Eli Manning retired with more parades down the Canyon of Heroes than he had playoff wins at the Meadowlands.
It’s one of the real oddities of Manning’s 16-year career with the Giants that he won just one playoff game at home. And it’s even more unusual that victory — 24-2 over the Falcons in an NFC wild-card game on Jan. 8, 2012 — might be his most forgotten big game because of the brilliance he displayed on the road in later playoff rounds and in both of his Super Bowl wins.
The Falcons and Matt Ryan, the same quarterback who lost to Manning that day, return to town Sunday as a fitting opponent for the Giants on the day Manning’s No. 10 is retired and he is inducted into the franchise’s Ring of Honor.
“I think it is strange,” Manning admitted of his one home playoff win. “I remember that one very well. It’s ingrained in the mind and just the feeling of the crowd and of the fans and everyone there. Obviously, we would have liked to have more wins at home during playoffs, but the ones on the road were still pretty special with our teammates and those fans that traveled there for them.”
Manning completed 23-of-32 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions to beat the Falcons. That came after home playoff losses in the 2005 season to the Panthers and in the 2008 season to the Eagles — the only time Manning’s Giants received a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The wild-card win over Atlanta didn’t start off well: Manning was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, handing the Falcons a 2-0 lead. But it ended with a bang when Manning dropped a beautiful 27-yard touchdown pass into the arms of Mario Manningham. In between, Manning threw for two touchdowns to Hakeem Nicks, including a 72-yard catch-and-run on which it looked as if Nicks had been shot out of a cannon as he split the secondary.
“With what he did in the 2007 playoffs, when he was so clutch, you knew going into that game that he wasn’t going to be fazed,” Ryan told The Post. “He’s one of those players that the bigger the stage, the bigger the situation, the better he played. He certainly did that against us and throughout that whole playoff stretch.”
Manning jump-started the Giants’ win in a most unusual way: With a 14-yard scramble to convert a third down. Then Brandon Jacobs broke off a 34-yard run, Manning threw his first touchdown pass to Nicks from 4 yards out and the Giants carried a 7-2 lead into halftime. Right guard Chris Snee still remembers the energy in the stadium and getting the run game going after “hearing how bad we were all year.”
“The previous two times we really missed out on opportunities we had with the home crowd,” said Snee, who was drafted in the same 2004 class as Manning and remains a close friend. “To come out and put a dominant effort forward … getting that first home playoff win but also sparking our playoff run at the same time was huge. It gave us such confidence going into the following week.”
Manning’s older brother, Peyton, had 10 home playoff wins, and other contemporaries Drew Brees (7), Ben Roethlisberger (6), Aaron Rodgers (6) and Philip Rivers (2) all have more home victories in the postseason. But the Giants and Manning forged an identity as road warriors.
“I don’t know why we always seemed to try to make it more difficult on ourselves than it had to be, but that was kind of our style,” Manning quipped. “We liked two-minute drives at the end of games to win, and I guess we just enjoyed creating the drama of football. And I think that’s what the fans wanted.”
The Falcons (10-6) had the better regular-season record, but the Giants (9-7) were home as NFC East winners. After beating the Falcons, they won at the Packers and at the 49ers before taking down the Patriots again in Super Bowl XLVI.
“Their defense was very good and one of the turning points was we had a couple third-and-1s and fourth-and-1s where we ran quarterback sneaks and got shut down,” Ryan said. “It was in high red-zone situations where we could’ve come away with points and it could’ve been a very different game. But I remember leaving that game and thinking that team was going to be tough for the remainder of the playoffs.”
Yes, they were.
Credit: Notigroup Newsroom.
[This article may have been written with information from various sources]