And then came the game-winning Super Bowl drive by his lil' brother, who has essentially transformed fourth-quarter derring-do into derring-did this season, and suddenly the Indianapolis star might not even be the most notable Manning in this city anymore.
In the stadium that his brother essentially built with 13 seasons of brilliant play — the 2011 campaign doesn't count, of course, because three neck surgeries in a 19-month stretch kept Peyton Manning off the field entirely — Eli Manning took the New York Giants 88 yards for a 21-17 victory over New England. The last-gasp drive culminated with tailback Ahmad Bradshaw's six-yard scoring run with just 57 seconds remaining, when the desperate Patriots intentionally allowed the score.
Peyton's place? After the comeback victory over New England, the second time in four years and five seasons that the Giants defeated the Patriots in a Super Bowl game, and in which Eli Manning has orchestrated a last-minute touchdown drive, maybe not. Eli Manning now has a pair of Super Bowl rings to his brother's one.
"We're not much into comparisons," said Manning, the Super Bowl most valuable player for a second time. "It just feels good. You know I think the world (of Peyton). He's helped me immensely. But, sure, I'd be lying to say this didn't feel great."
This week, Eli Manning characterized Peyton Manning as "perhaps the greatest quarterback to ever play." After Sunday night, Peyton Manning might not even be the greatest quarterback on the famed family tree.
Manning completed 30-of-40 passes for 296 yards, with one touchdown, and no interceptions, and a passer rating of 103.8. He became the fifth player to capture multiple Super Bowl most valuable player honors, all of them quarterbacks. He is also the 11th quarterback to start and win multiple Super Bowls, with New York claiming its fourth Super Bowl in franchise history.
The victory was typically Manning, who established a league record during the regular season with 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes. Although Manning did not record a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter on Sunday evening, the Giants gained their seventh of 13 victories this season (counting the playoffs) via a fourth-quarter comeback.
"There's just something magic about (Manning) and this tea, in the fourth quarter," insisted wide receiver Mario Manningham, who had five receptions for 73 yards. "Nothing fazes us or him. "We don't ever feel we're out of it."
A four-year veteran who is often lost in the hoopla surrounding fellow wideouts Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, each of whom had 1,000-plus receiving yards during the regular season, Manningham might share co-star billing with Manning. Of his five catches, four came in the fourth quarter, for 68 yards. None was bigger than the circus-catch, 38-yard grab that opened the New York winning possession, moving the ball to midfield.
"Absolutely an unreal catch," said Manning of the reception along the left sideline, on which Manningham somehow got both feet barely inbounds, a catch that was confirmed via replay after Patriots coach Bill Belichick challenged it. Countered Manningham, who had three catches for 58 yards on the winning march: "The thing about Eli is he has confidence in (his receivers). He knows that if he puts in near us, we're usually going to come down with it."
The play came with the Patriots' secondary in a classic "cover-2" and overplaying on Cruz and Nicks. Manning put the ball exactly where needed between the corner and the safety.
Manning set a new Super Bowl record by completing his first nine passes of the game, and while he cooled off for a spell — the Giants were forced to settle for a pair of field goals in the third quarter after promising drives stalled out — he never really went completely frigid.
Only three times in the game did Manning throw incomplete passes on consecutive attempts. The eight-year veteran at no point in the game had more than two errant passes in a row.
"There were times," said Manning, "when we killed ourselves with penalties or silly plays, or sacks, or something. "But we always felt good about what we were doing. We were moving the ball, stopping ourselves as much as they were stopping us. We just had to keep the faith that things would pay off."
Billed as a game that would be decided by the quarterbacks, Manning didn't so much outplay counterpart Tom Brady, as he did outlasted him. And he wasn't undone by as many errors, those he made and were made by teammates. Brady was charged with a safety on the Pats' first play from scrimmage, when he was penalized for intentional grounding in his own end zone.
In the fourth quarter, nursing a 17-15 lead and with the ball at the New York 44-yard line, Brady overthrew wide open slot receiver Wes Welker on the left seam of the Giants' 44-yard line. Some felt Welker should have made the grab, even though the throw was high, and a completion might have secured the Patriots another Super Bowl crown. On the next play, wideout Deion Branch couldn't corral a third-down pass, and New England was forced to punt with 3:46 remaining.
Manning took over from there.
In the offseason, Eli Manning made some headlines when he declared he considered himself a so-called "elite" quarterback. No one dare argue the point now, and it's clear now that "elite" can't be spelled without the E-L-I.
"He just had that look," Manningham said of the final series. "He just really thrives on those situations."
The family quarterback patriarch, Archie Manning, was beaming in the New York locker room after the game, but declined to offer any comparisons between his two famous sons.
"He played like a quarterback needs to play," Archie said. "He stepped up big."
And maybe stepped out of big brother's lengthy shadow.
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Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.