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Giants’ Playoff Success Hinges on Return of “Playoff Eli”

Eli Manning (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)

Eli Manning (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)

The man. The myth. The legend. “Playoff Eli.”

“Playoff Eli,” is like a folklore that Giants fans of this generation tell the next generation about. Frustrating to watch at points during the regular season. However, once the playoffs start, Eli Manning takes his game to a whole other level. Unstoppable, even.

This season has been sort of lackluster for Manning. With the offensive weapons he has at his disposal, his stats are just not backing that up. Manning has completed 377 passes out of 598 attempted passes for 4,027 passing yards (13th in NFL), 251.7 yards per game (17th in NFL), 26 touchdowns (10th in NFL), and 16 interceptions (4th most in NFL). The interceptions is the most crucial statistic that Manning has to avoid in the opening round of the playoffs. Giants’ fans are hoping that “Playoff Eli,” will emerge from the phone booth, with cape in tow. Manning, however, does not see an alter ego. He only sees the same player when looking in the mirror, not separate entities.

“I think I am the same quarterback,” said Manning. “You get the opportunities and you make plays and I took advantage of the opportunities and the timing of the plays, so I have to go out there and just do my job.”

“Playoff Eli” exists in main part due to the statistics that Manning has in his playoff career, which has led to two Super Bowl Championships. Take a look at those statistics below:

  • 8-3 Record.
  • 219 Completed Passes out of 356 Attempted Passes (61.52 Completion Percentage)
  • 2,516 Passing Yards
  • 17 Touchdowns,
  • 8 Interceptions
  • 3 QB Rating.

This is why the “Playoff Eli” moniker exists. Manning is like a stone cold killer in clutch moments, especially in the playoffs. Look at Super Bowl XLII, where Manning escaped the clutches of a New England Patriots onslaught to throw a rocket down the field to tight end David Tyree, and we all know what happened then. HELMET CATCH. This led to the infamous left corner fade pass in the end zone to Plaxico Burress for the game winning touchdown.

It doesn’t end there. In Super Bowl XLVI, Manning would continue to prove to NFL fans around the world that the clutch gene does exist, especially within himself. Manning threw a nail-biting 38 yard pass to Mario Manningham, who was able to utilize magnificent toe dragging ability to haul the pass in bounds. This play helped keep the Giants drive alive with 3:46 left in the game, to drive their way down the field to give them a 21-17 lead. A lead they would not relinquish.

These moments stick out because NFL analysts and fans did not believe that Manning had the skill or potential to pull off these great, clutch moments. Underdog. Could be a derogatory term for some players. Others, like Manning, use this as motivation to prove the doubters wrong.

“I think that you like to prove people wrong,” said Manning. “That is always kind of an exciting thing to do. I try not to read too much into it or read the headlines or buy into it too much. But I think that it is not about that – I think the most important thing is just going out there and being there for your teammates and wanting to step up for your teammates and for the organization and everybody who is working their tail off every week to go win and you want to go out and do your part to help them get that victory.”

Almost five years after their last Super Bowl victory, Manning is one of six players remaining on the Giants from that team. Manning’s newest teammates have not had a taste of the playoffs in their young careers. With playoffs, comes nerves. Players who have not had playoff experience are going to be nervous throughout the week. They look for advice from playoff veterans, and Manning is a sage in the Giants locker room.

“You want them to be relaxed this week and have a great week of preparations and make sure that they are loose for the game. But I think that they all know that it is important. I don’t think that you want to stress that any more than what is stressed already. You are going to see the difference in the media, the difference in the crowd and the play, so you just want them to be loose and go out there and be ready to play their best game.”

Players that were on the Super Bowl XLVI winning team can see the influence that Manning has on the young corps of Giants today.

“Having a guy like Eli is exactly what you want, and exactly what you look for in a team that wants to make a deep run,” said Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. “Having him at the helm, understanding what this is all about, and being in this position before can definitely give us an advantage, at least for the younger guys to look up to him and for us to have that much more confidence in our guys.”

Ben McAdoo was on the opposing sideline in the Divisional Round of the 2011-2012 playoffs, as the Green Bay Packers tight ends coach, where the Giants defeat the 15-1 Packers 37-20. McAdoo witnessed Manning complete 21 of 33 attempted passes (63.64 completion percentage) for 330 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. From watching Manning in that game while on the Packers sideline, to head coaching the Giants today, McAdoo sees the poise that Manning exudes. This poise is leaving a strong influence on the younger Giants.

“Eli Manning is a guy that is very consistent in his preparation and the way he approaches each and every week,” said Giants Head Coach Ben McAdoo. “…He’s steady. The rest of the team feeds off of him in that way. That’s really all you can ask for from a quarterback.”

For Manning this weekend is not all about him and his postseason alter ego. This is about the New York Giants. The team. Manning wants to help the Giants organization earn their fifth Lombardi Trophy.

Manning is a team-first guy. He is not concerned about his own individual accolades. He wants teammates who have never had the chance to play in the playoffs to have a special run and to create memories that will last their entire lifetime.

In Green Bay, the Giants boast the best defense of all the teams in the playoffs. The Packers have perennial MVP of this season in Aaron Rodgers (4,428 passing yards, 40 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 65.7 completion percentage, and 104.2 QBR) leading the smoldering-hot offense in bitterly cold Green Bay. Having “Playoff Eli” will give the Giants a more comfortable cushion in the playoffs, without having to bank on one portion of the team.

Manning has been in this position before. He’s experienced crucial moments in the playoffs. He has the knowledge to realize that not everything falls on one player, but he is his own biggest critic. He knows that if he plays well, he can help lead the Giants to victory. If he doesn’t play well, he will be the first to put the blame on himself.

“Each year is a new year, new team, different players,” said Manning. “It is its own deal, so we have to go out there and play well, I have to play well and I am looking forward to that opportunity.”

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