Manning On Par With Brady?

Who would have thought the New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning should be lumped in with the top 5 quarterbacks in the league, namely Tom Brady? Yet Manning continues to best Brady head-to-head. Why not anoint Manning as elite?

Manning on par with Brady? Hard to argue now

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

   "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.

Something Special About "85"

   When it comes to playing games that matter against New England, there's just something special about the Giants' "10 to 85" connection.

   Ten, of course, is the jersey number worn by quarterback Eli Manning, the Super Bowl XLII MVP who in 2007 calmly led his team back from a 14-10 deficit against the then-undefeated Patriots to a 17-14 upset played on the world's biggest stage.

   As for 85, previously worn by receiver David Tyree, who could forget his famous reception made over the middle of the field in which he trapped the ball against his helmet to keep the Giants' game-winning drive alive?

   Fast forward to 2011. The Giants squared off against a Patriots team that had won 20 consecutive regular-season home games, 18 straight home games against NFC teams, and 31 consecutive regular-season games in a row started by quarterback Tom Brady.

   However, just as the Giants weren't impressed in 2007 with the Patriots' then-perfect 18-0 record, the same held true this time around, as the magic between 10 and 85 took center stage in sending New England to their second straight regular-season loss, a 24-20 decision.

   Tyree might be retired, but the man wearing his jersey number these days certainly did him proud. That would be tight end Jake Ballard, who was on the receiving end of a big 28-yard, fourth-quarter pass play on the Giants' game-winning drive that led to a one-yard touchdown pass, also to Ballard.

   "The offensive line pinched and I ended up getting off quick and breaking it out because I knew I had to get separation from the linebacker," said Ballard of his game-winning reception. "As soon as I turned around Eli threw it and it was there, I was just concentrating really hard to make sure I caught the ball."

   Manning was asked how difficult Ballard's 28-yard reception that put the Giants on the Patriots' 33 was.

   "I haven't seen the replay, but they were playing man underneath, with two safeties high, and we really hadn't thrown anything to him down the middle and so he got even with the guy and he's just a big target.

   "Sometimes they get their hands up after the ball hits them, or the safety can come and hit it out, but Ballard is a big sucker and made a big catch."

   Manning smiled when asked about the similarities between the 2011 game-winning drive against the Patriots and the one in Super Bowl XLII

   "(I was just thinking about) the fact that the last time we played when we had a two-minute drive to win the game," said Manning after the game when asked if he compared this game to the Super Bowl win.

   "I think anytime you come into this stadium against the Patriots and get a win, it's a big win. They've been a great team for the last 10 years."

   Except when they have come up against the Giants' "10 to 85" connection, that is.

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