x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

The past is history for Eli Manning

The New York Giants quarterback became a star against the Green Bay Packers in 2008, but his focus is on Monday's play-offs game against the same opponents.

Eli Manning, the Giants quarterback, has received plenty of praise, including from Aaron Rodgers, his counterpart at the Packers.
Eli Manning, the Giants quarterback, has received plenty of praise, including from Aaron Rodgers, his counterpart at the Packers.

The cold was so bitter that fingers could not feel the ball. An experienced opponent led by an all-time great quarterback, playing on the tundra of Lambeau Field, as intimidating as any venue in the NFL.

Eli Manning simply shrugged - and delivered perhaps the best game of his life.

So what does the Giants' quarterback recall of that 23-20 overtime victory in Green Bay four years ago that lifted New York into the Super Bowl?

Plenty, for sure. The problem is, as the Giants return to Lambeau on Sunday for a divisional play-off match-up with the Packers, Manning has no interest in reliving that NFC championship game.

"I think this is a whole new situation," he said. "It's a new year, a new team, new players going against a new team."

Regardless of Manning's reticence to discuss that performance, it was the day he became Elite Eli. That he followed the victory over Brett Favre and the Packers with a stunning upset of the undefeated Patriots and Tom Brady in the Super Bowl adds flavour to the saga.

"His completion percentage for a day like that was incredible," Tom Coughlin, the coach, said of the minus-30°C temperatures at Lambeau, "and the way he played. But that was '07 and this is 2011."

And in 2011, Manning had his best professional season, setting a league mark with 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes, surpassing the record set by John Unitas and some other quarterback named Peyton.

He was instrumental in leading the Giants to a 6-2 start and, after a four-game slump endangered their play-off chances, wins in three of the final four games. Then he threw for three TDs in a 24-2 rout of Atlanta in the wild-card round.

Now, it is back to Green Bay.

"It's definitely exciting. This is fun, though," Manning said. "It's not a situation where you say, 'Hey, it's play-off time, let's get all tensed up and serious.' It's a time to be yourself.

"It is, obviously, a big game. It's important, but you have to go out there with the attitude that you're going to enjoy this opportunity, you're going to have fun with it, you're going to take everything in.

"The only way to really have fun playing football is to play at a high level, to play to the best of your ability and make plays. Hopefully we can do that as a team."

The Packers, of course, have their own star quarterback and Super Bowl MVP in Aaron Rodgers, whose spectacular season has overshadowed Manning's.

As most NFL quarterbacks do in regards to each other, he appreciates Manning's numbers and skills.

"I don't know if it was Justin Tuck [the Giants defensive end], or one of those guys said, 'you can't spell elite without the e-l-i'," Rodgers said. "I thought that was pretty intelligent there.

"But he's played great, for the majority of his career, especially the last five, six years he's been at the top of his game. It's fun to watch. He throws the ball efficiently, he has good feel in the pocket, he's a winner, he's consistent. He's playing great, which makes it difficult for our defence. Offensively, you've got to expect them to play well and us to need to score some points."

The Packers needed to score lots of points, 38, in their December 4 victory at the Meadowlands, when the Giants scored 35. Rodgers led a late drive to a winning field goal after Manning rallied his team.

Their head-to-head match-up produced some superb numbers, including 347 yards passing and three touchdowns by Manning.

That compares well with his NFC title-game showing on that frigid day in January 2008: 21 for 40 for 251 yards, with no turnovers.

Well, Manning will not discuss any parallels. Instead, he talks about objectives for Sunday.

"It's just a matter of guys executing, guys knowing the game plan, going in there, looking forward to the opportunity that's ahead of us, getting excited about it and have the attitude that we're going to go in there and play great football. That's what we need to do to get a win," he said.

Told the forecast is not for anything resembling the Arctic conditions of four years ago, Manning would not play along.

"It was chilly. That's about all I remember," he said. "The weather I haven't really looked at this week. The last time we played there we were not concerned with it. I didn't talk about it. We didn't make it an issue. I don't think we'll make it an issue this year."

Divisional play-offs

New Orlean Saints at San Francisco 49ers, 1.30am on Sunday

Denver Broncos at New England Patriots, 5am on Sunday

Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens, 10pm on Sunday

New York Giants at Green Bay Packers, 1.30am on Monday