The Giants Flip a Coin and It Comes Up Eli Manning

Eli's first 300-yard game at home leads way to victory

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Nov 23, 2009  |  Updated 9:47 AM EDT
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The Giants Flip a Coin and It Comes Up Eli Manning

AP

Eli Manning passes against the Atlanta Falcons in the third quarter.

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What a difference a coin flip makes, huh?

Unless you're a member of defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan's family, there's no way you thought that the Giants could beat the Falcons in overtime if the Falcons got the ball first. The defense had given up drives of 18, 12 and 12 plays to allow the game to go to an extra period, and even the most optimistic Giants fans were accepting a fifth straight loss if Atlanta won the toss.

They didn't, though, and Eli Manning led the Giants downfield for the winning score. It was a fitting end to a day that featured a whole lot of Manning saving the Giants. He threw for 384 yards, the first time he's ever mastered the swirling Meadowlands winds well enough to result in a 300-yard game, and three touchdowns on a day when the running game didn't show up and the defense made only a cameo appearance. The Giants needed Manning to be great to keep their season alive, and that's just what he was.

He'll need to keep being great, because there doesn't seem to be much reason to hope that those other two phases are getting any better. The defense had two weeks to come up with answers for why they folded late against the Chargers and their only solution was to start collapsing earlier in the fourth quarter. That doesn't say much for defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan or for the players that make up the core of their defensive unit.

As for the running game, the culprit seems to be an offensive line that is nearing the end of the line. It's been a fine run and there are certainly still some fine individual parts, but years of wear and tear seem to have taken their toll on the five veterans up front for the Giants. They don't protect the passer as well as they once did, and they don't create the holes or the leverage they need to get the running game heading in the right direction. There's no way to turn back time and there aren't any young studs waiting in the wings, so the Giants are going to have to take what they get from the group going forward and find a way to make it work.

Those are the unhappy realities for the Giants, but Manning's performance allows them a chance to focus on other things for a few moments. It's funny that Manning was booed lustily after a first quarter interception, because, as much as any game in his career, Sunday showed that Manning is the franchise quarterback everyone wants him to be.

And those who were booing will need a lot more of the same if they want their team to see a 17th game this season, because Manning and a coin flip are the only things the Giants have going for them right now.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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