Eli Manning sat out the fourth quarter of last year's game against the Seahawks because the Giants had built a large enough lead. If he's required to play a full game when the two teams meet again Sunday, well, the Giants will be in good hands.
The Giants have two comeback wins this year, matching the total that they had in the last two seasons combined. A big reason is the play of Manning, particularly late in games.
Manning is having a solid start to his season overall, but it's the way he's finishing games that is most impressive. He leads the league with a fourth-quarter passer rating of 139.5, dwarfing the second-best mark held by Philip Rivers at 129.2.
In four fourth quarters this season, Manning has completed 29 of 38 passes (76.3 percent) for 353 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Take away the opening-week loss and Manning's fourth-quarter numbers in the last three weeks are 23-for-28 for 302 yards and four touchdowns.
"He's tough, he's hard-nosed, he hangs in there," Tom Coughlin said of his quarterback with the comeback knack. "He believes in himself and his teammates. This is something that we've worked on and directed an awful lot of attention toward from the neck up with our team, and the last two weeks, it's paid off."
The Giants certainly don't hope they need to rely on the continuation of those numbers Sunday. A nice, easy win is always appreciated. But if the game is close, the Giants again have a statistical advantage with Manning as their quarterback.
Since 2007, Manning has a 94.7 passer rating in games decided by eight or fewer points (essentially one-touchdown games). That's the fourth-best in the league during that span. In the same time frame, he's tied for second with the best winning percentage in those games decided by a touchdown or less. He's 19-7. So is Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, whose percentage was helped last week with a win over the Seahawks in a game in which Seattle came back to make it close but fell just short. The Giants hope they don't do the same "favor" for Manning Sunday.
There were plenty of times earlier this season when the Giants' offense did not seem to be proficient enough to put up the kinds of numbers it has this season. Manning, who had his worst statistical preseason since his rookie year, said it would take time for the unit to come together.
"I have great confidence in my players and our system," Manning said. "I knew we had good talent and we just needed guys to step up and I thought they could. I knew it wouldn't always be pretty but we would get better, and that is what we have done in every game. We have improved each game. We have made adjustments. There have been mistakes, but we have been intent on fixing things so they don't happen again."
That process continues.
"We still have a ways to go," Manning said. "We've done some good things and found ways to win games, which is great. When things aren't going well at times, we don't get frustrated, which is great. We would like to get off to a faster start in some of these games . . . There are definitely things to improve. We are not content with where we are now. We know we have to get better."