Eli Manning could see from his shotgun perch that the Chiefs were coming with an all-out blitz on fourth-and-5 from the Kansas City 36 and 2:12 left in sudden death. There was a risk going long for Roger Lewis Jr., but the Giants quarterback knew the advantage and the potential reward at the other end of a rainbow.
“I had Roger one on one,” Manning said. “Best way to get the ball up in time, and so give it a shot to make a play or get a pass interference.”
“I’m an undrafted guy,” Lewis said, “and I’ve got to make that play.”
Manning stood in against the blitz and Lewis made that play, a sensational sliding catch as cornerback Phillip Gaines interfered with him. The Giants had the ball at the 2. Two plays later, they had an Aldrick Rosas field goal and something to feel good about in a down year, a 12-9 upset win Sunday at MetLife Stadium, making them a 2-8 team.
It marked Manning’s 35th career game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime in the regular season. This game also marked his 209th consecutive regular-season start, so he passed brother Peyton for sole possession of second on the all-time list for quarterbacks behind Brett Favre’s 297.
“I always say that’s kind of a team effort,” Manning said. “Obviously, I need my guys to keep me upright, the offensive line over the years, running backs, the receivers getting open. So I want to be there for my teammates each and every week, be accountable. Obviously, you throw in some . . . good luck in there, as well. But I’m more excited about this win than that.”
It came at a time when there are doubts about the 36-year-old’s streak lasting through the end of the year and about his long-term future.
With this season already a lost cause, there have been questions about whether third-round pick Davis Webb will get a look. And with an expected high first-round pick coming, general manager Jerry Reese was seen Saturday night at the L.A. Coliseum, where USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen were throwing.
But Manning threw for 205 yards on this windy day and completed four passes on that winning drive without much in the way of proven receivers. Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris suffered season-ending injuries in Week 5. Sterling Shepard also got hurt that week, and now he is out with migraines.
Coach Ben McAdoo also acknowledged that it’s harder for Manning now. The offensive philosophy changed after the injuries. This time, Manning threw 35 times, completing 19, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. The Giants ran 32 times for 112 yards.
“He doesn’t get to throw the ball as much as he used to,” McAdoo said. “We like to run it over, establishing the run. So he doesn’t get a chance maybe to get in the type of rhythm that he’d like to get into in a ballgame.
“In that [last drive], we gave him the ball and we played it a little more aggressive, and he took advantage.”
The Giants posted McAdoo’s postgame locker-room speech on Twitter. He ended by calling over Manning to lead a final huddle and the players cheered loudly.
“We deserve this win,” Manning told them. “We deserve to feel this good.”
NFL quarterbacks with the most consecutive regular-season starts:
Starts Player, Team(s) Dates
1. 297 Brett Favre, GB-Jets-Minn.Sept. 27, 1992-Dec. 5, 2010
2. 209 Eli Manning, Giants Nov. 21, 2004-Active
3. 208 Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Sept. 6, 1998-Jan. 2, 2011
4. 186 Philip Rivers, San Diego Sept. 11, 2006-Active
5. 124 Matt Ryan, Atlanta Dec. 20, 2009-Active