Hats Off to Eli, the Conference Champ of QBs

Would those three remaining Eli Manning doubters over in the corner please raise their hands? Yes, you. Ye of such little faith that you should be ashamed of yourselves for even enjoying this miraculous Giants run.

Sure Manning gave us all plenty of reason to doubt, as recently as Dec. 23 in Buffalo. But to steal an overused phrase from my boy Kevin Gleason, he clearly has now "turned the corner.

He's played basically flawless for three straight games – and games of the highest magnitude at that. It sure doesn't sound like there's going to be a whole lot of Manning criticism going forward, now does it?

"It feels good, and not just because of that," he said after completing more than half his passes in absolutely frigid conditions. "It feels good because this is what you work for. This is how you spend your time. It's been four years and a lot of preparation, a lot of work, and we stuck with it. We believed in ourselves, and we got to the Super Bowl."

Not surprisingly the man with whom he's most closely linked, Tom Coughlin, was thrilled to see his signal-caller finally win the big one.

"Eli played an outstanding football game, and under these conditions threw the ball extremely well," Coughlin said. "The focus of Eli was outstanding and he willed himself to play well."

But as usual Manning deflected credit toward his mates. After all, that's what captains do.

"For me to play well, all the guys around me have to be doing their job, so they're doing that and I'm getting them the ball," he said. "My job, it can be easy when guys are playing well around you."

"Our hats are off to Eli," resident team spokesman and middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "If there's anybody I'm more proud of on this team it's Eli because he's taken criticism from draft day. The guy did nothing but battle and come uphill, and he's the NFC conference champion today."

Anyone outside Green Bay who's not happy for Eli Manning right about now had better get checked for a pulse.

Now as for those dopes that tried to separate Manning from his pregame ritual, the last laugh's on you. Surely you heard how Manning enjoys watching Seinfeld re-runs on Saturday evenings before games. Well, some Green Bay genius (yes, that's an intentional oxymoron) decided to pull the Saturday evening 5:30 showing of Seinfeld from the air in the Green Bay area.

Before the game, Manning was just amused by the whole thing.

"A bunch of DVDs have been sent, but I already had the set," Manning said. "It's pretty funny. You have to enjoy it. They said they're not playing it Saturday, because they heard I like it. It doesn't matter; I've seen every episode, anyway."

Perhaps this Saturday that TV station can air replays of Manning's victorious performance in Green Bay.

Good for them

Yeah, yeah we know the Coughlin, Webster and Tynes stories are all nice and everything, but how about the two guys still standing from 2007? They're two of the most important pieces of the puzzle in 2000 and remain so in 2007; two players that have had to live with getting pounded by Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV for seven years now. For Michael Strahan and Amani Toomer, it's redemption time.

"It is very satisfying," Strahan said. "The most satisfying thing would be to win the big one, but this is great. I had a lot of guys coming up to me and telling me how much I deserve this, but to be honest with you, I am happier for them because they deserve it more."

No Michael, actually you and Toomer, who shook off one of his rare inconsistent games to catch four passes and contribute his usually solid blocking, are the ones that deserve it the most.

The little Giants that could

Oh, let us count the ways that New York woulda, coulda and shoulda been sent packing by Brett Favre and his band of green and gold warriors. You'd need two hands to count how many times things looked so bleak on the frozen tundra that you thought about changing the channel. Go ahead, admit it; you're only human.

But all the penalties, the couple huge dropped passes, the settling for three points instead of seven early on, the missed field goals, losing the overtime coin flip. We could go on and on. But since the Giants pulled this one out and are heading to Arizona, there's really no need to, now is there?

"This means a lot to us, no one gave us a chance," R.W. McQuarters said. "We were picked to lose all three rounds. For all the people that hated on us, we're going to the Super Bowl."

Yes Giants fans, you can all say it now: Scream it loud and proud: The Giants are going to the Super Bowl!

Final thoughts

Did Plax just catch another pass? He was absolutely incredible on the grandest of stages. Those that don't watch revered Packers CB Al Harris on a regular basis are going to have a real hard time believing that he's any good. We certainly didn't see any proof in the conference title tilt…

It was indeed ‘that cold' in Green Bay. Considering it took us a good half-hour to thaw out from walking 100 yards to the car after the game, the players on both sides should be lauded for playing at such a high level in such adverse conditions. You couldn't pay me enough…

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