He didn’t get hurt on the final kneel-down, despite all the noise around it. Eli Manning survived a terrible first half, throwing three interceptions, making up for it in the final quarter with two touchdown passes, completing another fourth quarter comeback for the Giants in a wild 34-31 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
What grabbed most of the attention wasn’t Eli Manning’s bipolar performance and eventually big numbers, finishing with 31-51, 510 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions, but the way the Bucs tried to force a fumble out of him on the final kneel-down in the game. Tom Coughlin was absolutely living, Greg Schiano didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. There’s nothing illegal about it, that’s true. Whether it was a cheap shot or not? It probably depends if you’re a Giants fan or not.
But for Manning, it was pretty much the essence of his career folded into one hour. Terrible decisions (along with some bad play by the offensive line) in the first half, excellent reads and maneuvering in the second half. The Bucs overplayed, oversold their blitzes at some point. Manning finished with 9-14, 228 yards and two touchdown passes whenever Tampa Bay tried to blitz with a defensive back. The 80-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz happened with 6:48 left in the game, and a defensive back running at him.
This time he simply kept throwing the ball to Hakeem Nicks when under pressure, which worked very well. Nicks finished catching 10 passes for 191 yards, scoring a touchdown in the first half, the Giants’ first in the game. Manning himself broke his own record for passing yards of 420 from last season. It was three yards shorter than the 513 Phil Simms gunned out against the Cincinnati Bengals in 1985.
Manning himself wasn’t too happy about the Bucs trying to sack him when he was taking a knee. Maybe teams have gotten too used to the losing side giving up on the game when everything around them (the clock, the score) say they should. Maybe it’s not a cheap shot, but just a way to keep you on your toes.
It was a little bit of a cheap shot. We’re taking a knee in a friendly way and they’re firing off. It’s a good way to get someone hurt.
No one got hurt, and Manning was avoiding the blitz all game long. Despite the problems with the Giants’ offensive line, highlighted in the opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Eli Manning was untouchable, avoiding getting sacked throughout the entire game, with the Buccaneers managing only two quarterback hits. They did rush him a few times to throw bad passes, but Manning made the right kind of adjustments.
This, as always, brings the usual debate – how elite is Eli Manning? After two Super Bowl wins, the jury is still out. There are few quarterbacks in the league who can avoid the sack as well as he can, but he tends to have these awful, interception-filled performances destroying everything around him. Last season we saw a change in that way for Manning, having an individual record year, which was barely enough for the postseason. This year, he seems to be battling the same kind of up and down problems in his game. Without overcoming, there’s no chance the Giants go back to another Super Bowl, maybe not another playoff.