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4th-quarter king Eli Manning readies for Falcons

Eli Manning

Eli Manning Credit: Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants. (Getty Images)

If Sunday's NFC wild-card game against the Atlanta Falcons goes anything like so many of the Giants' games have this year, the fourth quarter could be quite interesting.

Not that they haven't been already for Eli Manning and his exciting corps of receivers, given his five comeback victories and NFL-record 15 fourth-quarter passes.

But do you know who the leader in fourth-quarter comebacks was last year?

None other than Matt Ryan, who brought the Falcons back from the brink four times in their 13 wins.

So Sunday will feature two quarterbacks with extensive comeback experience.

But Manning, based on his best statistical season yet, would appear to have the edge if the Giants head into the final quarter trailing and within striking distance.

And Atlanta coach Mike Smith knows it.

"They're very resilient," Smith said this week. "They bounce back throughout the game and it is obvious with the success the quarterback has had in the fourth quarter. It shows that not only do they have mental toughness, but physical toughness as well."

For the Giants, Manning's late-game comebacks against the Eagles, Cardinals, Dolphins, Patriots and Cowboys, as well as a fourth-quarter, tie-breaking field goal drive against Buffalo, give them a decided edge
over a Falcons squad that has struggled against the decent teams.

In fact, the only two winners the Falcons beat this year were Detroit and Tennessee. But Ryan, looking for his first playoff win, has a weapon down the stretch that the Giants don't: a Hall of Fame-bound tight end.

Ryan can always go to Tony Gonzalez, as he did in last year's comeback win over the Jets, in a pinch. And the Giants, who have struggled mightily against good pass-catching tight ends the past several seasons, could be helpless in a key situation against the greatest of them all.

Both quarterbacks' placid, business-like demeanor will help them in the fourth quarter. But this year, that period has belonged to Manning.And that should give him the edge over his younger counterpart.

"Without a doubt, he's up to that challenge or any challenge," Coughlin said.

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