CHICAGO -- For more than three quarters Sunday, it looked like déjà vu all over again for the New York Giants. Another season was on the verge of imploding in the second half of the year.
But then came a fourth-quarter rally, two late touchdown drives, a 21-16 victory over the Chicago Bears -- and all of a sudden, New York is two games ahead in the race for the first wild-card playoff spot in the NFC. The turnaround was as dramatic as it was unexpected.
|Eli Manning forgets his bad start and leads the Giants to a huge victory. (US Presswire)|
Well, perhaps it was a little less spiritual than that.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Bears led 16-7. New York had been sloppy with four lost turnovers (to none for Chicago), including two interceptions and a lost fumble by quarterback Eli Manning. His passes were going high, low and behind receivers, everywhere but into their hands; at one point he was 9-of-18 and his passer rating was below 40. At that point, however, Manning got the Giants back in the game with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer on a third down with 6:54 remaining, capping a 75-yard drive.
Then, he hit all five passes he attempted on the final drive, which covered 77 yards and ended with Reuben Droughns scoring on a 2-yard run with 1:33 remaining.
"Eli was very, very good in those drives at the end," Coughlin said.
No team needed a late-season comeback victory more than the Giants, and no quarterback needed it more than Manning. In three of the last four years, New York saw promising seasons collapse in the second half. Since 2003, the Giants are 27-13 in the first half of the season and, going into Sunday, were 9-26 in the second half. And Manning was coming off the worst game of his four-year career, a four-interception debacle against Minnesota, which returned three of them for touchdowns.
"Just for our confidence, this was a big boost, after the blow we took to our confidence last week," said center Shaun O'Hara.
That goes for the team as well as the quarterback.
"I think it means an awful lot. The way in which we won and the way in which (Manning) played down the stretch, makes a significant statement about him and his ability," Coughlin said.
Manning endured the longest week of his career, with even general manager Jerry Reese piling on when he said Manning appeared "skittish" on the field. The context of his entire quote was softer than that, of course, but the single word is what got all the attention.
"He doesn't get frustrated," O'Hara said. "That was the Eli Manning we know. You can't take one bad game and stamp it on someone's chest."