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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

For a moment, it was the Eli Manning of old

Giants quarterback Eli Manning drops back to pass

Giants quarterback Eli Manning drops back to pass against the Eagles defense at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday in Philadelphia. Credit: Getty Images/Al Bello

PHILADELPHIA

Abby Manning has seen her husband play dozens of times, maybe even hundreds of times. But there came a point in Eli Manning’s career when she opted not to attend road games against the Eagles.

“She came early on in my career, [but] she kind of said she’d never come back to a Philly game,” Manning said. “Fans can be kind of rough in there, but she had to break her rule and come to this one.”

This one may have been his last game at Lincoln Financial Field. Who knows? It may have been his last game, period.

“Well, I hadn’t played in three months, and you don’t know if I’m going to play again,” Manning said about Abby’s decision to attend Monday night’s game at the Linc. “I think it was pretty obvious why it was important.”

Manning put on a show in the first half, rekindling memories of his glory days with one of his best performances in quite some time. There was a 35-yard touchdown pass to rookie Darius Slayton early in the second quarter and a 55-yard touchdown pass to Slayton in the final seconds of the half, giving the Giants a 17-3 lead.

But in the end, he couldn’t summon the kind of football he’d been used to for so many years as the greatest quarterback in Giants history. There was no storybook ending, only more evidence that he is near the end of a career that someday might be capped by his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

After throwing for 179 yards in the first half, Manning had only 24 passing yards in the second, and the Giants’ offense was 0-for-6 on third downs, giving the Eagles a chance to get back in it. They tied the score with 1:53 remaining in regulation and won it, 23-17, on their first possession in overtime when Carson Wentz threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Ertz.

It was another bittersweet moment for Manning, 38, who has lasted 16 seasons with the Giants, more than any other player in franchise history. But it’s pretty obvious his ride is near the end, and Abby Manning’s willingness to be subjected to fans who can be as ruthless and mean-spirited as any in pro sports was further evidence that he won’t be playing much longer.

Also on hand for this one were older brother Peyton and Manning’s longtime agent, Tom Condon, who visited with the quarterback and his wife afterward outside the Giants’ locker room.

My sense is that Manning will spend this final month on the Giants’ roster and then call it a day. Of course, if the competitive flames continue to flicker and some team comes calling next year, he’d certainly consider the opportunity. But he always has had a good grasp of reality, and I don’t expect him to continue his NFL career if he believes there simply is not enough left in the tank to last another full season or two and play at a high enough level to warrant a starting job.

There’s no telling whether Daniel Jones will be ready for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins at MetLife Stadium, so there’s a chance that Giants fans will get to see Manning at least once more time in a home game.

He isn’t ready to say what comes next — at least not publicly. When asked after the game when he’ll decide about next year, he grinned and said, “Probably next year.”

He lamented the fact that he couldn’t continue in the second half what he’d started in the first against the Eagles.

“I missed the first throw [to Saquon Barkley], and it should have been an easy throw, but after that, I got things going a little bit and hit a couple completions and got the two-minute drive before the half, got into a little rhythm,” he said. “I thought that would have kept us going in the second half, but unfortunately, we couldn’t find it in the second half.”

After going up 17-3, he said he “felt good about what we were doing, in a rhythm, Saquon was running it well, offensive line was protecting well, guys were getting open, we had a good plan going. I thought we could keep it going. Obviously, it just didn’t carry over to the second half.”

The Eagles switched to more zone coverage in the second half, and Manning couldn’t adjust.

“We didn’t hit the big plays,” he said. “They were keeping things more in front of them. We just weren’t able to convert on third down. We just for whatever reason, we can’t put the game away. Today, that’s on us and the offense. We had a lot of opportunities to extend the lead and put it out of reach.”

For all the glory he gave the Giants in his best years, Manning became part of an unfortunate piece of history in this one. The Giants (2-11) have lost nine straight games, tied for the longest losing streak in club history.

“That’s not something you want to be a part of,” he said.

Endings are never easy, and Manning’s is no exception. This all points to his impending retirement, especially with the Giants’ investment in Jones. It’s simply a formality of when the decision comes from Manning himself.

And once it does, he will be celebrated for all the greatness he put forth and all the sweet memories he gave to the Giants for all these years.

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

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