TODAY'S PAPER
29° Good Evening
29° Good Evening
SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Eli Manning's confidence is growing along with his new beard

If the Giants can beat the Bucs for their second consecutive win, maybe the 37-year-old quarterback won't pick up a razor for another week. 

Eli Manning tossed a season-high three touchdowns in

Eli Manning tossed a season-high three touchdowns in the Giants' 27-23 victory over the 49ers on Monday. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Ezra Shaw

The stubble on Eli Manning’s face qualifies as much more than just a few days’ growth, so might there be a little something extra going on with the quarterback’s decision to shun a razor during the Giants’ bye week?

Manning smiled when I asked him about whether not shaving was a way to change the vibe after a 1-7 start.

“Just happened,” he said of the facial hair. “But you get a win, you kind of keep everything, right?”

So, if the Giants beat the Bucs on Sunday as a follow-up to a 27-23 win over the 49ers, in which Manning had three touchdown passes for the first time last Dec. 17, the beard stays?

“Whatever might help,” he said. “I’m not superstitious, but I am a little ‘stitious.’ ”

The beard is a far cry from Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s bushy beard, but then again … “Maybe I can be like Fitzy in a few weeks,” Manning said.

If that’s the case, then the Giants most assuredly will have come out of the offensive funk that plagued them the first half of the season. Manning finally had a game Monday night befitting his stature as the greatest quarterback in franchise history, as he engineered his 36th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.

“I think there’s been signs of things clicking and good plays,” Manning said. “It’s just that we were able to eliminate the negative plays [against the 49ers].”

The most salient stat, other than the number of Manning’s touchdown throws: He was sacked only once after going down a whopping 31 times over the previous eight games. The addition of right guard Jamon Brown, claimed off waivers last week from the Rams, showed promising results right away.

“Only one sack, and it came on a third down,” Manning said. “We just didn’t have those negative plays on first and second down that really hurt us and got us into third-and-longs. We were able to hit a couple big plays, but also able to extend drives and score in the red zone.”

Manning hit Odell Beckham Jr. for two touchdown passes and found Sterling Shepard for the game-winner with less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter. On the 75-yard winning drive, he hit tight end Evan Engram, running back Saquon Barkley and then Shepard with the go-ahead score. Beckham didn’t have a catch on the drive, although he did draw a crucial pass-interference penalty.

“Everybody’s got an opportunity to get the ball,” he said. “We have playmakers.”

It was more proof that the Giants at least can move the ball, even if the results weren’t there the previous two months.

“It is encouraging for guys to get that confidence that we can win games,” Manning said. “We can come back from being down, get a two-minute drive to win a game when we need to do it, and guys can step up and make plays on offense, defense and special teams. Everybody contributed and played their part. It was a team victory.”

It also provided more evidence that Manning should continue heeding the advice given to him recently by older brother Peyton.

“He said keep throwing it,” Eli said. “Keep finding completions and moving it. He knows what it’s like to be in a new offense late in your career. It takes some time just to get on the same page and just to have everything start clicking.”

He hopes the clicking continues against the Bucs and beyond.

And that the beard stays.

New York Sports