EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 6, 2012

Eli is better when it matters

On Pro Football
Hector Longo

INDIANAPOLIS - Tom Brady and Eli Manning now own the same number of Super Bowl MVP trophies.

Having watched every snap taken by Brady, and probably 75 percent of those by Eli, I never would have dreamed I'd be writing those words.

But it happened again here last night in Super Bowl XLVI. Manning dominated Brady in the fourth quarter on the biggest stage there is, coaxing the Giants to a thrilling 21-17 victory.

The bottom line is, in clutch situations, he has twice out-Brady-ed Brady. He's better when it counts, and that's an awfully bitter pill to swallow this not-so-Super Monday.

Manning again denied Brady a slingshot move past Joe Montana on the all-time greatest list. In the process, the "other Manning" inched closer to Brady and his big brother, Peyton.

Who knows, with two titles to one, he might have already passed big bro.

"I'm excited to win a championship, I'm excited for my teammates," said Manning, deflecting the individual attention like R2-D2's deflector shield had Luke Skywalker's back. "This isn't about one person. This is about a team coming together."

Six months ago, that thought would have been ludicrous.

But clearly, the Giants had chips on their shoulders because of the lack of respect for No. 10.

Asked about Eli after the win, bruiser Brandon Jacobs lashed out.

"I don't need to say anything about Eli. I shouldn't have to say anything about Eli," said Jacobs. "Two-hundred, twenty-eight countries just saw Eli. I don't have to say anything."

What the world saw was Manning win his second Super Bowl MVP by completing 30 of 40 passes for 296 yards with a TD and no picks.

He was patient, accepted what the Pats' cushy defense gave him and didn't force things.

When he fired a fastball a foot behind Jerod Mayo's helmet to Victor Cruz for that first-quarter TD, the Pats should have known they were in deep trouble with Manning.

His team understood.

"I never doubt Eli. I don't think anyone on this team doubts Eli," said cornerback Kenny Phillips. "He was the main reason we were in the position we were in today."

Look, is Manning a passing automaton like Brady, destined to throw for 4,500 yards and 40 TDs every season?

He did it in 2011 (4,933 passing yards, 29 TDs), but we just don't know if it will be an annual thing.

"We win two in the last four years, and he wins the MVP both times. He should be (MVP) for that last drive," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin. "We've had this goal of finish, finish, finish and win the fourth quarter. He's done it."