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Examining Eli: Manning masterful against Texans

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Eli Manning played better Sunday against the Houston Texans than he has in a very, very long time.

Eli Manning
Eli Manning
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last week we started an occasional series called 'Examining Eli,' which will look at the play of New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. No, we won't be breaking down every single game. I do, however, think it is worth examining Eli after Sunday's game against the Houston Texans, arguably his best game since the 2012 season.

Manning went 21-of-28 (75 percent) for 234 yards, two TDs and no INTs. His passer rating of 123.2 was his best since a five-touchdown performance in the 2012 season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles earned him a 134.5 mark. Only once last season did Manning surpass the 100 mark in passer rating, a 102.3 vs. the Dallas Cowboys in the season opener. Manning passed for 450 yard and four scores in that game, but did end up with three interceptions.

The game against the Texans was one in which I thought Manning was in complete control. The Giants protected him well as he was sacked only once and, according to the official stats, hurried only one time. He was relaxed, comfortable, confident, throwing the ball on time and with accuracy. This was the type of quarterback play, and overall offense, the Giants hoped for when they hired Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator.

Let's highlight a few of the throws Manning made on Sunday.

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The quick-throw, catch-and-run game the Giants want to play depends on perfect timing to get the ball to receivers in tight windows and perfect accuracy to allow those receivers the opportunity for yardage after the catch.

On Sunday's 61-yard slant to Victor Cruz, Manning does this perfectly. The throw is perfectly and perfectly throw to fit in between the cornerback and the linebacker. Cruz never has to break stride and picks up roughly 50 yards after catching the ball.

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I liked this play by Manning because it is something that we don't always see from him. Manning has to move to his right after finding no one open after going through his reads. There is no panic as he gets outside the pocket. Donnell does a great job re-routing when he sees Manning move and the quarterback fires an absolute laser in a spot where only the 6-foot-5 tight end can make a play. Excellent work between a veteran quarterback and a young, developing tight end.

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Cruz does a lot of the work on this 26-yard touchdown pass himself. Reality is, though, that the quick move he made to make the first defender miss doesn't happen without another well-timed, perfectly-delivered pass from Manning.

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You simply can't throw a football better than Manning does here on this 9-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Fells. The ball is placed over the arms of a leaping defensive back to a low spot where a sliding Fells is the only one who can catch. At best, the linebacker in coverage is going to have to make a brilliant play to knock the ball away from Fells, who makes a great grab.

Final Thoughts

Manning's completion percentage now sits at 65 percent, as he is 65-for-100 on the year. If he can maintain that mark it would be a career high. His passer rating is 84.3 is above his career mark and trending in the right direction, as well. Manning's accuracy percentage of 76.0, which accounts for drops, balls thrown away and times hit while thrown, places him 12th after three games.

Manning has shown an increasing comfort level in each of the Giants' first three games. In his 11th season, everyone knows that 'Bad Eli' always bubbles somewhere just below the surface and can raise his ugly head at any moment. If the Giants can continue to run the ball and to protect Manning as well as they did Sunday vs. Houston, it looks like everyone can stop worrying about whether or not Manning can play in the West Coast offense.