Eli Manning is undeniably the greatest and most successful quarterback in New York Giants history. The 38-year-old native of New Orleans, Louisiana is in his 16th season with the franchise and is its all-time leader in passing yards (56,287), touchdowns (361), and regular season wins (116).
In addition, Manning is a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback and two-time Super Bowl champion. He was also named Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2016 for his off-the-field humanitarian and philanthropic contributions. Below are the top five moments in the career of the first overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.
1. Week 15 Breakout Performance in Rookie Season
Despite his impressive accolades on and off the field, Manning had a rough start to his NFL career. Initially serving as the backup to Kurt Warner, he was thrust into the starting role midway through the season after Warner struggled. The personnel change did little to help the Giants’ fortunes as the team lost its first four games with Manning under center. In one particularly bad outing, he completed only four of 18 pass attempts for 27 yards and two interceptions.
In Week 15, Manning and the Giants went up against the 12-1 Pittsburgh Steelers led by fellow rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who went on to win Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year that season. While the Steelers won the game as expected, the final score of 33-30 (and Manning’s performance) was stunning to say the least.
The rookie quarterback completed 16 of 23 passes and threw two touchdowns. He threw a late-game interception, but it was a controversial play that could have just as easily been called defensive pass interference. Manning went on to have much better single-game performances, but this game finally highlighted why he was selected first overall in the previous draft.
2. Super Bowl XLII
After finishing with a win-loss record of 1-6 as a starting quarterback in his rookie season, Manning led the Giants to a record of 11-5 the following season and participated in his first playoff game. Two years later, in 2007, he guided New York to the playoffs and helped the team secure victories over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (24-14), Dallas Cowboys (21-17), and Green Bay Packers (23-20), before meeting the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
New England was the overwhelming favorite entering the game; the team had not lost a game all season long and was attempting to become the first team to complete a perfect season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. The Patriots led by a score of 14-10 with less than three minutes remaining when Manning completed what is now one of the most iconic catches in NFL history.
After escaping multiple sacks from Patriot defenders on 3rd-and-5, he completed a 40-yard pass to David Tyree, who leaped up and secured the ball with support from his helmet. The Giants eventually scored a touchdown, and Manning earned his first of two Super Bowl rings.
3. 2011 NFC Championship Game
In 2011, Manning was poised to reach the Super Bowl for the second time in his career, but came up against a formidable San Francisco 49ers team in the NFC Championship game. Playing in cold and rainy conditions, Manning completed 32 of 58 passes for 316 yards with a pair of touchdowns as the Giants secured a 20-17 victory in overtime.
The most impressive aspect of Manning’s performance in that game is the fact he didn’t turn over the ball. He had 16 interceptions that season, while the 49ers’ defensive backs recorded a league-best 22 interceptions. The win advanced the Giants to Super Bowl XLVI, where the team once again met the Patriots.
4. Super Bowl XLVI
Super Bowl XLVI mirrored Super Bowl XLII in that the Patriots held a slight edge late in the game and Manning once again completed a game-winning touchdown drive to win the game for the Giants. This time, New York trailed 17-15 with less than four minutes remaining and possession at its own 12-yard line.
While the game-winning touchdown was recorded on a six-yard score by running back Ahmad Bradshaw, it was Manning who connected with receiver Mario Manningham for a 38-yard pickup several plays earlier to keep the drive going. The flawless throw remains one of the highlights of his career. Manning finished the game with 30 pass completions for 296 yards and one touchdown.
5. 6-Touchdown Game Against the Saints
Manning has only played in one playoff game since the Super Bowl victory in 2011. However, he has had his share of memorable regular season performances, one of which came in 2015 against the New Orleans Saints.
Manning threw for a career-best six touchdowns in that game to go along with 350 passing yards on 30 completions. Unfortunately, the Giants lost the game 52-49 as Drew Brees threw for seven touchdowns to tie an NFL record. The two quarterbacks combined to record the most passing touchdowns in a single game.