He didn't have to, really. His play in the closing minutes of his team's 24-20 victory over Brady's Patriots had said enough.
After watching Brady drive his team 64 yards in just 1:27 for what looked to be the game-winning touchdown, Manning took the field at his own 20-yard line with just 1:21 left in regulation. Needing a field goal to tie and a touchdown to win, Manning completed two of his four passes for 47 yards, rushed for another 12 yards and threw a pass that drew a pass interference call on Patriots safety Sergio Brown.
After two failed attempts to score from the goal line, Manning dropped back and threw picture-perfect pass to Jake Ballard to give the Giants the lead with just 15 seconds left in the game.
When the celebration finally stopped, Manning had out-Brady'd Brady. Yet despite his statement in August in which he put himself in "the same class" as Brady, the 30-year-old Manning said he's not in the business of ranking the NFL's quarterbacks anymore.
"I'm just trying to play to the best of my ability," Manning, who finished the day with 250 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception, said. "I don't get involved in trying to rank somebody or compare myself to someone else. I'm trying to win games for the Giants, and we got a big win today."
When pressed further, Manning explained that the only opinions he considers are those of his coaches.
"I worry about how I play," he said. "I worry about what I think of my performance. I care about that. It's not gonna make a difference to me what the media or what the fan might say about me. I don't read the papers about myself or about the Giants for the most part. I don't watch TV about the Giants and see what people have to say about me or us. I watch the film closely of myself and of my teammates and try to put us in a situation to get better. I listen to our coaches and take their criticism and their advice to heart and try to improve on each thing they tell me to do."
Of course, game-winning drive aside, Manning certainly has some work to do. For the first 45 minutes of the game, he didn't look to be an elite quarterback by any means. He was just 12-for-26 (46 percent) for 157 yards, no touchdowns and a bad interception in the end zone that cost his team points and allowed the Patriots back into the game.
At that point, though, Manning's counterpart wasn't much better. Brady was 19-of-33 for 228 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a lost fumble through the first three quarters, but he was able to snap out of it to go 9-for-16 for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
Manning, though, was just a bit better. He went 8-for-13 for 93 yards and two touchdowns as well. His first was eerily similar to his Super Bowl-winning completion to Plaxico Burress, as it was a perfectly thrown ball to the back left corner of the end zone. This time it was Mario Manningham, not Burress, who came down with the go-ahead score.
After leading the Giants to what likely would have been the game-winning drive against most NFL teams, Manning had the unenviable task of trying to do it twice. And he did.
"When you've got Eli as the quarterback in a two-minute situation, I am confident all the way in and out," said running back Brandon Jacobs. "Eli has been a beast all season long. Ever since I've been in the league, on two-minute drives, he has been great."
Jacobs wasn't the only teammate to be happy to sing Manning's praises.
"I think he told all of the New York media that he was an elite quarterback, and he just continues to prove it," said defensive end Justin Tuck. "He was right when he said it."
In comparison to Brady's career, Manning has a long way to go. Namely, there are a couple of Super Bowls to win, a few more passing records to break and a good number of games to win. But that, for now, is out of Manning's control. All he could do Sunday was go out and back up those words he said in August.
He didn't want to talk about it, but he also couldn't get the smile off his face. He knew what he had just done was pretty special, and he knew more than anything else, he led his team to victory.
Plus, in the back of his mind, he might've been thinking about the bragging rights he now has when he talks to a certain older brother. Peyton Manning is 7-10 all time against the Patriots, but Eli will always have this:
Eli 2, Tom 1.
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