History will determine if the way Manning performed in the face of tremendous personal pressure was truly a significant moment. He stared down a wildly hostile crowd to keep the Giants in a game with the Chargers for as long as he could. Eli Manning was the least of the Giants problems in a 45-23 loss at Qualcomm Stadium that featured Manning growing on the job while his teammates on defense shrunk in theirs.
Thrust into an unsavory situation he created, Manning played in the city that
he spurned, facing the team he swore not to play for after the Chargers made him
the first pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. The second-year quarterback faced
deafening jeers for every move he made and, rather than wilt under the extreme
pressure, Manning rose to the occasion with an impressive performance.
"I don't think it was worse than I expected,'' Manning said afterward. "I got
about what I expected.''
If the Giants defense had risen to the level displayed by Manning, the Giants
would have retained their unblemished record. Instead, Manning's career-best
game became the first Giants loss of the season. The Chargers scored at will
and gained their first victory, much to the delight of a raucous crowd intent on
making life miserable for Manning.
"The fan reaction didn't bother me,'' Manning said. "It wasn't hard to deal
Manning heard it early and often and never for a moment was shaken, giving the
Giants hope that he can develop into the marquee player they believe he'll
become. He completed 24 of 41 passes for a career-high 352 yards and fired
touchdown passes to Plaxico Burress and David Tyree. He did not throw an
interception and compiled a quarterback rating of 102.9.
"He played well enough for us to win,'' coach Tom Coughlin said. "I thought he
was extremely poised. He knew exactly what he was coming into. He wasn't
He was not at all supported by a shabby defensive effort, as the Chargers raced
to a 21-3 lead, watched the Giants pull within 21-20 and then continued to pour
it on. The Giants could not stop the run or lay a glove on Drew Brees (19 of
22, 191 in a near-perfect outing) or cover the pass, a deadly trifecta of
ineptitude that doomed them. LaDainian Tomlinson was the chief architect with
two rushing touchdowns and one scoring pass, plus 192 rushing yards on only 21
carries for a ghastly 9.1-yard average.
The Giants allowed 485 total yards.
"I was disappointed in everything defensively,'' Coughlin said. "We didn't
At the outset, the hostility was palpable. A few fans saw fit to wear powder
blue Chargers T-shirts that read "[Bleep] Eli" and others wore shirts that in a
slightly different way expressed a similar sentiment: "Eli [bleeps].''
A banner in the stands read "Daddy's Little Girl ... Eli.'' Another: "Eli
Start Praying Now.'' And another: "Eli = Overrated. Archie = Bust. Peyton =
Adopted.'' And "She-li Must Pay.'' And "Eli, San Diego Picks Winners, Not
It was all Eli, all the time.
"I saw my name on a few things,'' Manning said. "I'm sure they made a good
profit on T-shirts and whatnot.''
The crowd noise was deafening at the start, playoff-volume with some extra
venom. Manning, though, appeared unfazed. His first pass was a 32-yard
catch-and-run to Jeremy Shockey (6-101) and as the noise cascaded down, Manning
kept cool. He completed 4 of 5 passes for 55 yards to advance the Giants to the
San Diego 5-yard line. Tiki Barber was stuffed for no gain on second-and-1 and
Brandon Jacobs was stopped cold on third down.
Faced with a fourth-and-inches, Coughlin surprisingly went ultra-conservative
and called for the field goal unit. Jay Feely's 22-yarder made it 3-0 but the
Giants should have come away with more.
They needed more. Plenty more. Brees completed his first eight passes,
Tomlinson ran and caught with abandon and the Giants were powerless to stop
them. A 65-play drive was capped by Tomlinson's 1-yard TD run and a crisp
85-yard drive ended when linebacker Reggie Torbor got caught in a mismatch and
flailed away as receiver Keenan McCardell hauled in a 15-yard scoring pass.
It was 21-3 after Tomlinson's second touchdown run but Manning brought the
Giants back, rising to the challenge with the most impressive showing of his
young career. He had 206 passing yards by halftime, bettering his career high
for a game of 201 yards. He also completed 14 of 22 passes along with two
touchdowns for a sterling rating of 124.4.
The comeback was sparked by Manning's 44-yard toss to Tim Carter, setting up a
5-yard scoring lob to Burress. The Giants finally managed to make a play on
defense when linebackers Nick Greisen and Carlos Emmons punished Tomlinson after
a short completion, causing a fumble that Osi Umenyiora recovered on the San
Diego 34-yard line. A leaping catch by Jeremy Shockey of a 30-yard Manning
bullet was followed by Manning's 4-yard TD strike to Tyree. A last-minute
drive, fueled by Tiki Barber's 27-yard run, led to Feely's 40-yard field goal as
the Giants trimmed the deficit to 21-20 at the half.
The Chargers needed all of four plays into the third quarter to chew off 70
yards, scoring when Tomlinson on a gadget play threw a halfback pass to Keenan
McCardell. A rout ensued, despite Manning's efforts.
"I wanted to win the game,'' Manning said. "That's what I play for. I don't
play for stats or numbers. I play for wins.''
He played well enough to get it but was betrayed by his defense.
- end of story -
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