There were just under two minutes left and the Washington Redskins were leading the New York Giants, 23-20. With the way the rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III was playing, it looked as if the Redskins had this game locked up. That is until Eli Manning had something to say about it.
Manning put on his usual 4th quarter performance and proved once again that games are never actually over until the clock reads 00:00. Despite throwing two interceptions, the second of which could have put the Giants in jeopardy, Manning kept his cool and continued to prove that he's the best in the fourth quarter.
"[Dealing with adversity is] a very, very strong suit of his," said coach Tom Coughlin. "He came right out, I walked up to him and said, 'OK, the next play is the most important play, forget that one.' I think he's already done that. He's already digested all of that and on to the next play and looks forward to it, actually looks forward to being in that kind of situation, which is a strong point."
With under two minutes left in the game Manning found Victor Cruz for a 77-yard touchdown pass to give the Giants the go-ahead touchdown and win the game 27-23. It was a crushing blow to RGIII and the Redskins, but a huge vapor of relief for the Giants and their fans. Cruz had nothing but praises for Manning and the fact that he makes the team feel they are never out of the game, as long as Manning is under control.
"We have tremendous confidence in him and I know he has confidence in us that we're going to get the job done," said Cruz. "So having a guy like that that who is calm under pressure and understands that he's just got to get the ball to his play-makers and we'll get the job done.
"With our offense and with Eli at the helm, we're never really too worried. We know that no matter what the situation we're in, no matter how many points we need or a field goal, we have the confidence we can do it. We can get ourselves in the right position to kick a field goal. We can get ourselves in the right position for a touchdown. We just have a lot of confidence in each other and in Eli and I think that shows on the field."
According to Pro-Football Reference, Manning has 23 fourth-quarter comebacks and 27 game-winning drives in his career. For much of his NFL career in New York with fans and media were ready to drive him out of town. After listening to that throughout his career and still being able to produce wins, late game heroics, and Super Bowls with this calm and cool demeanor, it's impossible to say that this guy is not special. Manning, however, stays humble about it and says it's just another part of the game.
"That was our opportunity. That was our opportunity right there that we could have won the game," said Manning. "We could have finished it. We could have kept the ball in our hands and not given the ball back to Washington because they were moving the ball well. Their defense did a great job of getting some turnovers, but they were moving the ball well. We didn't want to give them a shot, so we thought we missed an opportunity there. Thankfully we got another opportunity with enough time on the clock to go win the game and we stepped up in that situation and made up for the missed opportunity.
"It's something we practice a lot and we practice the two-minute and you get excited for those moments that, 'Hey, we've got an opportunity to go win a game right here.' You hope that people rise to that occasion, they rise to that challenge and we do. It feels like when we are behind or we are down, we seem to excel, which is a great quality and I think we've got to take that same quality when we're ahead. You have a lead, you've got to protect it and we've got to keep the same mentality that let's attack, let's go, let's win the game right here."
The 2011 season was a big adversity year for the Giants. When no one gave them a chance, they went on to win Super Bowl XLVI. This would not have been possible without the work ethic of their quarterback. Manning continues to prove into the 2012 season that whatever is said in the headlines doesn't matter. As long as the football is in his hands in the final two minutes, Manning will likely work the clock better than anyone and get the Giants a victory.
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