ELI WILL BE KEY IN SUPER BOWL XLVI
"Nothing against Tom Brady, but Eli Manning is the best quarterback
playing in Super Bowl XLVI.
Manning enters his second championship duel with a lot better resume and a
fearless attitude. While attempting 64 passes against a heroic San Francisco
defense, Manning was hit 20 times, knocked down 12 times and sacked six times.
There was more than one play where he seemingly had eyes in the back of his head
as he dodged pocket pressure and somehow delivered another pass.
Elite, you say?
Eli said he belonged before the season began and he definitely removed any
doubts with his performance down the stretch, holding this offense together. Not
only did he throw 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes this year, but another
eight in three playoff games. Plus, he beat the supposed two best teams in the
NFC in the Packers and Niners.
You have to be lucky in the playoffs and both the Giants and Patriots got their fortunate
bounces and breaks. A week ago, San Francisco's special teams were picking the
Saints’ pockets. On Sunday at rainy Candlestick Park, a very silly Kyle Williams allowed one punt to
bounce off of his right knee, then fumbled another Steve Weatherford punt in
overtime that put New York in field position for the winning field goal.
“He’s my favorite return guy in the league,” Weatherford said in a jubilant
New York locker room.
In Foxborough, the Patriots dodged overtime when Baltimore’s Billy Cundiff pushed a 32-yard field
goal attempt wide left. What would Jimmy Johnson say to Cundiff today?
Who knows how veterans Ray Lewis
and Ed Reed treated Cundiff in the
locker room? These future Hall of Famers are playing on their last legs and this
AFC title game loss may have been their last chance at a Super Bowl.
There is a lot to like about the Giants in this Super Bowl rematch. They are
three-point underdogs. They relish that status. They love being on the road.
They’ve won two straight on the road, so going to Indianapolis will be no big
deal. Plus, Tom Coughlin knows how to energize his team and get them cranked
This is a new Coughlin, you know. The man had a personality change back in
2007 for the better and the players love him for it. He used to fine them for
being late for meetings even though they were early. Michael Strahan could never
figure Couglin out until the very end and now the two are good friends. Some New
Yorkers might not even believe that, but it’s true. Strahan has a lot of respect
for his old coach.
“You got to love this man, the way he held his team together when they were
6-6,” Jimmy Johnson said. “He did a remarkable job when his team could have gone
over the edge.”
After beating the Patriots in New England in early November, the Giants
dropped four consecutive games to fall to .500. They lost to the 49ers, Eagles, Saints and
Packers. They avenged two of those losses this month in sudden-death situations.
That’s a sign of character and strong will.
It’s rather amazing to think that either Steve Tisch or John Mara was ever
thinking of firing Coughlin. They seemed to be loving him Sunday night in the
cramped locker room, but there were rampant rumors all over New York that had he
lost to mighty Rex Ryan and the Jets on Christmas Eve, he could have been
receiving a pink slip. Now, Coughlin appears to be in line for another contract
extension if the ownership sees fit to extend his deal past next season.
OK, the Patriots are very good, plus Bill Belichick and Brady are shooting
for the rarefied Bradshaw-Montana atmosphere. One more title and they are owners
of four Lombardi trophies. They had their 18-0 streak snapped by a gutty New
York team four seasons ago, and this New York version has more weapons than that
team. Also, Perry Fewell seems to have his defense figured out. Yes, they were
burned by Vernon Davis twice on
Sunday, but for the most part they dominated a San Francisco offense that
converted one measly third down.
New England has a unique passing offense in that it’s centered around two
tight ends: Rob Gronkowski and
Aaron Hernandez. The Patriots
would be scarier if that combination was Gronkowski and a 30-year-old Randy
Moss. Wes Welker is a third-down
conversion machine, but that’s it right now. Brady would be home free if he had
a reliable deep threat, someone to totally open the middle of the field for his
able-bodied giant receivers.
had 68 yards rushing and a touchdown against Baltimore, but he won't give New
York any problems. Brady is going to have to throw and that means he’ll be
seeing a lot of Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul. They may not
have Strahan this time around, but the Giants can still bring pressure. Plus,
linebacker Michael Boley has the
legs to at least stay with one of those New England tight ends.
Right now, the Giants are playing as well as the Ravens on defense, and Baltimore
forced three turnovers on Sunday. But what the Ravens don’t have is Eli Manning
and his cast of playmakers. Joe
Flacco is OK, but he’s no Eli.
This cannot be said in the Manning family at dinner time, but Eli is no
longer in Peyton’s shadow. In fact, he has a chance to do something Peyton has
never done: Win his second Super Bowl. In a family headed by a quarterback
father, such an accomplishment means a lot. I believe Eli can do it, too.
Granted, his big brother has had a longer streak of amazing statistical
seasons, but at this time of the year that means nothing. Eli is simply
performing at a higher level than he ever has. There have been a few glitches
here and there, but for the most part he has been making the right reads and
throwing to the right receivers. He’s been pretty flawless down the stretch and
performers like that generally win the big one when it’s on the line."