Eli Manning has shown ability to forget bad performances
Bob GlauberBob Glauber
Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He
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Eli Manning was coming off one of the worst performances of his career, a game that raised disturbing questions about whether he truly was a franchise quarterback capable of winning a championship.
Manning's meltdown included four interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns. Making matters even worse for him: His brother Peyton, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, was in the stands to watch after beating the Falcons earlier in the week.
A week later, things weren't going much better. In a road game against the Bears, Manning's first pass was intercepted by Brian Urlacher. Not long after that, he fumbled.
But with the season starting to slip away and the Giants facing their third loss in four games, a stretch that would have dropped them to 7-5, Manning put together a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback, throwing a touchdown pass to Amani Toomer and leading another touchdown drive to help the Giants to a 21-16 victory at Soldier Field.
It was perhaps the best example of how Manning can look so ineffective one game and summon the wherewithal to rally from the misfortune and lead his team to victory.
"I remember that was a crossroads game for us," Toomer said, recalling Manning's performance that day. "We had run off six wins in a row after starting 0-2, and you know at that point that your season is teetering. But that's when this team plays its best and that's when Eli plays his best."
The win over the Bears helped the Giants recover from their late-season wobble, and Manning went on to lead his team to the first of two Super Bowl championships.
He now hopes for a similar revival after another difficult performance in last week's 24-20 loss to the Steelers.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin has noticed an even more intense focus than usual from his quarterback this week.
"That's because he cares so much," Coughlin said. "Why wouldn't you? We lose a game, I lose a game. I haven't slept since the time I was in high school with that kind of stuff. You lose a game, it's your fault. That's the way you're raised. Eli's a guy that's very much interested in getting everything right the way it should be."
Last week, Manning was held to 125 passing yards, didn't throw a touchdown pass and had an interception. His 41.1 rating was his worst since the 2008 playoffs, although not quite as bad as the 33.8 rating from that Vikings game. It also was the third time in his last four games that he'd thrown for fewer than 200 yards.
Manning hopes to show an improved performance Sunday against the Bengals and continue the trend he has established throughout his career of successfully recovering from ineffective games.
Manning thought back to that Chicago game during the week and agreed that the backdrop, although not entirely similar to the one he faces now, was a prime example of his ability to move on after poor efforts.
"That was a good one, because even in the beginning of the Chicago game, it was pretty bad," Manning said. "But we got to the fourth quarter and made plays, got some big drives and were able to go down and score. That's football. Sometimes you have games where you're not quite on, but when you have a chance to win it in the fourth quarter, you do your job."
Manning had that chance against the Steelers but couldn't get it done in the final minutes, going three-and-out on his final possession, which concluded with a 9-yard sack and fumble.
And now it's on to the Bengals as Manning relies on his uncanny ability to move on from misfortune by forgetting what happened before and looking with confidence to what lies ahead.
"He's always had that ability," Toomer said. "He always comes back stronger when he's been down. His personality is the personality that the team has been taking on, the fact that when he's down and doesn't play well, he comes back with a big-time performance. That's something you either have or you don't. You can't teach it. I think that's why he's a special player."
The secret, Manning says, is selective memory. Or, better yet, no memory at all.
"You just forget about it," he said. "Get back to working, finding completions. As a quarterback, that's what it's all about -- completions, moving the ball, making good decisions. We always work hard as a group, continue to work smartly, have a great game plan and go out there and execute."
Sounds simple. But in a league in which quarterback play usually determines winners and losers, it's not always easy. A QB can have all the talent in the world, but if he doesn't have the ability to deal with negative situations without losing his confidence, he will not win championships like Manning and the NFL's other great quarterbacks.
Toomer's right. You either have it or you don't, and Manning has it. That's why the chances are good that he'll rebound from last week's game with a more effective performance against the Bengals.
At least that's his hope.
"We have an opportunity to get that bad taste out of our mouth," he said, "go back and play football at a high level. After each loss, we've responded well, coming back with wins, playing better football. We have to do the same thing this time."