Monday, December 12, 2011

Girl, Eli's Coming. You Better Hide.

I suppose that after last night's game I could have also given this entry the title of "I'm down with JPP", a common thread running on the twitters last night, but considering that I like Three Dog Night more than Naughty By Nature and that song is far more inappropriate -- and you all know how I'm a stickler for propriety -- I've made my bed and I'm sleeping in it. Also, to put it more finely, Jason Pierre-Paul has never been the object of scorn for not getting angry enough on the sidelines after a missed tackle. He's always been considered an athletic freak who is always a project that needs time to develop -- and has managed to develop much quicker than anticipated with room still to grow.

And don't get me wrong. JPP looks every bit the tremendous stud defensive end GM Jerry Reese envisioned when he was drafted and more. His athleticism is nearly unparalleled among men at his position, he had an almost obscenely good game last night and when he learns how to play the run he may very well be the best defensive end in the League.

But this is about Eli, a player who was dogged by criticism and unreasonable expectations throughout the beginning of his career and even after he led a stunning Super Bowl-winning drive -- perhaps too early because people assumed greatness had arrived when it was still marinating. But now, after his game-winning drive against New England earlier this season, and his near late-game rallies against San Francisco and Green Bay despite having little healthy talent to help him on both sides of the ball, and finally after last night, there can no longer be any doubt.

Eli has arrived -- and he is among the greats in the NFL.

As the Giants trailed Dallas by 12 points with less than four minutes to go last night at Jerry World with their season on the line, Manning led a late touchdown drive in the fourth quarter like he had done so many times before, and then after a tremendous three-and-out forced by JPP and the defense, he did it again. One drive went 80 yards and lasted 2:27. The second went 58 yards and lasted 81 seconds. And that drive might have ended sooner were it not for a dropped touchdown pass by Mario Manningham that was as perfectly thrown between a cornerback and a safety in a clutch situation as any pass could be. On the night he had two touchdowns, one interception off a tipped pass and 400 yards passing.

The fourth quarter, however, is where his true greatness lies. His numbers this season have been the best in the League in the game's final 15 minutes, and as you can see, he has displayed a preternatural calmness that allows him to perform remarkably well under late-game pressure throughout his career.

Last night's game was noteworthy for multiple reasons, the most obvious of which is that after a four-game losing streak that was potentially quite debilitating, the Giants are now in control of their own destiny for the NFC East crown. But it also had plenty of other moments of note such as Brandon Jacobs' shocking athleticism, and what might be the game that propelled Pierre-Paul onto the national stage by capping the win with a game-winning field goal block in addition to the other numerous big stops he made and a safety he recorded in the first quarter.

But Eli's performance at this point should be no surprise. He has done it time and time again, in this building, no less, where he has never lost and left a permanent mark after winning the first game ever played there. At this point, it's clear to even a moron that Eli is among the very best quarterbacks in the League. Last night's win, with two late touchdown drives while New York's season was on the line should solidify it for anyone who was still thinking otherwise.

Besides, even the Cowboys should be happy that Eli gave them a distraction from one of the more amusing anniversaries in Cowboys history. At the very least, with two of Eli's fourth quarter comebacks coming in Dallas' building, surely they are not going to be among the nonbelievers of his penchant for late-game coolness and heroics. And perhaps, if they are, they can get another lesson on the last Sunday if all goes well for Big Blue. The only difference is this time, the division title and a playoff berth is likely to be in the balance.

If it's close in the fourth quarter, I'll put my money on Eli.

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