Eli Manning completed the 36th game-winning drive of his career Monday night in San Francisco, but it was just the second over his last two seasons.
Despite the 37-year-old’s recent decline, which has fueled talk about his benching and even retirement, at least a few key Giants players still believe in their quarterback.
“It frustrates me when people go at him,” said Sterling Shepard, who hauled in Manning’s third touchdown pass of the night in the final minute of their 27-23 victory over the 49ers. “I see that from the media, but you wouldn’t want a better guy with the ball in his hands. You saw what he did on that last drive. When we need him, he’s going to come through for us.” (ESPN)
Manning completed 19 of 31 pass attempts Monday for a season-low 188 yards. But it was the TD stat that mattered most: after finding Odell Beckham Jr. twice in the end zone earlier in the game, Manning led the Giants 75 yards downfield late in the fourth quarter to snap a five-game losing streak.
With the 49ers up by a field goal, Manning began the drive with a 31-yard pass to TE Evan Engram, getting past midfield. After a defensive pass interefence call on a 2nd-and-20, Manning completed a short pass to Saquon Barkley, who hurried out of bounds for a 23-yard gain. The QB followed up a short completion to Engram with a three-yard pass to a leaping Shepard in the left side of the end zone with the clock at 53 seconds.
“After we went and scored, I came back on the sideline and was like, ‘Man, you been doing this since I was like 12,'” Barkley said, per ESPN. “That’s Eli. When he’s in those moments, he’s a heck of a player. “When you’re around him you know why. When you’re young and you’re watching TV you’re like, ‘Wow. He’s just making those plays.’ But his craft that he works on. Such a smart player. Such a hard worker — on and off the field. In these positions he just thrives.”
With the help of an improved offensive line on Monday, Manning went 6-for-9 with 69 passing yards on the final drive to get the Giants to 2-7 on the season.