one can take this moment away from Manning. This was his drive. It’s all he wanted. A chance to pull off a victory.
One thing about the 15th-year veteran: He knows how to manage a game. He hasn’t lost that skill yet. It is why he could be useful for a Super Bowl contending team next year such as the Jacksonville Jaguars.
All things considered, this was his best game in quite awhile. He completed 19 of 31 passes for 188 yards. He threw three touchdowns, and most importantly, he did not throw an interception. He only was sacked once.
Credit the offensive line, but Manning had to execute in this spot. Too often, he has failed to do that in recent years. He lost more games for them than winning games since he last won the Super Bowl.
In this game, Manning was patient rather than being aggressive. He did not have to make a play every time. He played smart rather than being a game-managing quarterback.
Maybe he can bottle this up the next few weeks in what should be his final vestige of his Giants career. Maybe he can provide more good memories like this to make this season somewhat salvageable. Maybe he can retire on this type of note rather than struggling to reach the finish line.
For the average Giants fan, this win hurts since it could cost the Giants the chance to get the No. 1 pick and draft Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, who is considered the best quarterback in the 2019 draft class.
It was hard to believe the Giants were going to be bad enough to get the first pick of the draft. They stink, but they are not in the Oakland Raiders’ level of stink. They are good enough to win six games this season.
For Manning and the Giants, they couldn’t care less about the draft pick. As proud athletes, they are wired to win each and every game. They still believe they can win the division as crazy as it sounds.
The remaining few weeks is about Manning. It is going to be about the coronation of what has been a fine career for the Giants quarterback.
His game-winning drive and his performance brought a respite of what has been a season of distractions from Odell Beckham Jr.’s unhappiness to the losing.
For one night, it was not about Beckham’s stupidity. In fact, it was not about him at all.
It was about Manning winning the game on his own.