Eli Manning's Ten Most Memorable Games

Patricia Traina

The Giants win over Miami in Week 15 meant little as it was against a Dolphins team going the same place as them: Nowhere.

Yet the game will go down in Giants franchise history as two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning's final start for Big Blue. Rookie Daniel Jones was back starting last week in Washington after missing two games with a high ankle sprain and he tossed five touchdown passes in New York's overtime victory.

So the Miami game was likely the finale of Manning's career with the Giants unless coach Pat Shurmur sends him in Sunday against the Eagles at MetLife Stadium for one last loud and long standing ovation that will last a lifetime. 

Manning has not yet said if he will try to play elsewhere in 2020. He will be 39 on Jan. 13 and has played 16 seasons and has taken a lot of pride in only wearing one uniform. If he is offered the opportunity to start elsewhere, it may be enticing, but he clearly is not interested in being another team's backup. 

Even if he is offered an opportunity where he can start and potentially win, will he take it? He has settled into his New Jersey community and has four young children. He may simply elect to stay put and retire.

As we await what's next, let's look back at Manning's memorable career with the Giants. In honor of his No. 10 jersey, here are his 10 most unforgettable moments, listed in chronological order, 

1. September 12, 2004: Eagles 31, Giants 17

They say you always remember your first experience, but no one could blame Manning if he chose to forget his regular-season NFL debut, which came against the Philadelphia Eagles on the road.

Manning, inserted for then starter Kurt Warner at the end of the fourth quarter for a series, finished with an unimpressive three of nine for 66 yards, but it was the final play which signaled the rookie, despite his “aw shucks” demeanor, was one tough hombre.

On the final play of that 31-17 Giants loss, Eagles defensive end Jerome McDougle gave Manning his “welcome to the NFL, kid” moment when he flattened him and forced a fumble. Manning would go on to take many more throughout his career, though arguably none as vicious as that one, yet he never missed a start due to injury.

In an interview with the NFL Network, Manning described the hit vividly:

“I got destroyed … right in the neck. It’s the biggest hit I’ve ever taken in my life. All I remember is (running back) Ron Dayne picked the ball up, he runs out of bounds and they just called the game. They said game over. Sounds good to me. Let’s go to the locker room.”

2. January 2, 2005: Giants 28, Dallas 24

Seven games into what would become a string of over 200 consecutive starts, the rookie quarterback recorded his first career win in a 28-24 decision over the Dallas Cowboys in the 2004 regular-season finale.

Manning went 18 of 27 for 144 yards but threw three touchdowns to one interception for a 101.5 rating.

For what it’s worth, that win was the first of a three-game winning streak for the then-youngster, that streak, of course, spilling over into the 2005 regular season, the Giants' first playoff-bound season in the Manning-Tom Coughlin era.

It was also the first of Manning’s 37 career game-winning drives in the regular season, the scoring drive ending on a three-yard touchdown run by Tiki Barber after a Manning audible.  He had lost his first six starts.

3. October 23, 2005: Giants 24, Denver 23

The highly favored Denver Broncos were riding a five-game winning streak when they visited Giants Stadium one windy autumn afternoon..

Manning was sill trying to win over the Giants faithful and suddenly looked like a franchise quarterback against Denver. He navigated the notorious swirling winds at the old Giants Stadium and put  he team on his back on the way to a thrilling 24-23 victory after falling behind 23-10 in the game’s final 15 minutes.

That game saw Manning record his second career game-winning drive, but it was the first to end on a touchdown pass, a two-yard toss to receiver Amani Toomer that Manning threw off his back foot with five seconds remaining to cap a 15-play, 83-yard drive.

That was the last game the Giants played before long-time patriarch Wellington Mara passed away.

4. September 17, 2006: Giants 30, Eagles 24 (OT)

Down 24-7 entering the fourth quarter, the man teammates have called "Easy E" due to his laid-back demeanor, never batted an eye as he led the Giants on a comeback for the ages, scoring 23 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and overtime to top their division rivals.

The scoring barrage against the Eagles got started when receiver Tim Carter recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown to make it 24-14.

Manning then found Toomer for a 22-yard touchdown with 3:28 left and kicker Jay Feely's 35-yard field goal with seven seconds left tied it up 24-24 to send the game into overtime.

After the Giants and Eagles swapped possessions, the Giants took over with 9:55 left on the clock, starting on their 15-yard line.

But just as it looked as though the drive was going to stall on a 3rd-and-11 from the Eagles' 31, Manning found receiver Plaxico Burress for a 31-yard touchdown pass, lobbing the ball up just as the Eagles pass rush was in his face.

That score was the second straight game-winning drive Manning engineered against the Eagles. It was also the Giants' first win of that season. They finished 8-8, but went to the second of four straight postseason berths in the Manning-Tom Coughlin era. They lost to the Eagles 23-20 in the wild card round.

5. September 23, 2007: Giants 24, Redskins 17

Dragging an 0-2 record into FedEx Field for a turning point game against things didn’t look very promising for the Giants, who fell behind 17-3 at the half.

Giant fans might remember the goal-line stand executed by the defense to end the game when they denied Washington the one yard they needed on their final drive. 

Before things got to that point, Manning and the Giants offense caught fire in the second half, scoring 21 unanswered points on three touchdowns, one of which was a 33-yard fourth-quarter pass from Manning to Burress which broke a 17-17 tie and gave the Giants the lead with 5:32.

Manning, who started 8-for-16 for 75 yards, finished 21-of-36 for 232 yards. The victory saved the season for the Giants and started a six-game winning streak. They ended 10-6 with some amazingly great things about to come in the playoffs.

6. February 3, 2008 (Super Bowl XLII): Giants 17, Patriots 14

Tom who? The NFC Wild Card Giants, according to their critics, had no business being in the postseason, let alone in the Super Bowl on the same field as the perfect New England Patriots and Tom Brady.

But Manning has never listened to the critics. So that February day on the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., Manning stood tallest of them all when it mattered most.

Without his great escape from the heavy New England pressure that resulted after the offensive line blew its assignment, there is no David Tyree “helmet catch” down the field.

But if the great escape wasn’t enough to get you fired up, then how about the 13-yard touchdown fade pass thrown to Burress with 35 seconds left, sealing the deal on one of the most improbable Super Bowl upsets in the game’s history.

That score was not only the game-winner, it was also the third game-winning drive executed in the postseason by Manning in his career, and the third of that particular postseason, the first of two Super Bowls wins in the Manning era. The victory prevented the Patriots from finishing off the first 19-0 season in NFL history and being remembered as the greatest single-season team.

The Giants 10-6 regular season record tied for worst-ever for a Super Bowl champion.

7. September 20, 2009: Giants 33, Dallas 31

Talk about putting one’s signature on a winning effort. Manning and the Giants had the honor of being the first NFL opponents to christen what today is known as AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex., affectionately known as “Jerry’s World.”

The Giants won at the buzzer on Lawrence Tynes’ 37-yard field goal. Manning finished 25-of-38 for 330 yards, and two touchdowns, and he was asked by a Cowboys staffer to sign a panel on the wall in the visitor’s locker room to acknowledge the first win in the new stadium - even if it was by a hated Cowboys rival.

As far as anyone knows, that panel is still a part of AT&T Stadium's decor.

8. December 11, 2011, Giants 37, Cowboys 34 

This Sunday night primetime matchup in Week 14 was one of the most underrated regular season games of the Giants’ 2011 championship season. If the Giants don’t win this game, they probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs.

All it took for the Giants to have a chance were a couple of late-game scoring drives engineered by Manning.

The first came with 5:41 left when Manning led an eight-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jake Ballard to make it Dallas 34, New York 29 with 3:19 left.

After the Giants’ defense got a stop, the offense had 1:29 left--an eternity for Manning. 

The quarterback drove his offense to the Cowboys’ one-yard line before running back Brandon Jacobs ran it in - halfback Danny Ware converted on the two-point attempt to give the Giants the 37-34 advantage - with 51 seconds remaining.

The game very nearly slipped away from the Giants as the Cowboys managed to drive down the field as time was expiring. However, with six seconds left, kicker Dan Bailey’s 47-yard field goal attempt was blocked by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, sealing the Giants win and a signature comeback by Manning.

9. January 22, 2012 (NFC Championship Game): Giants 20, 49ers 17 (OT)

In what was an epic battle between teams with a deep postseason history against one another, Manning survived a massive pummeling by the 49ers defense on a cold, rainy, and sloppy night.

The 49ers hit Manning 12 times and sacked him six times, the most Manning had been sacked and hit that year. Many of the hits were brutal.

By the end of the game, Manning’s uniform was grass and mud-stained - just like old-time football. For the second time in five seasons, Tynes kicked the Giants into the Super Bowl with an overtime field goal. The Giants won 20-17 to earn their fifth Super Bowl appearance.

Manning threw a postseason career high 58 passes, completing 32 for 316 yards and two touchdowns.

The only other time in which Manning had more pass attempts was when he went 38-of-63 on Dec. 22, 2016, in a 24-19 loss to the Eagles.

10. February 5, 2012 (Super Bowl XLVI), Giants 21, Patriots 17

After once again fighting their way into the Super Bowl, the Giants would get a rematch against the Patriots, who were determined to avenge Manning and the Giants for ruining their perfect season four years earlier.

Playing inside Lucas Oil Stadium, where his older brother Peyton had so many memorable moments , some of Peyton’s magic rubbed off on Eli, who finished 30-of-40 for 296 yards and one touchdown.

That magic emerged on the Giants’ final drive of the fourth quarter. Down 17-15, Manning and the Giants started at their 12-yard line.

With the Patriots intent on stopping receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, Patriots coach Bill Belichick is said to have instructed, “Make ’em go to Manningham” to his defense.

Manning went to Mario Manningham on the first play of the final drive, it was for a spectacular 38-yard sideline completion, with Manningham walking the tight rope to stay in bounds.

Manning finished off another last minute Super Bowl comeback when running back Ahmad Bradshaw scored from the six-yard line, unabated into the end zone, which left 57 seconds for Brady to win the game. Manning was aware Belichick had instructed his defense to let Bradshaw score as soon as he handed off, but Bradshaw  fell awkwardly into the end zone. The extra point gave New York a 21-17 lead.

In the end, Belichick's strategy didn't work as Brady's Hail Mary pass intended for tight end Aaron Hernandez was broken up by safety Kenny Phillips. The Giants broke the tie for the worst regular season record by a Super Bowl champion and now stand alone.

Manning became just the fifth player with multiple Super Bowl MVP trophies.