Count the Cold, Hard Football Facts among the newest members of the Eli Manning fan club.
Maybe we're a little late to the party. But if you saw it coming, let us know and count yourself among the gridiron gifted.
Manning had literally showed nothing through the first four years of his career. In fact, he was bordering on bust, at least for a No. 1 overall draft pick. His TD to INT ratio sucked. His completion percentage sucked. His passer rating was so bad we thought they were going to send it straight to DVD.
He was playing in the shadows of his dad, Archie, and his older brother, 2006 Super Bowl champion Peyton.
No longer. His underdog Giants topped the undefeated Patriots, 17-14, in Super Bowl XLII, and Manning was arguably the biggest reason for the biggest upset in Super Bowl history.
His final numbers were hardly Montana-esque: 19 of 34 (55.9%) for 255 yards, 7.5 YPA, 2 TD, 1 INT and 87.3 paser rating.
But his performance in the clutch was Montana-esque. And in the NFL - as we saw with Tom Brady this season - putting up big numbers all season often doesn't matter.
But putting up key numbers when they count usually mean everything.
And this performance stands as the signature moment in the long, storied history of the First Family of Football. Sure, older brother Peyton won the Super Bowl, and the Super Bowl MVP award last year. Sure he's put up dizzying, record-setting numbers in his career. But he, and few other quarterbacks, never had a moment like Eli did Sunday night.
Over the last four games of New York's improbable 2007 playoff run he transformed himself into a champion quarterback who played champion ball in the biggest games of the 2007 season.
His Giants are just the third team in Super Bowl Era history to win three straight road games. His Giants pulled off the biggest upset in Super Bowl Era history, knocking off the 18-0 (now 18-1, no title) Patriots. His Giants overcame opponents who were a combined 51-13 in the regular season – arguably the toughest postseason schedule in history.
And, standing at his own 17 with a four-point deficit and fewer than 3 minutes to play, he orchestrated a game-winning drive that will be remembered as one of the greatest in Super Bowl history.
The play of the drive, and the game, came on 3rd and 5 at his own 44, when Manning magically escaped New England's rush and connected with David Tyree for 32 yards. The receiver snared the ball on the top of his helmet, yet somehow held on as he fell to the ground.
Four plays later, Manning lofted a Super Bowl-winning 13-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress.
It is the career-making moment for Manning. He outdueled New England's Tom Brady – labeled by some over the past few weeks as perhaps the greatest quarterback in history. He emerged from the shadow of his older brother – and last year's Super Bowl champion – Peyton.
And he walked off the field a Super Bowl champion after a season in which nobody saw it coming.