Gregg Rosenthal

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Unstoppable Eli

Friday, February 03, 2012

How did he see that?


I’m an unabashed Jay Cutler fan because he has a knack for making “wow” throws. When he’s rolling, Cutler is the king of completing low-percentage throws. 


Eli Manning wears the crown this year. Manning forced me to press rewind and the slow motion buttons on my TiVo all season. I have to watch twice to make sure what happened.  I’m not the only one.


“Sometimes you think: How did he get that in there?” tight end Jake Ballard said of watching Manning on film. “How did he see that?”


Manning makes for good television. I’m as surprised as anyone, but the tape doesn’t lie. If he had a different name on his jersey, announcers would call him a “gunslinger.” Or say things like “THIS guy has no conscience pulling the trigger.”


“That’s just Eli trusting his receiver to make a big play. I hope people keep questioning his, uh, eliteness,” Ballard said. “Because he’ll keep playing better and better.”


“It comes down to a fraction of a second, a decision that [Eli] makes,” Sullivan told me. “He’s the one that knows. While he has made some of those tight throws, he’s also been very smart about when to throw it away.”


Manning uncovered an innate ability to know when to let it fly, when to take a sack, and when to throw it away. It’s no coincidence he’s taken more sacks this year, while his interceptions are down. Manning’s offensive line is in a “transitional process” to put it nicely.  (They “suck pretty bad” to put it in words Tom Brady can understand.)


That’s what makes this Giants run even more remarkable. Football success usually starts up front, but Eli ignores the mess in front of him while continuing to look downfield.  




Eli Manning’s old commercial for Citizen watches always used to crack me up.


“Unstoppable . . . Eli Manning is,” the ad said.


It looks prescient in retrospect. Manning shined when it mattered most throughout 2011, easily his best NFL season. He set a record with 15 fourth quarter touchdowns. He led the league in third down yardage and yards-per-attempt. Manning completed five straight third-and-longs against Atlanta. He’s at his best under the most pressure.


“I think pressure is something you feel when you’re unprepared. I’ve been very prepared for each game,” Manning said.


Perhaps Manning remains a streaky quarterback. It’s more likely that he reached the sweet spot of his career where experience and talent meet.


“Ideally, everything would be on perfect timing, guys are open, offensive line is blocking perfectly and that’s when life’s good,” Manning said Wednesday. “Sometimes you have to work a little harder.”


I disagree with Manning here. Life is good when Eli’s offensive line is struggling, when his timing is a little off, and when a defender is closing in.


That’s when Eli does his best work.

Gregg Rosenthal has directed Rotoworld's football content since 2003. He co-hosts the NBC Fantasy Fix and covers the NFL for and Catch him on Twitter.
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