EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Archie Manning was worried for a moment as sat in his seat at MetLife Stadium.
John Mara yelled, "Slide! Slide!" from his box.
Victor Cruz, standing nearby, cringed.
Many of the New York Giants' defensive players, watching the big screens from the bench, leaped to their feet.
But Eli Manning? He just walked back to the huddle nonchalantly, as if he just did something he'd done 200 times before.
is not a reference to Manning's franchise-record-breaking touchdown
pass to Hakeem Nicks in the fourth quarter, or to either of the two
previous ones he threw in the 38-10 blowout of the Green Bay Packers on
Sunday night. Rather, it's a retelling of the pivotal moment in this
much-needed victory for the Giants - a 13-yard scramble by a quarterback
whose running ability no one would confuse for Robert Griffin III's.
it wasn't just about the conversion of a third-and-7 with that run late
in the first quarter. It was about how Manning finished it, by lowering
his shoulder into cornerback Tramon Williams in a moment where many
other passers would've taken Mara's advice and slid.
would have none of such cowardice here. Not without knowing for sure
he'd gotten the first down. Not with this previously backsliding team
needing this win even more than the standings showed. Not with the
Giants needing to answer Aaron Rodgers' 61-yard touchdown pass earlier
in the quarter.
Manning popped Williams. And maybe for the first
time ever, he registered a new stat: Yards after contact. Three of them
to be exact.
"Once he got up and he was okay, shrugged it off, I
was excited because we needed that first down. It was a little bit of a
turning point for us," Victor Cruz said as he left a very relieved
locker room. "Once we got back in the huddle, we joked about it a little
bit during one of the TV timeouts. We were just like, 'You lowered the
boom!' He gave him a nice shot, so it was good to see from him."
moment cannot be overstated, not with opponents dictating the pace
against the Giants in their previous two games. The Pittsburgh Steelers
did so in a victory here earlier this month, but when the Cincinnati
Bengals did it in the game before the Giants' bye, there was reason to
question the defending champs' toughness and mental makeup.
Manning quieted such talk with his rare display of physicality, which he
followed with a perfect ball to rookie Rueben Randle over Packers
cornerback Davon House and safety M.D. Jennings to put the Giants ahead
14-7, the beginning of their 31-3 run to close the game.
those sliding rules, they get you from where you start your slide,"
Manning said of his decision to lower that boom Cruz was talking about.
"I didn't think the guy was running at me. It wasn't a safety or
linebacker. It was kind of a dime-corner guy."
That dime-corner guy must've respected Manning's pop because Williams gave Manning a tap on the helmet as they both got up.
gotten in trouble going head-first and fumbling," Manning said,
referring to a weird play that ended a comeback attempt on a Sunday
night against the Philadelphia Eagles two years ago. "This time, get a
little contact, go down and keep the ball safe."
Okay, but keep his body safe, too. That's what his father and employer were thinking.
was new," Archie Manning said, adding this when asked if he'd advise
his son to try it again: "Not too often in this league, no."
Said Mara, "It kind of got the bench excited so it wound up being a good thing. Let's just hope he doesn't make a habit of it."
moments like these are needed to spark teams during a long, physical
season. Cruz provided a bunch of them last year, with coach Tom Coughlin
saying Cruz's 99-yard touchdown against the New York Jets was the
defining moment that ignited the run to Super Bowl XLVI.
with his arm strength and overall performance questioned after three
straight games without a touchdown pass heading into the bye, provided
quite the moment with that run and his passing Phil Simms' 199 career
touchdowns on the same night.
"(It) sent a message to the rest of
our team as well," Coughlin said of Manning's run, "in terms of whatever
you have to do to succeed, do it. "
With the NFC looking pretty
wide open right now, the Giants could definitely make another one of
those Super Bowl runs sparked by one or more of these moments,
especially since the team that came together late last season seemed to
emerge again on Sunday.
Nicks (five catches for 77 yards) looked
back to top form for the first time since hurting his knee and foot in
Week 2, Osi Umenyiora rediscovered the art of the strip sack to kill the
Packers' late-second-quarter and set up a Giants touchdown that made it
31-10 at the half, the Giants had four other sacks of Rodgers and the
running game picked up 147 yards on the ground.
Will we be looking
back to Manning's lowered shoulder as the moment this team was inspired
enough to remember its potential in such areas?
Perhaps. At the very least, it was the inspirational moment of Sunday night.
don't really see him scramble much and there's a reason why," tight end
Martellus Bennett said. "You see E-Man do that, it just shows you what
type of game it is and what we're going through."
Mathias Kiwanuka, "A guy like that with 200 touchdown passes? He
doesn't have to do that. But that's the kind of intensity he brought to
the game this week and everybody played off of it."
Kiwanuka chuckled. He's not the first teammate to laugh at Manning's running form, and he won't be the last.
"I mean, that's fun when you see that guy going shoulder-first into somebody," he said. "That's fun to watch."