Things looked bleak for the Giants after Carlos Hyde scored on a two-yard touchdown run with fewer than two minutes to play on Sunday night, but fans who had followed quarterback Eli Manning for years knew that it was not a time to despair. With the Giants now trailing San Francisco 27-23, Manning had plenty of time to lead his team on a game-winning touchdown drive, even with wide receivers Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. nursing injuries on the sideline.
“Well just trying to make sure everybody knew what their assignments were and had some guys there that I knew they probably would play a lot of man,” said Manning, “So we had some opportunities to hit Shane [Vereen] on some things, hit maybe the tight ends on some [things] and maybe get some outs. Yeah it felt good. We’ve been throwing the ball well, we’d been protecting well, probably had some opportunities to hit some big plays and we did.”
Vereen came up huge on the final drive with no experienced wide receivers on the field. The tailback, who was acquired by the Giants as a free agent this offseason, caught three passes for 51 yards to help set up the winning touchdown strike. With 21 seconds left in the game, Manning found tight end Larry Donnell in the back of the end zone from 12 yards away. Although Donnell was covered closely by 49ers linebacker Navarro Bowman, the ball stuck in his hands as he hit the ground.
The drive didn’t go exactly as planned, though. At one point, the Giants appeared to accidentally call a time out even though it looked like they wanted to run a play out of the no-huddle offense. On the next play, Manning threw a pass under pressure that was called an interception by San Francisco’s Tramaine Brock on the field. However, after review, the officials ruled that the ball hit the ground for an incompletion before being secured.
All’s well that ends well, and for the Giants, the Sunday night game ended in a 30-27 victory that put them alone in first place atop the NFC East. A lot of that was thanks to Manning, who isn’t a stranger to fourth-quarter dramatics.
“This one was special just because we hadn’t been as good in the two-minute drives as we once were and we should, come in there and had great confidence and we would ride down and win a lot of games that way,” said Manning, “We had one early versus Atlanta, we didn’t make the plays, had a couple games we had leads in the fourth quarter and we lost it and it was a big confidence for this offense, for this team that we can win that way. Hey, we can get the ball back, we can drive right down.”