Eli Manning’s day began with the future creeping up on him.
Rookie Kyle Lauletta was named the backup quarterback Sunday for the first time this season, a step that foreshadows the possibility of Manning being replaced at some point. After a poorly played first half, it seemed as if such a change could be warranted and maybe even imminent. Manning completed 7 of 17 passes for 73 yards and an interception and had a passer rating of 29.8.
The drumbeat for Lauletta to play was practically audible at MetLife Stadium.
Then the Giants opened the second half with a touchdown pass. It was one of the most important for Manning’s status with the team this season, and he didn’t even throw it.
Neither did Lauletta. It was Odell Beckham Jr., who took a pitch from Manning and tossed a 49-yarder to Russell Shepard.
“I’ve never really been in that situation where someone else throws it and they are behind you,” Manning said of not knowing quite how to react. (He jumped in the air.)
That play gave the Giants the lead and was a key moment in their 30-27 overtime victory over the Bears. They are 4-8, and the win kept their minuscule hopes of winning the NFC East title alive for a little longer. Had they lost, they would have been eliminated from contention in that race.
At some point this season, the Giants want to see Lauletta on the field. But as long as there is a chance for them, it’s unlikely the Giants will have anyone but Manning at quarterback.
That’s not to say Sunday’s shuffling of the backup quarterbacks was insignificant. After having Alex Tanney there all season, coach Pat Shurmur said he made the switch to reward the rookie.
“Behind the scenes, he’s done a good job,” Shurmur said. “He’s made progress here during the season and it’s just the next step for him.”
It also brings him only one step away from playing.
“It only takes one play and you have to go in the game and play at a high level,” Lauletta said of being the No. 2. “I was ready to go and I’ll be ready to go moving forward.”
Shurmur gave no indication that he was even considering making a change based on Manning’s early play (he told Fox at halftime that barring injury, Manning would finish the game).
Manning rebounded somewhat in the second half. His final line was 19-for-35 for 170 yards and a touchdown. His passer rating was 65.2.
Lauletta said he never got a feeling that he might enter the game to replace Manning, other than for injury. “Eli is the guy,” Lauletta said.
And now Lauletta is the guy behind the guy, casting a shadow on Manning for the remaining four games of the season.
“I’ve been wanting to [put on the uniform] all season,” Lauletta said. “It’s a good feeling. I don’t know what will happen from here, but I’m going to keep preparing and get as ready as I can be each week in case I have to go in.”
For whatever reason that may be.