Eli Manning has been a New York Giants legend since his debut in 2004, and the team’s quarterback for 15 seasons. He is one of the most decorated players in NFL history, winning four Super Bowls and earning five Pro Bowl selections. However, there was a time when he was not even drafted into the league.
Eli Manning is a legend in the NFL, but it wasn’t always that way. In his rookie year, he was benched and then released by the San Diego Chargers. He would go on to have a Hall of Fame career with the New York Giants.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — — This is the drive that sums up Eli Manning as a football player. Even in the most difficult circumstances, the composure, moxie, and even-keeled attitude shone through.
The former New York Giants quarterback put it all on show in Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3, 2008, when he led a career-defining, game-winning march against the unbeaten New England Patriots.
It was at this point that Manning’s legacy was elevated to new heights. Eli, Peyton’s sibling and Archie’s kid, was no longer aw-shucks. The youngest of the Manning brothers orchestrated a historic upset (the Giants were a 12.5-point underdog) at Glendale, Arizona, highlighted by his clutch effort in the last 2:39.
The retirement of his No. 10 jersey during halftime of the Giants-Atlanta Falcons game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox) may not happen without those 14 minutes of real time.
|III||The Jets defeated the Colts by a score of 16 to 7.||18|
|XXXVI||Patriots win by a score of 20-17 against the Rams.||14|
|XLII||New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14||12.5|
|ESPN Stats & Information is the source of this information.|
Manning defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI four years later, but defeating quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick in his first Super Bowl made him a champion, MVP, and Giants icon.
The Giants were a 10-6 wild-card squad that battled their way through the NFC playoffs with road victories over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and top-seeded Dallas Cowboys before defeating the second-seeded Green Bay Packers in overtime at Lambeau Field in sub-zero temperatures. They faced a Patriots squad that was rated seventh greatest in NFL history by NFL Films in 2019.
“People don’t realize it, and I’m well aware that I’m biased, but this is the greatest Super Bowl upset of all time. It’s the best, it’s the best, it’s the best, it “The 17-14 victory was praised by then-coach Tom Coughlin. “It may be the biggest upset in history. Period.”
The hallmark moment of the victory match was Manning evading a sack and tossing to receiver David Tyree, who squeezed the ball to his helmet for an amazing grab. The game-winning touchdown pass from Manning to Plaxico Burress rounded off the fairy tale, but there was so much more to that legendary drive that won the Giants another Lombardi Trophy for their lobby display at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
Manning stated, “That whole playoff run was probably extremely significant in my career… and Coach Coughlin’s.” “‘Hey, do these people have what it takes or not?’ we were probably both thinking… That, I believe, simply demonstrated that, ‘Hey, he can play well in huge situations.’”
Coughlin stated: “In those conditions, he showed the world what type of player he was. Against an 18-0 squad, he came through in the clutch. How can you dismiss what he’s accomplished?”
83 yards away from victory
The Patriots take a 14-10 lead after Brady’s touchdown throw to Randy Moss. They’ve set their eyes on the ideal season. With 2:39 left, the Giants take over at their 17-yard line.
“I can’t even think about [that journey] without feeling chills, thrilled, and a big grin on my face,” Coughlin says.
Marcus Spears can’t believe what he’s hearing from Ryan Clark and Max Kellerman, who think Eli Manning is a better postseason quarterback than Drew Brees.
To his colleagues, Giants defensive end Michael Strahan says: “Okay, the final number is seventeen, fourteen. Seventeen, fourteen guys, to be exact. We’ll be global champs with only one touchdown. It will happen if you believe it.”
To Giants.com, Manning says: “We were extremely sure of ourselves. There wasn’t much that was stated. ‘All right, here we go,’ I simply rushed in and shouted.”
Manning connects with receiver Amani Toomer on the numbers for an 11-yard gain on the opening play. When it comes to getting to the line of scrimmage, the Giants take their time. They still have three timeouts and a two-minute warning.
Toomer (toomer): “They usually claim that the first first down in a two-minute drive is the most difficult to get. Things go off from there after you get your first first down.”
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Coughlin: I’m Coughlin “I don’t believe it’s possible to ignore the circumstances, the scenario, and the stakes involved. And just by looking at Eli’s face, you can tell. In such scenario, the rival is approaching him from the side.”
Manning is furious with himself after throwing a high over-the-shoulder incompletion to Burress on the following play. He overthrows Burress on the sideline minutes later under duress. At this point, Burress has one grab for 17 yards on seven targets.
Coughlin: I’m Coughlin “There are a million little dramas to choose from, one of which was… I had to turn in the inactives 90 minutes before kickoff, as is customary. I had no idea whether Plaxico was going to show up. He was unable to even practice. He was suffering from a poor knee. Ronnie Barnes, his athletic trainer, was attempting to place him in a situation where he would go out and show to us that he could play. And it took a long time for him to get him ready to go out and do it…. He just said, ‘He’s leaving!’ And that was the end of it. Ronnie returned to the training room immediately. On the page, I had to put another name.”
That would come in handy later. Meanwhile, the Giants had to deal with a third-and-10 situation.
Toomer (toomer): “I took a different path. I was a yard short when [Manning] threw me to the ground. I was expecting a first down since I was open, but he tossed the ball to the ground, forcing me to dive for it. I scooped it up and attempted to roll [for the first down], but they grabbed me before I could return the contact.”
At New York’s 37, it was fourth-and-1.
Coughlin: I’m Coughlin “You were going behind [right guard] Chris Snee and [right tackle] Kareem [McKenzie], and we had [running back] Brandon Jacobs at 265 pounds. That call’s potency came from the fact that it pitted our might, our play — our strength — against theirs. They stuffed it full. Because of the large number of bodies they brought into the action, the only thing left was a little crack.”
Sneezing: “If you look at me, I sort of chip [Patriots defensive lineman Vince] Wilfork, and then I have to hit the [line]backer and move up to my duty. It was exactly the right amount of each person to get Brandon through that little crease.”
Manning eluded pressure on the following play and scrambled for five yards to the Giants’ 44-yard line, where the Giants called their first timeout with 1:20 remaining. Following an incompletion to Tyree, a ball slid between the hands of Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel, preventing a game-winning interception.
Coughlin: I’m Coughlin “[Manning] had hoped for a different response from David Tyree. He is, in fact, dissatisfied. It is self-evident. It’s written all on his face.”
Toomer (toomer): “‘Don’t worry, boys,’ said [Patriots defensive tackle] Richard Seymour after the dropped interception. You’re all about to go. Don’t be concerned about it. ‘It’s nearly the end of the game.’ That’s when I realized you can’t tempt the football gods by talking like that. I got the impression he believed they’d won.”
The Helmet Grab
That set up the third-and-5 that will live in infamy: Tyree’s 32-yard grab over safety Rodney Harrison at the New England 24-yard line with a minute remaining.
“The ball was intended to go to the corner because [receiver] Steve Smith was on the corner route,” Toomer said.
In Super Bowl XLII, David Tyree’s stunning grab helped the Giants end the Patriots’ perfect season. Gene Puskar/AP Photo
Coughlin: I’m Coughlin “I don’t believe anybody, not even the playwrights or historical figures, is unaware of the play’s significance. I’ve heard it said that it was fortunate or anything along those lines. Let me tell you something: I was worried that [referee] Mike Carey would blow the play dead because Eli had the presence to extricate himself out of people’s grip. You heard me say that that night.”
Sneezing: “[Eli] confesses that he believed he’d toss it to me. Watch the movie. ‘Don’t do that,’ I said as I took a tiny step back. That’s a terrible concept.’ Consider what would happen if the ball was thrown to me.”
Toomer (toomer): “When I saw David open, I felt we may be able to catch it. ‘Damn it!’ I said as I saw Rodney Harrison. The audience then went wild, and I was thinking, ‘What happened?’”
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Manning: I recall questioning David about it. ‘Did you catch it, David?’ ‘Yeah, I caught it,’ he said. I’ve been burnt so many times by receivers who just lie to me, right in front of my eyes. ‘David, honestly, you’re a Christian guy, did you catch this?’ I said. “I assure you, I caught it,” he said.
In an interview with ESPN in 2008, Harrison said: “He’ll never make that catch again in a million years. I have no regrets about that. I spotted the ball, ran up to it, and tried all I could to get it out. What can you say when it’s on his head? I believe you must accept the fact that certain things are beyond your control.”
Coughlin: I’m Coughlin “To go up in the air against Rodney Harrison, who is probably 15 pounds bigger and a stronger man, an All-Pro, great character, great strength, great football player… David Tyree held on to the ball against the strongest of guys who were knocking away at his arms to try to separate him from the ball. He came down with Harrison across the back of his knees and still held on to the ball, which I believe is a fantastic feat for which he is underappreciated.”
“David Tyree had the worst session [Friday] in the history of practices at any level,” Manning told NFL Films.
“So right there [Tyree’s grab] let me know we’re going to win this game,” Strahan told NFL Films, “because for something that wonderful to happen in such a beautiful season, we couldn’t lose.”
Eli establishes his legacy.
On the following play, Seymour sacked Manning for a one-yard loss, and New York called its second timeout with 51 seconds remaining. He was then hit and threw a floater to the far sideline that Tyree was unable to catch. It set up the drive’s third third down.
In the last minute of Super Bowl XLII, Eli Manning’s touchdown throw to Plaxico Burress gave the Giants a 17-14 victory against the Patriots. Chris O’Meara/AP Photo, File
Coughlin: I’m Coughlin “It’s a third-and-11 situation. Are you joking? Steve Smith understands what he needs and keeps his feet on the ground. How intriguing. He makes a gain of  yards. That’s exactly what he needed.”
“On that play, Adalius Thomas was coming off the edge strong,” Snee said. Steve made the conversion, and the following play…
With 35 seconds left, Manning connected with Burress for the game-winning 13-yard touchdown.
Coughlin: I’m Coughlin “Plaxico is the only one who can catch the ball because Eli lofts it over everyone’s heads. You’re talking about Manning’s play after play after play.”
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Toomer (toomer): “I had a feeling I was going to score a touchdown. On the Friday before the game, we ran that same play on the opposite side against our defense to finish our two-minute drive, and I scored the touchdown. So [we] ran the play again, and I believed it would result in another touchdown. We knew they were going to go all-out blitz the whole game in the red zone. The zero-coverage blitz. And they didn’t do it the first couple of times we went down there. Plaxico got singled up on the back side against [cornerback Ellis Hobbs] on the last drive. It was a two-move maneuver. It was obvious from the start. That was the change we made. We had a feeling they were searching for a slant.”
(To Giants.com) Burress: “Eli can’t keep up with the ball and lets it fly. I make a move on Ellis Hobbs, he takes the fake, and I go right by him. [After the catch] All of a sudden, all of a sudden, all of a sudden, all of a sudden, all of a I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!”
After the game, Hobbs says: “It was a one-on-one situation. It’s not difficult to read when there’s nothing to read. You must defend the interior, and I must adhere to the slant and inner approach. If our blitz fails to reach him, all he needs to do is shrug me off.”
Sneezing: “From pre-snap, Eli says he understands this is one-on-one coverage. I’m still shocked that [the Patriots] did it. The ball appeared to take an eternity to get down. It also looked like his second foot took an eternity to get down. It simply looked like a slow-motion drama.”
Manning: I’m here to help you “That ball appeared to linger in the air indefinitely. ‘Please come down,’ I say. Allow him two feet inbounds, and this should be a touchdown.’”
Toomer (toomer): “After Plax scored, I remember looking over to the sideline. It was complete chaos. It felt like Christmas morning.”
After the game, Manning said, “They finally blitzed.” [Hobbs] knelt down. They assumed [Plaxico] was on a slant of some kind. I considered tossing the slant to him. They brought seven people with them. That is exactly what we had hoped for. It’s just an opportunity to puke.
Toomer (toomer): “We used the double move against them. Sluggo. Slant and take off. That time, we were a step ahead of them.”
Sneezing: “Eli confirmed what everyone in the locker room already knew about him. But you know what that drive, winning a Super Bowl, does to his public image.”
Coughlin: I’m Coughlin “You constantly think about it when you look at it. When the game was on the line, Eli Manning as the quarterback of the New York Giants had to take a team on his shoulders and move them down the field and put them in a position to score a touchdown — we needed a touchdown, not a field goal, to win the game — he accomplished it. He was the one who pulled it off. He did it with style, too.”
Mike Reiss, an ESPN Patriots reporter, contributed to this article.
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