EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -Take away the final nine minutes of Sunday's 21-16 win over Chicago and quarterback Eli Manning was somewhere between average and awful.
Yet, as New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin is fond of saying, football is a bottom-line business, and Manning's performance on the final two drives saved the day and inched the Giants (8-4) closer to a playoff berth.
The question remains, though: Which Eli will show up this Sunday against Philadelphia, and the next? The quarterback who had nearly half as many turnovers (two) as completions (five) in the first half against the Bears? Or the one whose two fourth-quarter touchdown passes gave him seven this season, fourth in the NFL?
lin echoed it Monday.
``I think the big thing about yesterday was that, as we talked earlier in the week, it is not that a man gets knocked down, it is what he does after he gets back up,'' Coughlin said. ``We had the turnovers and we had a turnover which a lot of teams might not have been able to stand strong after, the third-and-one turnover, but our team has been able to do that. They do believe in each other.''
The turnover in question was an interception in the end zone by Chicago's Charles Tillman on a pass intended for Plaxico Burress at the end of the third quarter with the Giants trailing 16-7.
The mistake appeared to doom the Giants, who had generated little in the way of offense for much of the game. But Manning led two long scoring drives to secure his third fourth-quarter comeback of the season.
``We talk a lot about winning the fourth quarter and that is a big thing,'' Coughlin said. ``Our players have bought into that and believe in that and we were able to do it yesterday once again.''
It continued a trend dating back to 2005, Manning's first season as a starter. Many of those heroics were accomplished when New York used a no-huddle offense, and Manning demonstrated again on Sunday that he is comfortable with the accelerated tempo.
The strategy worked in two ways: It gave the Bears defense less time to adjust at the line of scrimmage, and it enabled the Giants to run the clock down. Their final two drives chewed up 20 plays and more than eight minutes.
``The situation was such where we had to have the two scores,'' Coughlin said. ``We went to the no-huddle with that in mind, knowing full well that we had practiced this circumstance, knowing full well that Eli does a good job with this. Eli certainly was in sync, he was in rhythm.''
While Manning took three quarters to hit his stride, the Giants defense played well throughout and essentially bailed out their mercurial quarterback. Twice they stopped the Bears in the red zone and forced Chicago to settle for field goals, and they sacked Rex Grossman on third down late in the fourth quarter to set up New York's final drive.
``There is no doubt that the energy and the way in which we played on defense has been a real inspiration for all three phases,'' Coughlin said. ``I think that if we can get something going on the offensive side of the ball, then we can utilize, again, another area of strength on our team.''
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