Eli Manning appeared in a total of 248 games (236 regular season, 12 postseason) for the New York Football Giants. Even before he officially announced his retirement from the NFL after 16 seasons Friday, his suitableness for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and place in NFL history has been debated.
There is no debating that Manning is the greatest quarterback in Giants history. Co-owner and CEO John Mara said Manning will be inducted into the Giants Ring of Honor in the 2020 season during Friday’s press conference.
Manning provided many memorable moments during his tenure with the Giants. It would be difficult to try and narrow down the 10 best moments from No. 10 but we will give the ‘ol college try. Without further adieu, here are the 10 most memorable games in the NFL career of Eli Manning.
This game between two of the NFL’s worst teams became Must See TV because of the presence of No. 10.
Manning received a standing ovation from the MetLife Stadium faithful before the Giants’ first offensive series. He hooked up with Golden Tate on a 51-yard touchdown strike nearly the midway point of the second quarter. In the third quarter, he threw a five-yard touchdown to Darius Slayton for the 366th and final TD of his career.
The Giants won 36-20, snapping a franchise-tying nine-game losing streak. Manning was hugged by teammates when he was relieved by backup Alex Tanney. Fans gave him another standing ovation and chanted his name when he entered the tunnel at game’s end to the outstretched arms of his wife and children.
The normally composed Manning teared up at the end of his final game as the Giants’ starting quarterback.
“Obviously, the support of the fans and their ovation and chanting my name from the first half until the end, I appreciate that,” Manning said. “I appreciate that always and my teammates coming up to me. It was a special day, a special win, one I’ll remember.”
The Giants entered this Week 5 matchup against the Silver and Black with an undefeated record after three consecutive road wins. Outside of the Giants organization and their fans, there was a question as to who would start because Manning was dealing with an injured heel. Some people even had the audacity to think David Carr would start for the Giants.
Manning made his 78th consecutive start against Oakland and made his impact felt. The Giants scored touchdowns on their first four drives and Da Raiduhz never offered anything closely resembling opposition. The Giants led 31-7 at the intermission and head coach Tom Coughlin pulled Manning. Big Blue added 13 more points with Carr behind center in the second half for a 44-7 final.
Manning went 8-of-10 for 173 yards and two touchdowns. What made this significant for No. 10 was that he became the 49th quarterback in NFL history with a perfect passer rating of 158.3. In addition, he wasn’t sacked and only hit once. Manning showed no signs of his injured heel throughout this blowout, displaying the toughness he almost never gets any credit for.
The 2004 regular season finale was Manning’s seventh NFL start. He lost the previous six. The Cowboys and Giants were both pretty awful in ’04, playing for nothing more than bragging rights and a desire to head into the offseason with a W.
Manning played like a quarterback making his seventh career start early on but showed some promise despite not having the services of the injured Amani Toomer and Jeremy Shockey. He connected with Visanthe Shiancoe for the game’s first touchdown and a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter.
Manning threw his ninth interception of his rookie season on the second half’s first possession but found David Tyree and Tiki Barber for touchdowns on the Giants’ next two drives. Dallas took the lead in the fourth quarter when running back Julius Jones capped off a 12-play, 80-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Dallas goes up 24-21.
On the Giants’ final drive, Manning only threw two passes but showed veteran poise. He completed a short pass to Barber that turned into a 38-yard gain (23 yards for Barber’s catch-and-run and a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty). Manning delivered the ball to Barber despite getting hit as he threw it.
Four plays later, Manning audibled out of a pass play after noticing the Cowboys’ safeties were playing back in coverage. He changed the play to a draw play for Barber, who ran it in for the go-ahead score to give the Giants a 28-24 win. The victory was the first of 117 (including 13 against the Cowboys) with Mannng behind center.
This Saturday Christmas Eve matchup was the first regular season Snoopy Bowl. Both squads had something to play for besides bragging rights as the 8-6 Jets and 7-7 Giants were fighting for their playoff lives.
Gang Green had a 7-3 lead late in the second quarter with the Giants pinned at their 1-yard line. After two incomplete passes to Ramses Barden, Manning would etch his name in the record books.
On 3rd-and-10, Manning found wide receiver Victor Cruz at the 11-yard line. Cruz turned a 10-yard gain into a 99-yard touchdown while making Darrelle Revis (who said before the game he had no idea who Cruz was), Kyle Wilson, Antonio Cromartie, Eric Smith, and Donald Strickland miss on his way on the end zone for his customary salsa dance.
Manning and Cruz became the 13th (and most recent) quarterback/wide receiver tandem to connect on a 99-yard touchdown. The 29-14 win started the Giants on the road to their victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
This game, perhaps more than any other, showed the beautiful/maddening dichotomy that is Eli Manning.
In the first half of this Week 2 matchup, Manning completed some beautiful, textbook throws including a 23-yard touchdown to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. Unfortunately for the Giants, he also threw two interceptions.
The first one was definitely a blunder on Manning’s part as he failed to see Bucs linebacker Mason Foster. There was no excuse for such a bad read by No. 10 at that point of his career. The second was questionable as Victor Cruz was held on an out route to the sideline and he was forced to break off the route early and the ball sailed over his head and into the arms of defensive back Eric Wright for the pick-six.
As the second half began, Manning almost threw an interception while dumping the ball short. He completed just seven of his first 15 passes of the second half before completing seven of his final nine passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns in the game’s final seven minutes. Manning was 31-of-51 for a career high 510 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions in the 41-34 Giants victory.
Manning became the 13th quarterback in NFL history with a 500-yard passing game but it wasn’t pretty. He wasn’t sacked despite a reworked offensive line and the constant pressure of the Bucs blitz. Manning often attempted throws he had no business trying but was also let down by his receivers when his passes were crisp.
Manning played seven career games against the team that selected his father second overall in 1971. As a New Orleans native, playing against the Saints always provided No. 10 a little extra motivation. On this Sunday afternoon at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Giants and Saints put on an offensive clinic for the ages.
Manning had one of the best games of his career going 30-of-41 for 350 yards and six touchdowns, no interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 138.2. Fellow Crescent City native Odell Beckham Jr. accounted for eight receptions, 130 yards, and three touchdowns.
With the game knotted at 42 in the fourth quarter, Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie knocked a Drew Brees pass intended for wide receiver Willie Snead loose. The ball was recovered by defensive back Trumaine McBride, who scored a touchdown on a 63-yard pick-6 to give Big Blue a 49-42 lead. Brees answered back with a 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to tie the score at 49 with 41 seconds remaining.
The Giants punted after a three-and-out. New Orleans fielded, subsequently fumbled, and recovered the punt at the Giants 47 with five seconds left in regulation. A 50-yard Kai Forbath field goal as time expired handed the Giants a 52-49 loss.
The 101 combined points were the third most in NFL history at the time. Brees completed 80 percent of his passes, throwing for 511 yards and a record-tying seven touchdowns. Although the Giants lost the game, Manning more than held his own against one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history in his hometown.
In the 2007 Playoffs, the Giants traveled to Lambeau Field for the NFC Championship Game in Brett Favre’s final game as a Packer. This time around, the Packers are defending Super Bowl champions with league MVP Aaron Rodgers behind center.
It was clear from the outset Manning was the better quarterback. He kept the chains moving on with three third down conversions on the game’s first two drives. His sole interception of the game wasn’t even that bad as it occurred on a 3rd-and-5 from the Green Bay 34 just out of field goal range. Packers defensive back Morgan Burnett picked the ball off at the Green Bay 13 and returned it 12 yards. Had the Giants punted on fourth down and the punt went out the back of the end zone, the Packers would have begun their drive at the 20.
Manning was pressured throughout the day but only sacked once. He also made with his feet when needed but his best play came as the first half drew to a close.
With six seconds on the clock and no timeouts, Manning took a shotgun snap. Instead of looking towards the sideline to stop the clock, he threw a Hail Mary towards the end zone. The 6-foot-1 wide receiver Hakeem Nicks got in a position as if he were a basketball player going up for a rebound. He leapt up, extended his arms, and secured the ball as he fell on top of two Packers defenders. It was Nicks’ second touchdown of the game and gave the Giants a 20-10 lead at the half.
The Giants stunned the Packers 37-20 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would suggest. Manning completed 21 passes on 33 attempts for 330 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. The 330 yards was the highest total of his career in the postseason.
Once again, the Giants found themselves as underdogs against New England in the Super Bowl. They were looking to prove what happened four years earlier was no fluke.
The Giants trailed 17-15 with 3 minutes, 46 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick instructed his defense to stop wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz and force Manning to go to Mario Manningham.
The play was Streaks Shallow. Manningham was the flanker out left who ran a streak along the left sideline. Manning would have to place the ball perfectly between cornerback Sterling Moore and safety Patrick Chung in the tightest of windows. Manning threw the ball to Manningham, who was the third option. The ball went through Moore’s fingers and into Manningham’s arms. Manningham tiptoed to keep his feet inbounds.
Belichick threw the challenge flag but the play was upheld. It was the game’s longest play. Manning found Manningham on the Giants’ next three plays before Ahmad Bradshaw scored the game’s final touchdown with a little more than a minute remaining. Final score: Giants-21, Patriots-17.
The play cemented Manning’s status as a Giants legend as he became one of just five players with at least two Super Bowl MVPs joining Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, and Tom Brady. Manning’s precise throw with the game on the line showed without question he could make the biggest throws in the biggest moments.
Despite three playoff victories on the road, the Giants entered their first Super Bowl in seven years as 12-point underdogs to the undefeated Patriots.
The defenses were on display for the first three quarters of Super Bowl XLII with the Patriots holding a 7-3 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Giants took their first lead since the fourth quarter when Manning capped off a six-play, 80-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown to David Tyree. After both teams traded possessions, New England responded with a 12-play, 80-yard drive culminating with a six-yard touchdown from Tom Brady to Randy Moss for a 14-10 lead.
What happened on the Giants’ next possession is part of NFL history.
It was 3rd-and-5 from the Giants 44. The official play call is 62 Sail-Y Union. Manning took the snap in the shotgun formation. When he dropped back, there was pressure from defensive ends Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green, and linebacker Adalius Thomas from the left side. Green grabbed Manning by the shoulder while Seymour had a handful of Manning’s jersey in a sack attempt.
Manning was able to stay upright and duck under the arms of Patriots defenders before scrambling. He was also able to avoid linebackers Mike Vrabel and Junior Seau, who were attempting to sack him. Manning threw the ball in Tyree’s direction (despite the fact safety Rodney Harrison was near Tyree) and was hit by Vrabel as soon as he released it.
Tyree, who Manning later said could “not catch a pass” during practice leading up to the game, initially caught the pass with both hands before Harrison caused his left hand to come off the ball. However, Tyree was able to secure the pass against the side of his helmet while Harrison pulled him down. The play gave the Giants a first down with 58 seconds left. Four plays later, Manning hit Plaxico Burress for the go-ahead score in the 17-14 victory that sealed the Giants’ third Super Bowl title, the franchise’s first in 17 years.
The Giants victory in Super Bowl XLII is not only the greatest upset in NFL history but also one of the greatest upsets in the history of professional sports. Much ado has been made about the catch itself but Manning had to avoid a future Hall of Famer and a couple of All-Pros just to get the pass off. He acknowledges “history could have been a lot different” had Tyree not secured the ball. Manning had been called many things at that point of his career but he earned a new moniker that night at University of Phoenix Stadium: Champion.
The conditions at Candlestick Park were wet and windy. Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty predicted a “bloodbath” before the game and it didn’t disappoint. The defenses were full display as the Giants and Niners attempted to impose their will on the other.
Manning faced consistent pressure all day but didn’t bend. He dropped back 64 times in this game but rarely did anything that would cost his team the game. He moved in the pocket well, bought time for his playmakers, or just took the sack if nothing was available.
Manning saved his best for the fourth quarter and overtime when he went 12-of-20 for 100 and a touchdown to Mario Manningham. He completed 32 passes on 58 attempts for 316 yards and two touchdowns in the 20-17 win.
This game is the greatest symbol of Manning’s career. His performance that helped advance the Giants to Super Bowl XLVI is deeper than the numbers he put up. Manning’s quarterback rating was 82.3 with a QBR of 30.9. He didn’t turn the ball over despite being sacked six times and hit another 12. He was able to make plays when his team needed them the most and willed the Giants to victory by not bending even a little bit.