Eli Grows Up (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday January 8, 2008 11:18AM; Updated: Tuesday January 8, 2008 11:18AM
The Giants couldn't have started more slowly. At the end of the first quarter Manning was 2 of 4 for nine yards, the offense had totaled minus-2 yards, and Tampa had taken a 7-0 lead.
But on the Giants' first drive of the second quarter, Manning started finding his receivers on short hitch routes, moving the ball downfield with high-percentage throws to Burress and Amani Toomer. He went 5 for 6 for 49 yards on the drive, capped by a five-yard touchdown pass to running back Brandon Jacobs that tied the score at 7.
It was later, however, on New York's 15-play, 92-yard drive spanning eight minutes and 37 seconds of the third and fourth quarters, that Manning displayed his greatest maturity, flicking savvy passes as the Giants burned the clock. He moved New York farther into Bucs territory by rolling to his right and floating an 11-yard completion to tight end Kevin Boss. Two plays later he unfurled a 14-yard toss to Burress to the left.
After four straight runs by Ahmad Bradshaw brought the ball to the four-yard line, Eli lined up in the shotgun formation. He pump-faked to Boss over the middle and whistled a four-yard strike to Toomer that put the Giants up 24-7 on the way to their eighth straight road victory following their season-opening loss in Dallas. It was the kind of knockout drive, finished with a decisive blow, not normally associated with the younger Manning.
"I just think he's putting us in the right place," Burress said of his quarterback. "He's going through his progressions and not getting homed in on one guy. He's spreading the ball around. Everybody's making plays and catching footballs."
Said Manning, who finished 20 of 27 for 185 yards, two touchdowns and, tellingly, no interceptions, "[The Giants] have faith that I can make plays and we can win. We've been doing it all season. We've won all different types of games."
After New York had salted the victory away, Peyton called Archie and asked him how the family would watch this weekend's divisional round. On Sunday, Peyton's Colts host the San Diego Chargers in their AFC divisional playoff at 1 p.m., and Eli's Giants will be in Dallas for the later game.
"I was hoping one would be Saturday," Archie said. "We'll split up. We'll have family representatives in Dallas and family representatives in Indianapolis."
The family representatives in Tampa had a memorable Sunday in their luxury box, despite Cooper's discomfort and the presence of a few Tampa Bay fans sharing the suite.
"I have to admit, they couldn't have been nicer," Archie said. "Of course, they got pretty quiet in the second half."
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