Up next: Manning states his case as elite QB

Does Eli Manning belong in the same class as the top NFL quarterbacks such as Tom Brady? Manning gave his answer during the New York Giants' clutch comeback victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday – with Brady watching from the opposing sideline.


Back in training camp, Manning was asked if he thought he was in the same class as Brady, the star Patriots signal-caller.

"I consider myself in that class," said Manning, who went on to praise Brady's maturation. "I kind of hope these next seven years of my quarterback days are my best."

While Manning drew criticism for his response, he's backed up his words with his actions.

On Sunday, he engineered his fifth fourth-quarter, game-winning drive for the Giants this season en route to a 24-20 win over Brady's Patriots. What's more, Manning overcame not only a pair of costly turnovers, but also the absence of his top receiver, Hakeem Nicks, and his top running back, Ahmad Bradshaw, both of whom were inactive because they were injured.

"There was pressure, but he hung in there, directed traffic, and threw the ball where it should have been thrown," coach Tom Coughlin said of Manning's poise in the game-winning drive, which was capped by a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jake Ballard with 15 seconds left.

"He made a statement earlier this year that a lot of people didn't like," said safety Deon Grant, whose third-quarter interception was converted by Manning into the Giants' first points of the game. "He made a statement because that's what he believes, and like any player who has that confidence, what he's doing right now is playing like he's a top-five quarterback."

The 6-2 Giants will try to continue their winning ways this week against a 49ers team that has won six in a row.

An interesting matchup will be the Giants' run defense, which for the sixth week in a row surrendered 100-plus yards on the ground to an opponent, vs. the 49ers' rushing attack, which is led by Frank Gore, who is averaging 97.5 yards per game through eight games.

"Instead of going up and physically taking the runner on, we seem to get caught east or west and just not get there," Coughlin said when asked why his defense has been having such a difficult time with stopping the run. "It is frustrating."

While the Giants' inability to stop the run hasn't come back to haunt them yet – the team is 5-1 in games in which the opposing team has rushed for more than 100 yards – if they aspire to be a playoff team, they will need to find a way to better control their gaps.

LINEUP WATCH: Rookie cornerback Prince Amukamara, who has been working his way back from a preseason foot injury, could see his first NFL action this week against the 49ers. Amukamara, inactive against the Patriots, has yet to take reps with the first-team defense, something that could change this week as the Giants to face San Francisco.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Giants' red-zone offense has converted 14 touchdowns out of 22 possessions, 63.6 percent, this season. The offense will its work cut out for it against the 49ers, who have one of the league's top-ranked red-zone defenses in the NFL (seven touchdowns out of 20 opponent possessions, 35.0 percent).

PLAYER NOTES

--- WR Ramses Barden was activated off the physically unable to perform list, where he had been since training camp while he recovered from a second ankle procedure. With WR Hakeem Nicks inactive due to a hamstring injury, Barden, who saw his first regular-season game action in a year, and he finished with two receptions for 24 yards.

--- DE Jason Pierre-Paul was active for the game despite experiencing concussion-like symptoms last week following a collision with another teammate in practice. Pierre-Paul, whose protocol tests revealed that he didn't suffer a concussion, has purposely had his game reps reduced by defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who noted several weeks ago that the second-year man had a tendency to become winded when asked to take a full workload in a game. Pierre-Paul recorded a second-quarter sack, his 14th in his last 14 games.

--- WR Victor Cruz received his first start of the season thanks to the absence of WR Hakeem Nicks, who didn't make the trip due to a hamstring injury. Cruz finished with a team-leading six receptions for 91 yards.

--- LB Mathias Kiwanuka finished with 12 tackles (six solo), one interception and one pass defensed, while fellow LB Michael Boley was second on the team with 10 tackles (seven solo), one sack, one pass defensed, and one forced fumble.

--- WR Jerrel Jernigan, the Giants' third-round draft pick this year, returned the first regular-season kickoff of his career, a 19-yard second-half contribution.


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