EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—Barely more than a full season into his NFL career as a starting quarterback, Eli Manning is practically immune to fourth-quarter pressure.
Kept in check for most of three quarters by the Philadelphia Eagles, Manning threw two of his three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, including a 61-yarder to Plaxico Burress that helped the Giants pull away to a 27-17 victory Sunday.
The play followed a familiar script for Manning and the Giants this season. Against Dallas and Minnesota he threw touchdown passes in the final minutes to tie games New York eventually lost. In between, he threw a winning touchdown pass against Denver in the final seconds.
Entering Sunday, Manning was the 22nd-rated passer in the NFL, but was 13th in fourth-quarter passing, with a completion percentage nearly seven points higher than his overall percentage.
Sunday’s pass to Burress came with the Giants leading 20-17, but it was just as important for a team that hadn’t defeated its NFC East nemesis in the last four meetings. The victory also helped the Giants (7-3) surpass their 2004 win total and remain tied atop the division with Dallas, which defeated Detroit.
“After the first three quarters, you have a feel for what a team is doing,” said Manning. “It seems like once we get into the fourth quarter, we realize we’ve got to step up and make the plays.”
With third-string quarterback Mike McMahon playing a gutsy game in place of injured Donovan McNabb, the Eagles (4-6) trailed 20-17 in the fourth quarter after McMahon’s 1-yard touchdown run. Earlier in the drive, he juked and jived a la McNabb on a 12-yard run on third down to keep the drive alive, leaving several Giants defenders clutching at air.
Then Manning and Burress went to work. On third-and-2 at the Giants 39, Burress gave a hitch-and-go move to Sheldon Brown, and when the cornerback fell for it Manning lofted a pass to the streaking Burress. He outran Brown to the end zone with 5:24 left.
“That was improvised,” said Manning. “If (Plaxico) feels like that guy’s driving on him and I can see it also, I’m going to throw a hitch. He did a good job of adjusting and running by him when the guy was cheating.”
Manning finished 17-of-26 for 218 yards and also threw touchdown passes of 1 yard each to Amani Toomer and Jeremy Shockey. Toomer’s touchdown in the second quarter was set up when David Tyree blocked Reggie Hodges’ punt at the Eagles 1. After three runs for no gain by Brandon Jacobs, Manning faked to Tiki Barber and found Toomer in the back of the end zone.
McMahon, who hadn’t started an NFL game since the 2002 season when he was with Detroit, was 18-of-39 for 298 yards and threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Brown in the third quarter. But he wasted a key down later in the quarter when he fumbled the snap at the Giants 1 after an interference call on Giants cornerback Curtis Deloatch in the end zone.
Giants P Jeff Feagles appeared in his 282nd consecutive game, tying former Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Jim Marshall for the NFL record. … Eagles CB Lito Sheppard left with a high left ankle sprain in the third while breaking up a pass to Burress … Toomer’s first catch of the game made him the first Giant in history with 500 receptions. Barber also reached 500 with two catches … The Giants became the third NFL team in history with 600 victories, behind Chicago (667 after beating Carolina Sunday) and Green Bay (638) … Giants C Shaun O’Hara (ankle sprain) and T Luke Petitgout (knee) finished the game on the sideline. … The Giants wore patches bearing a logo reading “WTM PRT” in honor of co-owners Wellington T. Mara and Preston Robert Tisch, who died within three weeks of each other.