Eli Manning has always had a knack for making a big play when he really needed one. There’s a good chance the New York Giants quarterback needed a last-minute game-winning drive on Monday night to save his job.
There might not be many majestic moments left for Manning, but given his situation, Monday night felt like one.
Manning took over trailing the San Francisco 49ers 23-20. For the past couple weeks, through the bye week, New York media speculated that Manning needed to play well to get another start. Coach Pat Shurmur didn’t guarantee any starts for Manning beyond Monday night. A loss to the 49ers and Nick Mullens, making his second career start, might have forced a move.
Manning came through. He made a nice throws to Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley to get the Giants inside the red zone. Then with 53 seconds left, Manning hit Sterling Shepard for a 3-yard touchdown to give the Giants the lead. The Giants survived a last-second drive by Mullens that got deep into New York territory as they grabbed a 27-23 win. Manning cracked a smile after the final play fell incomplete. He had earned it.
It wasn’t beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl, but it was a clutch drive for Manning in a much different way. He was 6-of-9 for 69 yards on the game-winning drive.
Given the situation, it had to feel pretty good.
“I’m happy to be playing football,” Manning told ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the game. “This is what I love to do.”
Giants, Eli Manning came up with a clutch drive
The 49ers led by 10 points and the Giants hadn’t done much on offense most of the night. That has been a pattern most of the season. There’s a reason the Giants came into the game with a 1-7 record.
But Manning hit Odell Beckham on a 20-yard touchdown in the third quarter to get New York back in the game. He missed Beckham on a deep pass in the fourth quarter, and that looked like it might cost the Giants the win. The 49ers took possession after that and went on a long field goal drive.
Manning hadn’t done much in the first 57 minutes to lead anyone to believe he was ready to march the Giants downfield. But he might have saved his job by doing so.
Did Manning save his job?
Manning was given no promises to continue starting beyond Monday night.
“I spoke to Eli a couple times this weekend and I explained to Eli that he’s going to start Monday,” Shurmur said on Nov. 6 when asked if Manning would start the rest of the season, via the Giants transcripts. “I also explained to Eli that everybody needs to play better.”
Manning hasn’t had a good season. The Giants haven’t either. They have a rookie quarterback, Kyle Lauletta, who they’d probably like to get a look at before the offseason. Last season when Manning was benched, it was one of the NFL’s biggest controversies. This time around, it wouldn’t seem so crazy.
That was the backdrop as the 37-year-old Manning and the Giants took possession with less than three minutes to go. He hit some big passes. A holding penalty and a pass interference call on the 49ers gave the Giants some key first downs. Then Manning finished the drive with a touchdown.
On the surface it was just a one-win team getting a victory that means little in the big picture. For Manning, it was a lot more than that.
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