Little brother has arrived.
The only thing hot about Green Bay's Lambeau Field as Sunday afternoon turned to night was New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who orchestrated four flawless quarters in a 37-20 road win over the defending Super Bowl champion Packers. In upsetting the defending champs, he put up some big numbers completing 21 of 33 passes for 330 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. But in advancing to the NFC championship game, Manning made a statement that he is now among the elite quarterbacks of the game.
Suddenly, the New York Giants quarterback deserves to be named in the same company with Tom Brady, Drew Brees and the man he beat on Sunday, Aaron Rodgers, as the greatest of this current generation of quarterbacks. He has now sprung from that second-tier to legit stardom.
In doing so, he has now surpassed brother Peyton Manning in the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks. The playoffs are Eli's time to shine, where he boasts an all-time mark of 6-3.
"I think it is his mentality. It is his approach. Nobody sees what he does behind the scenes. He is a studier and a pounder. He is looking for every little advantage that he can get. He is just trying to be the best he can be to help this team win," head coach Tom Coughlin said.
"If we could all just remember that and use that. He loves playing against the best competition, but it is just all about doing the best for his team."
A season ago, he was berated by Giants fans for not showing enough emotions on the sidelines during a difficult 10-6 season. Now, it is considered remarkable how he never looks rattled, even as he leads a team that many thought in preseason would finish out of the playoffs.
With this playoff run Manning is finally justifying the No. 1 pick in the 2004 NFL draft, when the Giants sent Philip Rivers and a bevy of draft picks to acquire him. The move drew boos then, and raves now as the eighth-year quarterback has emerged as a bonafide star. The Super Bowl run of four years ago was credited to a Giants team and a defense that caught fire at the right time.
One look at the numbers Manning has put up this postseason show in his six touchdowns (with just one interception), a 67.7 completion percentage and a quarterback rating of 121.8 point instantly to one conclusion -- this is truly an elite quarterback.
As eye-poping as those numbers might be, what in part now makes him among the greatest at his position is that it has never really been about anything but the team in his eyes.
"I think we are always confident going into games. Guys understand the way to win football games against good teams. Our defense is playing great with pressure and turnovers," Eli said. "Our offense for the most part is protecting the ball and playing smart football. When we have a chance to make a big play we are making them."
And now, the biggest part of the Giants' "we" is Eli Manning.
Follow Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer