Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Personnel, Etc.

The maturation of quarterback Eli Manning appears to be on a fast track, and Sunday's miraculous victory over the Denver Broncos is just another bookmark in the emergence of a soon-to-be-star.

Manning, who hasn't completed a full season as a starter, took the New York Giants to a dramatic fourth quarter victory over the Broncos, who were 5-1 and on a five-game winning streak. He did it by directing two touchdown drives in the final quarter, capping the comeback with a 2-yard scoring pass to veteran wide receiver Amani Toomer with 00:05 showing on the scoreboard.

The 24-23 victory moved the Giants to 4-2 and into a three-way tie for first place in the NFC East with Washington and Philadelphia. Dallas, which had been the leader, fell to "last" with a loss to Seattle and a record of 4-3.

"He is so calm and poised in the locker room it's hard to believe how young he is," Toomer said. "He just tells us to calm down, that it's going to be fine and that we are going to score what we need to score. It's amazing."

Defensive end Michael Strahan, a 13-year veteran, is equally impressed.

"He holds the huddle together, the guys listen to him, even the older guys, and I don't think I have ever seen a young guy have this kind of control," he said. "And what he did with Amani made me very happy. Amani is a veteran, and no matter that he hasn't been as effective as he once was, he is crucial to our team. I tell him every week that he's our goat."

But in this case, you have to spell it 'G.O.A.T.', because it stands for 'Greatest of All Time'."

Strahan smiled. "Yeah, look at the team records. He holds almost all the receiving records," he said. "We need him and this game proved that."


--WR Amani Toomer showed his poise and experience in the final play that won the game. "I went in motion (from his slot position), then planted the cornerback on the sideline and cut across," he said. "I saw the middle linebacker (Al Wilson) was dropped deep, so I went in front of him. Eli threw the perfect pass; only I could catch it or it would be incomplete."

--RB Tiki Barber (19 carries, 86 yards), said it was one of just a handful of comebacks that stuck in his mind as special. "You don't forget games like this one," he said. "We seem to be on a roll, and Elisha (Manning; he is always formal) is just playing out of sight."

--LG David Diehl, who has started every game since becoming the team's fifth round pick in 2003, smiled happily and explained that he was 2-1 this weekend. Huh? "I'm from Chicago," he said, "and I went to (the University of) Illinois, so my college got killed by Penn State (63-10), but my White Sox won the first game of the World Series, and now this amazing comeback."


--LB Carlos Emmons was awaiting the results of an MRI on Monday after leaving Sunday's game with a pectoral injury. Coach Tom Coughlin said, "We are waiting to see," when asked if the muscle was torn. Coughlin said the injury happened when Emmons extended to make a tackle, missed and had his arms "ripped through."

--WR Plaxico Burress was having his right shoulder checked out after injuring it in the final two minutes of Sunday's game, coach Tom Coughlin said. "He came out and went back in and finished the game. But, we're running all the tests on that," Coughlin said Monday. "He's sore today."

--WR Amani Toomer caught a season-high eight catches Sunday, including the game winner in the final seconds of the game. It was his first game with more than four receptions all season as he has taken a supporting roll to WR Plaxico Burress and TE Jeremy Shockey. "It was hard, but it's hard to be upset when you're winning," Toomer said of his diminished role. "Our team was winning, we were doing well. Plax was having great success and you can't really be upset about somebody else doing well. You just wait for the flow of the offense, and hopefully now that I've made some plays, and we've both made plays together, I think that's how the whole team wanted to use us both together with Shockey and Tiki (Barber) as well."

--QB Eli Manning has been praised for his poise in leading the Giants from 13 points down in the fourth quarter to win Sunday's game. "He certainly is a guy who keeps pretty much everything in perspective and when he comes to the sideline, he has good information," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He does have the ability to, as I said last week, to put some of the bad things behind him and go onto the next play and make the next play the most important play. I think he can pass that onto his teammates in critical situations where the pressure is on to have to perform in order to win. His teammates can take strength from the fact that he is poised, he is calm, and he is under control."

--DE Justin Tuck continues to receive increased playing time, something coach Tom Coughlin said has simply been earned and helps keep the entire line fresh. "We like to play -- we like to try and stay fresh and he was able to come in and make a couple of hard plays and provide solid pass rush," Coughlin said. "We do want to continue to try to utilize him."



PASSING OFFENSE: B -- For three quarters, QB Eli Manning was just ordinary and at times looked fooled by the ever-shifting Denver defense. Then he snapped to attention in the fourth quarter, perhaps fueled by a decision to simplify the offense, and drilled the Broncos every time he had a key play. No pass was more critical to the final TD than a 24-yarder to TE Jeremy Shockey on third-and-10, which brought the Giants to the Denver 8-yard line. Toomer caught eight passes for 62 yards. WR Plaxico Burress had six for 84 yards and an 18-yard TD catch. RB Tiki Barber had six "escape hatch" receptions for 24 yards, while Shockey caught three for 44. The O-line did not allow Manning to be sacked.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus -- RB Tiki Barber's contributions to the Giants remain myriad. He gained 86 yards on 19 carries. He caught six passes for 24 yards. He scored once on a 4-yard run. And on the final TD pass to WR Amani Toomer that won the game, he showed his skills in blitz-pickup by shielding QB Eli Manning from on-rushing SS Nick Ferguson to make the play happen. Barber had all the rushing carries except for an early reverse by WR Tim Carter that gained 11 yards. The O-line blocked better than fair for the run but it was some of the blocking a few yards downfield that broke down and cost Tiki a few longer gains.

PASS DEFENSE: C-plus -- The Broncos completed 18 of 29 passes for 194 yards, which is acceptable, but half their 20 first downs were gained by passing. Jake Plummer spread it around, as six different receivers accounted for the 18 completions. He did throw only one TD pass, however, a 4-yarder to FB Kyle Johnson. The Giants managed zero sacks against the Broncos.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- RB Mike Anderson was allowed 120 yards in 24 carries, an unacceptable 5.0 per rush, while his backup, Tatum Bell, added 60 yards in eight carries. There were too many long gains and several missed tackles. MLB Antonio Pierce had 13 tackles -- high for both teams -- but also was guilty of misses. The Denver O-line, which has a unique blocking scheme, opened up too many mis-direction lanes, often at the expense of Pierce and the two DTs, William Joseph and Kendrick Clancy.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- P Jeff Feagles was at his most effective, kicking four times for a 46.0 average and a 41.5 net. He also placed two inside the 20. K Jay Feely still hasn't missed in 2005, adding a 52-yard FG and three PAT attempts. He is now 11-for-11 on FGs and has made 20 consecutive extra points. Willie Ponder returned four kickoffs for 124 yards (31.0 per). Kick coverage was good; Darrent Williams managed to take two punts back for two yards and two kickoffs for 49 yards.

COACHING: C -- A difficult dilemma here. What grade do you give the coaches for managing a weak game through three quarters and then suddenly finding the right calls in the fourth quarter? Some of defensive coordinator Tim Lewis' schemes are getting tired and stale, and the Broncos capitalized big time. Offensive coordinator John Hufnagel has become equally predictable. The decision not to use rookie RB Brandon Jacobs, if only for half a dozen running plays, is still mysterious. But the call on the winning TD pass to Toomer was clever and that should be applauded.

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