Eagles will face a more controlled, confident Eli Manning

Eli Manning has thrown just five interceptions this year, leading the Giants to 7-1 record.
Eli Manning has thrown just five interceptions this year, leading the Giants to 7-1 record.
Posted: November 06, 2008

IT HAS BEEN 17 games since that ugly outing in the Meadowlands. Eli Manning, a fine gunslinger when he's slinging it to the right team, was awful.

He threw four touchdown passes that Nov. 25 afternoon - three of them, however, went to Vikings defenders as Minnesota rolled the Giants, 41-17.

Who could have predicted that 2 months later Manning would be hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy?

The Vikings game - and the loss to New England in the regular-season finale - seemed to change Manning.

The Giants paid a steep price to acquire the No. 1 overall pick in a 2004 draft-day trade with the Chargers. In the last year, he finally has provided stability at quarterback by putting his six shooter away and hanging up his holster. Rather than holding the ball too long or spraying it recklessly all over the field, Manning is more patient and more confident.

Including the unlikely four-game playoff run to last year's championship, Manning is 14-3 as a starter since that Nov. 25 game. He was 27-25 before it. He's not perfect, by any means, but he is different.

Eagles safety Quintin Mikell said Manning just appears to have "it," that indescribable quality that generally comes from winning.

"He seems like he's playing with a lot of confidence right now," Mikell said. "He's always made a lot of great throws, a lot of great plays. But now it's on a [more] consistent basis. He seems comfortable in the system, comfortable in the guys around him."

Giants coach Tom Coughlin also pointed to last year's regular-season finale when New York, 12-point underdogs, nearly prevented the Patriots from going 16-0. The Giants had wrapped up the fifth seed in the NFC and Coughlin easily could have rested his regulars. Instead, New England needed a fourth-quarter rally to fight off New York and win, 38-35. Big Blue is 11-1 since that one, including some sweet revenge of the Patriots in Super Bowl 42.

"Going through the playoffs last year was a tremendous experience for Eli, without a doubt. The amazing thing was that he did not turn it over except for the one [interception] in the Super Bowl," Coughlin said. "I think playing as well against the Patriots in our 16th game gave Eli and us great confidence and gave us the notion [that we could make a run]."

The Giants will come into Sunday night's game at the Linc sporting a 7-1 record smudged only by a loss at Cleveland in which Manning fired off three interceptions. He's tossed only two picks in New York's seven victories. Many of the lessons he learned at the end of 2007 are being put to use this season. Such as . . .

"Understanding the flow of the game and what's going on," Manning said. "If your defense is playing outstanding and doing a great job, you don't have to force things, force big plays.

"You have to try to control the clock with the run game and with the short passing game and take your shots when they are there. But just because they call a play that has a shot to go down the field, you don't have to force it. You can take your check-downs and just move the ball. It gives you a better shot to win games in the fourth quarter."

There is no greater example of that patience than the Giants' 33:27 average time of possession, which is second only to Baltimore. They have a horse running back in Brandon Jacobs and possession receiver Steve Smith leads the team in receptions.

It was 19th-century poet Oscar Wilde who said that "experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes." He probably wasn't talking about NFL quarterbacks, but the idea still prevails.

"Every game is a learning experience," Manning said. "Obviously, the Minnesota game was a bad game, but you learn that you put games behind you. You can't dwell on them and you can't dwell on your good ones, either."

Line of the day

Eagles safety Brian Dawkins, on the challenge of facing Jacobs, the 6-4, 264-pounder who is fifth in the NFL with 680 yards rushing: "He's a beast. He knows it . . . You know you have to bring your lunch with you. You have to bring everything that you have against him."

Giant disappointment

Super Bowl hero David Tyree was placed on injured reserve yesterday. It was the logical move, Coughlin said. Tyree had ankle surgery in the offseason and just wasn't able to get clearance from Giants' doctors to resume playing.

"If you take the emotions aside, the medical people were making the call how much further there would be before David could get on the field," Coughlin said. "It really became a question of whether we wanted to go along with the amount of time that was necessary to get him back."

The Giants had until yesterday to either activate Tyree, place him on season-ending IR or release him. The reserve wide receiver expressed optimism earlier in the week that he could contribute on special teams.

Tyree made the signature play of the Super Bowl win by cradling a Manning pass against his helmet while fighting off Patriots safety Rodney Harrison. Four plays later, Manning hit Plaxico Burress for the game-winning score. *

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