The “it” he was referring to was leading his team on a game-winning drive in a 27-23 victory over the San Francisco 49ers Monday night.
“It’s fun. It’s fun playing in those games, and having a two-minute drive to win it,” Manning said. “Those are the situations you want to be in. You want to have a chance. Obviously, you’d love to have a two-score lead with a little time to run it or whatnot, but you prepare and practice for those two-minute drives to go win football games.”
Manning led the Giants offense on a nine-play, 75-yard drive to clinch the victory and snap a five-game losing streak. Sterling Shepard caught the go-ahead touchdown with 53 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
It was the 36th game-winning drive of Manning’s career and the fifth time he threw a game-winning touchdown in the final minute of regulation. Only Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger have more game-winning drives since the 2004 season with 40 apiece.
“To come through is exciting. And the team needs that,” Manning said. “The defense needs that, to know that we can do that; offense, we needed that for ourselves, saying, ‘Hey, we can win’. If we get close in games, we can go win football games. And we just had to do it.”
Manning finished 19-of-31 for 188 yards and three touchdowns. He had eight touchdowns in the team’s first eight games.
It was just his second game-winning drive in the past two seasons. The Giants defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 12-9 in overtime in Week 11 last season.
The Giants’ win could have extended Manning’s tenure as the team’s starter. Head coach Pat Shurmur would only say publicly that Manning would start against San Francisco but made no guarantees beyond that. Criticism of the team’s dreadful 1-7 start eventually turned into criticism of No. 10 and his teammates are well aware of it.
“It frustrates me when people go at him. I see that from the media, but you wouldn’t want a better guy with the ball in his hands,” Shepard said. “You saw what he did on that last drive. When we need him, he’s going to come through for us.”
A victory against a team in the NFC’s basement is not going to produce many headlines. The win, however, showed Manning still has something left in the tank.
He has been criticized for not throwing the ball down the field. On the game-winning drive, he hit Evan Engram for a 31-yard reception down the right sideline. He also connected with Saquon Barkley on a 23-yard gain.
“Told him the same thing I always tell him: ‘Take me home, 10’,” wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. Beckham had touchdown receptions of 10 and 20 yards.
Manning found a leaping Shepard just over the goal line near the pylon for the win. He was 6-of-9 for 69 yards on the Giants’ final drive.
“After we went and scored, I came back on sideline and was like, ‘Man, you been doing this since I was 12’,” Barkley said. “That’s Eli. When he’s in those moments, he’s a heck of a player. When you’re around him you know what. When you’re young and you’re watching TV you’re like, ‘Wow. He’s just making those plays. But his craft that he works on. Such a smart player. Such a hard worker—on and off the field. In these positions he just thrives.”
The Giants’ game-winning drive did more than provide a thrilling finish to a surprisingly competitive contest. It ended the questions about Manning’s future that surfaced during the team’s bye…at least for this week.
“It’s more just getting asked about it,” Manning said. “It doesn’t bother me what people say, but just having to answer questions about it. You wanna go out there and play football. That’s what I wanna do. I wanna be with my team and prepare and practice and go play football. And obviously get wins and feel good about what we’re doing.”
– Curtis Rawls is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL, the New York Giants, and the NBA. Please like and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Twitter. Curtis can be followed on Twitter @CuRawls203.