And rightfully so. Manning has shown an ability to thrive late in games, when the pressure is at its highest, with the game-winning drive in Super Bowl XLII serving as the most famous example. Sunday’s win was the sixth fourth-quarter comeback for Manning this season, and his two fourth-quarter touchdowns brought him to 14, tying a single-season record that he’ll almost assuredly break in the final three games of the season.
It begs the question: Is Eli the best in the game when the fourth quarter rolls around?
One man who may oppose that notion is Tom Brady, the master of the fourth quarter comeback. Though Brady only has one comeback win this year (also against Dallas), Brady is listed as 10th all time on ProFootballReference with 24 comebacks and seventh all time with 33 game-winning drives. Though in recent years he’s become more impressive in terms of statistics, he built his reputation by delivering late in games and leading his team to victory, and he’s got three Super Bowl rings to show for it.
While both Brady and Manning have years of experience on their resumes, it’s the phenomenon known as Tim Tebow that’s gotten most football fans excited this season in the fourth quarter. Tebow is an incredible 7-1 this season, despite an unorthodox delivery and a million doubters, and he’s led the Broncos to five comeback wins. He’s thrown for 732 yards in the fourth quarter, which is 212 more yards than quarters 1-3 combined. Likewise, his six fourth-quarter touchdowns match his number of touchdowns thrown in quarters 1-3. Sure, he’s not much of a quarterback for the first 45 minutes, but if it’s a tight game, you don’t want to be facing Tebow.
With Peyton Manning on the shelf this year, the other two quarterbacks you might not want to face in the fourth quarter play their games in Pittsburgh and New Orleans. Ben Roethlisberger proved last week that he’s tough as nails, and his 20 career comebacks show he’s never out of a game. Drew Brees may have been somewhat of a late bloomer in terms of becoming a great NFL quarterback, but he has 19 career comebacks, including four in the Saints’ Super Bowl-winning season of 2009.
Aaron Rodgers may be the best quarterback playing right now, and as a result, he doesn’t find his team trailing in the fourth quarter too often. But chances are, you don’t want to see the NFL leader in touchdown passes driving down the field to win a game in the final minute (just ask Eli and the Giants).