Thursday, April 16, 2015

2005 Giants vs Broncos

Week 7

The Setup

This is the first game review in the "modern" era, meaning the Coughlin/Manning period.  And I chose this game because it perfectly highlighted at a very early stage in Eli Manning's career who he really was an how he set himself apart from the other QBs of this generation, in that he has proven to be one of the most clutch, late game QBs to play and a cold blooded assassin with the game on the line, particularly against top competition.

Now, to appreciate Eli, you need to understand all the knocks on him, and we know there are several.  In no particular order, and not all encompassing, Eli has had some tough critics and criticism to overcome:

- The 2004 Draft:  Somewhat similar to John Elway back in 1983, when Elway did not want to play for the Baltimore Colts and the Irsay ownership, and he and his agent pulled a power play to force the Colts hand.  Elway used baseball, the Yankees in particular, as leverage against Baltimore.  In essence, his agent Marvin Demoff, and his father, San Jose St. Head football coach Jack Elway told the Colts, including new GM Ernie Accorsi, to trade him or else he would play for the Yankees.  Accorsi held to a high price tag to trade him, and when a trade didn't materialize, he was drafted.  Elway refused to play, prepared to play baseball and it was a few weeks later that Irsay worked out a deal to send him to Denver.  But that decision hurt Elway in the eyes of many NFL players and media and it was held against him, for most of his career.  In 2004, rather than having baseball to fall back on, Eli and his agents were able to utilize the NFL royalty of the Manning name.  From his father Archie to his brother, MVP Peyton, Eli had some big influence on his side.  The Chargers, owner of the first pick in 2004 wanted Eli, but Archie, concerned enough about the stability of the San Diego organization, and hearing first hand about it from former coach Marty Shottenheimer, didn't want Eli to go there and be subjected to the pains that he had to when he first started his career with the Saints.  So Manning pulled a power play, he didn't want to go to the Chargers, he wanted to go to a more stable team.  And sitting there, interested in him, was Ernie Accorsi, now the GM of the Giants.  Those on the message boards well remember insider hints posted by a new member named "gloveone" who in detail was talking about the machinations behind the scenes to force the Chargers to trade Eli's rights to the Giants.  As it would turn out, the Chargers would draft Eli, he would hold up the Charger jersey, but not smile, and not wear the hat, for pictures (as gloveone said he would).  A short while later, the Giants would draft Phillip Rivers (who they didn't want, but Chargers GM AJ Smith did), and the teams would agree to a trade a few hours later.  Eli would join the Giants.  And some players and media have held that grudge against him to this day, that he used his last name to force his way to where he wanted to go.  And in sports imitating real life, yes, that's pretty much what happened.  Some people have advantages and use them, and Eli did.

- Eli, even to this day with 2 Super Bowl Titles and 2 MVPs, will show up, as the fans say, as "Bad Eli".  "Bad Eli" is widely inaccurate and will make mistakes that you would expect from an undrafted rookie free agent in the Pre-Season.  You want a brain dead left handed heave over his head when he's under pressure, blindly throwing the ball downfield where anyone can get it?  "Bad Eli" will do that for you.  Yes, his receivers do bare a great deal of the blame, particularly when they would mess up the Kevin Gilbride open route system <cough>reubenrandle<cough> and leave Eli throwing to a spot where either no one is...or worse a defender.  2013 was the worst for this.  Eli threw an NFL high 27 INTs, he started the season with a pick on his first throw at Dallas, and his season ended due to an injury with a pick against Washington in a rain storm.  He threw 3 Pick 6's that year as well.  Interceptions are no stranger to Eli.  He led the NFL in most INTs thrown in a season 3 times (2007- 20, 2010- 25, 2013- 27).  In his first year in Ben McAdoo's offense, Eli would throw 14 picks, but 5 of them came in a horror show against the 49ers.

- Eli has taken heat for his overall presence in the huddle and as a leader.  Everyone knows the infamous shot that Tiki took at Eli back in 2007, after Tiki had retired, those comments have contributed to a continued overall disgust with Barber from Giants fans.  But even GM Jerry Reese called him out for his slumped shoulders and wanted to see more leadership.  While Eli has long since proven himself, every now and again, these traits will show up with him, particularly after a bad play.

- Perhaps within the "Bad Eli" category, you just see him now and again do clumsy things and look bad on the field.  Back in 2013, the Giants were playing the Vikings on a Monday Night, and Minnesota DE Jared Allen bullrushed Will Beatty and wrapped his arms around Eli and took him to the ground like a sheep and Eli had this doe eyed look on his face as it was happening.  Not very becoming.  He also had a horrific fumble against Philadelphia late in the game when he was diving forward on a scramble and clunked the ground and fumbled the ball.  Now, if he slid feet first, he's down and no fumble.  If he was touched as he was going down, the ground cannot cause a fumble and it's Giants' ball.  But he kind of stumbled and went down head first, hit the ground, fumbled, the Eagles recover and win.  Arrrrgggghhh!

- The Contract/$$-  First of all, this isn't about the average American (which I consider myself one), railing against the overpaid professional athlete.  That's a whole different and ultimately futile debate.  In the context of NFL salary caps, a player's salary is extremely impactful, since, essentially, the more you pay one guy, the less you can pay others.  That's the way it works.  Now NFL contracts, since all the money is not guarenteed, and there are tons of triggers and bonuses and renegotiations, so you can't take it all on face value.  Any way you slice it, Eli has been paid big money.  As the #1 pick in the 2004 Draft, Eli signed a 6 year, $54 million contract, that included a $20 million signing bonus, one of the highest ever given (behind the $34.5 million bonus his brother got from the Colts a few months prior).  So not bad money at all for a guy who was unproven at the NFL level and critics thought manipulated the draft.  Eli would get his 2nd contract, this time before the 2009 season.  At this stage, Eli had won a Super Bowl and made a Pro Bowl.  Not too bad.  The Giants rewarded him with a 6 year, $97.5 million deal, which made him one of the highest paid players in the NFL.  When you start getting into "highest paid player" categories, the scrutiny only gets worse.  Going into the 2015 season, Eli is in the last year of his contract.  The Giants seem ok letting him play it out, because they know they can franchise him after the season, essentially keeping him around 2 more years.  The Steelers already re-upped Ben Rothliesburger and the Chargers seem to be playing the same contract game with Phillip Rivers.  Eli will get another huge deal either way.  And that will continue to make him a target.

- "Elite Eli":  This whole thing is/was so stupid.  Generally speaking, throughout Eli's career, there are the Big Four QBs, who at various times jostle for position of #1.  But it's always the same four guys:  Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees.  Others might nudge their way in the conversation, but it's always those four.  Prior to the 2011 season, Eli did his weekly interview with Michael Kay on ESPN Radio (as an aside, though I'm a Yankee fan, I can't stand Kay).  Kay asked him a question that would become a flashpoint for the entire season.  In what Eli would later say in an interview with Letterman after the Super Bowl victory, the question annoyed him and really was a setup.  If he says no, then he looks like he doesn't have confidence.  If he says yes, then people kill him for thinking he was as good as the Big Four. So, he said yes.  And what followed was story line that lasted the whole season.   Now, let's be fair.  On a consistent, game in game out basis, year in year out basis.  Eli statistically is not in the same category as those four guys.  Are there other factors involved (ie- offensive system, surrounding talent, defensive competition, domes, etc).  But let's look at the following numbers put up by these 5 guys since 2008 (when Rodgers took over as a starter and when Eli had a championship under his belt):

  • Peyton Manning: 28,065 yards, 224 TDs, avg completion %: 67.5% * Missed 2010 season
  • Tom Brady: 26,812 yards, 195 TDs, avg completion %: 64.1% * Hurt in first half of 2008 opener and missed season
  • Drew Brees: 34,844 yards, 262 TDs, avg completion %: 68%
  • Aaron Rodgers: 28,249 yards, 225 TDs, avg completion %: 66% (missed 7 games in 2013)
  • Eli Manning: 28,370 yards, 182 TDs, avg completion %: 61% 
When you look at these numbers, and factoring in the time missed due to injury, Eli is pretty clearly behind the Big Four in these categories.  Brees was the only QB of the four not to miss a game (like Eli) and his numbers are significantly ahead (granted he plays in a dome at least 9 games a year and then in warm weather of Tampa and Carolina).  If Peyton and Brady were able to play their full seasons, their numbers would be closer in line with Brees.  Rodgers likely exceeds the 30,000 yardage passing mark if he gets that half a season back which he missed due to a broken collarbone.  Statistically speaking, Eli is a notch below.

So, those are all not so great things.  How is it that Eli is a 2 time Super Bowl Champion (and 2 MVPs)?  A guy who has been named to 3 Pro Bowls (more than Phil Simms), threw for 30 or more TDs in a season twice (something never done by Simms or Kerry Collins).  He has 6 games in which he's thrown for over 400 yards, including one over 500 yards.  He's thrown for 4 or more TDs in a game 10 times.  He's thrown for nearly 40,000 yards in his career and by the time he retires, Eli will own pretty much every NY Giant passing record.  

Impressive numbers.  But how is it that Eli has more championships than Peyton, Brees, and Rodgers, and beat Brady head to head in the Super Bowl twice, when they all have better stats?  Because Eli does something that great players need to do.  They play their best when the pressure is on.   Eli is one of the best when the game is on the line and particularly in the 4th quarter.  In 2011, Eli set an NFL record with 15 TD passes in the 4th quarter.  In his career, Eli has 26 4th quarter comeback victories, good for 10th all time in NFL history.  Better than his 2004 QB classmates Big Ben and Rivers.  Better than Brees.  Better than Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Dan Fouts, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, Bart Starr, Roger Staubach, and Joe Namath.  He is tied with a Hall of Famer in Warren Moon.  Perhaps nothing shows how good Eli is against the best than when you look at what he did in his Super Bowls.  Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are 4-0 in Super Bowls against teams who are not the Giants.  In their two Super Bowls against NY, they are 0-2.  In both cases, they lost a late lead to Eli who made two of the most memorable throws in NFL history (Tyree's helmet catch and Manningham's sideline catch).  And Eli only toppled an 18-0 team in the final seconds with his TD pass to Plaxico Burress.  

Eli is also physically tough.  In the 2007 season opener, Eli was involved in a shootout against Tony Romo and would throw for 312 yards and 4 TDs.  Late in the game he took a shot on his throwing arm and the word coming back from the doctors was that he might miss 4-6 weeks with the injury.  Eli started the next week against Green Bay.  The 2011 NFC Championship, at San Francisco in a misting rain and sloppy field, against the best defense in the NFC at the time, Eli took a beating.  He dragged himself off the carpet, with mud stains all over, and was in position to throw a 4th quarter TD to Manningham to take the lead.  Eli got beat up, but always got up.  

Ernie Accorsi, who was burned by Elway back in 1983, had a shot at Eli in 2004.  He famously wrote in his scouting report about Eli:

Throws the ball, takes the hit, gets right back up… Has courage and poise. In my opinion, most of all, he has that quality you can't define. Call it magic. As [former Baltimore Colts defensive back] Bobby Boyd told me once about Unitas, “Two things set him apart: his left testicle and his right testicle.”
For Giants fans, in 2005, the 3-2 Giants, coming off an OT loss at Dallas were taking on a red hot Denver Bronco team, who was 5-1, and winners of 5 straight.  Many felt that Denver was too talented for the young QB to handle.  But this was the first time that we as Giants fans saw flashes of the comebacks against top flight teams that would help mark the rest of his career.

The Game Highlights

Giants won toss and Denver kicked off with Todd Sauerbrun sending the ball to Willie Ponder, who took the it at the 3 yard line and brought it up the left side and followed his wedge (which was not yet outlawed) and was able to find a hole and accelerate all the way to the 39 yard line.  Eli led the Giants out on offense and began with a play action fake to Tiki Barber, and Eli slung a pass in to Plax on a come backer at the 47 yard line, for an 8 yard gain, tackled by DJ Williams.  2nd and 8, Tiki took the handoff running to his right, and pushed behind David Diehl and Shaun O’Hara for a first down, across the 49, stopped by Ian Gold.  Just as it looked like the Giants were going to continue on a nice start to their opening drive, disaster

A delayed handoff by Eli to Tiki, and he avoided Courtney Brown in the backfield for a loss, but cut his way back up the field where he was hit by Darrent Williams as he swooped over and forced the fumble, and the ball came back to Williams, where he recovered it at the Giants’ 46 yard line.  It was Tiki’s first fumble of the year.

So Denver began in great position and started with a delay to Mike Anderson, but he was smacked at the 45 by Osi Umenyiora for a 1 yard gain.  2nd and 9, a fake to Anderson and Jake Plummer rolled out to his right and for a moment looked to have time, but Michael Strahan chased him down and forced him to throw across his body over the middle to Stephen Alexander, who caught it at 44 yard line and was hit immediately by Carlos Emmons and he ripped the ball out for a would-be recovery, but the refs ruled that forward progress negated the turnover.  So 3rd and 8, Plummer back, with time, hit Alexander at the 34 yard line, in front of Will Allen and good for a first down.  First down, another fake to Anderson, but it did little to slow down Osi and Emmons, coming on the blitz and Plummer was forced to chuck a ball towards Nate Jackson, however it was tipped at the line and fluttered and fell incomplete.  2nd and 10, Plummer back, dropped off a screen to Tatum Bell, but Brett Alexander was there to tackle him for a 1 yard loss.  3rd and 11, Plummer back, set up another screen, dropping the ball off to Bell again, but again, the Giants read it well, with Emmons and Strahan tackling him for a 1 yard gain.  That brought on Jason Elam for a 49 yarder and we’d get some excitement

Elam at one time was one of the best kickers in the NFL with a great long leg (helped by the Denver atmosphere).  In 1998, he kicked a 63 yard field goal to tie Tom Dempsey’s record against Jacksonville.  By 2005 however, he was 35 and age started to show.  In this case, his 49 yarder barely made it there, and thunked off the back of the cross bar and the camera and over the goal posts, which counted 3 points just the same and gave the Broncos a 3-0 lead.

Sauerbrun’s kickoff was taken by Ponder 3 yards deep in the end zone, and he brought it out and pushed his way out to the 30 yard line.  Eli led the team back out and began with a pass to Toomer on an out route at the 40 where he made a diving catch.  A flag on the play was first mistakenly called a hold on the Giants, but it turned out to be defensive hold on Gerrard Warren and the Giants declined the penalty.  On the next play, Tiki flashed his big play ability

Tiki would show why the Giants had to keep giving him the ball, despite the fumble.  Eli would audible to a running play and handoff to Tiki running to his right.  Tiki would follow a good lead block by Jim Finn and cut up the field and bounce off 3 Broncos defenders and accelerate up the sidelines, all the way to the Broncos 25 yard line, knocked out of bounds by DJ Williams and a 34 yard gain.  So on first down, the Giants would fake a handoff to Derrick Ward up the gut and gave the ball to Tim Carter on an end around running to his right and got a great seal block by Kareem McKenzie and he took off up the sidelines to the 14 yard line, knocked out by Williams for another first down.   First down, Eli would trip coming out from behind center, but kept his balance and handed off to Tiki, this time running to his left, and he followed a great block by Pettitgout to cut up field and go all the way to the 8 yard line, before he was tripped up by Darrent Williams.  2nd and 4, an inside handoff to Barber got the ball out to near the 5 yard line, stopped by Gold, however a hold on McKenzie but the Giants back to the 18 yard line.  2nd and 14 and coming off a spell a week prior in Dallas where the Giants turned the ball over 3 times in the red zone in a loss...problem?

No problem.  Eli would fake the handoff to Barber and drop back, given just enough time to throw a deep shot in the left corner of the end zone.  Plaxico, at 6’5”+, was one on one with Pro Bowler Champ Bailey, but in this case, the size mismatch was too much.  Plax lept in the air and snagged Eli’s throw, stayed in bounds, and scored for the Giants.  An illegal contact penalty on Nick Fergeson was declined.  Jay Feely would boot through the extra point, to give the Giants a 7-3 lead with 7:02 to go in the first quarter and the Giants were grateful that Plax was able to play despite back spasms that hit him on the Friday before the game and left him questionable on the injury report.

Feely’s kickoff was very short, going to Darrent Williams at the 15, and he was able to evade a few Giants until he was cut down at the 31 by Ward.  Denver started with a handoff to Anderson right up the middle and went through a huge hole for a 9 yard gain, stopped by Nick Griesen.  2nd and 1, Denver went 3 TEs and handed off again to Anderson, who was actually met a yard in the backfield by Antonio Pierce, but Anderson got enough leverage to shove forward out to the 43 yard line and a first down.  Plummer took a short 3 step drop and threw to Rod Smith at the 50, who was able to lunge for 2 more yards out to the Giants 48 yard line, dragging Curtis DeLoatch for a 9 yard gain.  Again 2nd and 1, this time the Broncos went 4 WR, and again handed off to Anderson, and again he took it up the middle for a 4 yard gain and a first down, stopped by Pierce.  First down, a handoff to Tatum Bell running to his left was good for about 3 yards, tackled by Osi.  2nd and 7, the Broncos tried a play action fake and rollout to the left, however, Osi was already up the field and Plummer had to get rid of the ball and overthrew Stephen Alexander.  3rd and 7, Plummer under center, was under heavy pressure almost immediately from Osi and was hit as he threw, however, he found his TE Putzier open on a crossing pattern at the 38 yard line, Putzier would cut back as Gibril Wilson overran in pursuit and got to the 31 where he was tackled by Griesen and Strahan, but still another Bronco first down much to the dismay of Coughlin.  First down, Plummer threw a quick out to Ashley Lelie at the 26 yard line and the ball sailed a tad in the wind and was nearly picked off for what would have been a 70 yard + INT return by DeLoatch, who tipped it, and it was snagged by Lelie on the rebound and he was able to get it out to the 25 yard line and went out of bounds.  2nd and 4, perhaps spooked by that near turnover, a handoff went to Anderson up the middle for 2 yards, stopped by Strahan and Osi.  3rd and 2, the Broncos put Bell in motion to give an empty backfield, and Plummer had another 3 step drop and a quick slant inside to Bell, who had the ball knocked away by Griesen.  On came Elam from 42 yards out and this one wasn’t as exciting as his earlier one that hit the camera and the score was 7-6 Giants with 1:41 to go in the first quarter.

Sauerbrun came on to kickoff and Ponder never had a chance, as the ball sailed out the back of the end zone.  The Giants would start at the 20, and begin with a handoff to Tiki up the gut, who had no where to go and only gained a yard as he was swarmed by a group of Broncos.  2nd and 9, Eli back to throw with plenty of time, was able to connect with Jeremy Shockey who was wide open over the middle at the 25, and he turned up field and got all the way to the 37 where he was stopped by Furgeson and John Lynch, but easily good enough for a first down on a 16 yard gain.  The Giants would handoff to Tiki again, this time trying to run to the right, but there was no where to go, tackled for no gain by Lynch on the final play of the first quarter.  2nd and 10, Eli back, slung a pass over the middle to Shockey, but this time he was well covered, taken down by Foxworth and Gold at the 40.  3rd and 5, Eli in the gun, and the Broncos came on a blitz that was picked up and he tried to go deep to Shockey on an out route, but he was jostled as he tried to throw and the ball fell well short.  Jeff Feagles would come on to punt, boomed one towards the left corner and it was fielded by Williams at the 11 yard line and he was tackled immediately by DeLoatch after just a 2 yard return to the 13.

The Broncos would start their next drive with a play action fake to Anderson and Plummer rolled to the left, towards Osi again.  This time he was able to hold off Osi long enough to uncork a deep pass towards Smith, who had beaten DeLoatch and made a great grab at the 45 yard line and out of bounds at midfield for a 37 yard gain.  First down, Plummer back and again was under duress from Strahan, so he would dump the ball off to Putzier at the 47 yard line where he was smashed and knocked backwards by Pierce after just a 4 yard gain, and from the hit Putzier had to be helped off the field.  On 2nd and 6, Anderson was given a quick handoff and he found a lane on the right side and burst past the 2nd level and was tackled by Gibril Wilson and Will Allen at the 33 yard line but well beyond first down yardage.  Anderson would get the ball again on the next play and run to the left, where he was able to turn the corner to the 30 yard line, stopped by Pierce.  2nd and 7, with Bell in the backfield, and they handed off to him, but he found nowhere to go, stacked up in the middle by Strahan, Emmons, and William Joseph.  3rd and 7, the Broncos would end up losing 5 more yards on a false start, making it 3rd and 12 at the 35.  With another flag thrown on the next snap, Plummer had no time to set up in the pocket, which collapsed around him and he was sacked by Osi at the 39 yard line...however Osi lined up offsides, giving up the sack and giving the Broncos back their 5 yards.  So, back to 3rd and 7, the Broncos had seen enough of the Giants’ pass rush and handed off to Bell on a delayed draw to the left, where he went past Osi who gave up contain, but was stopped by Allen at the 26 on a great open field tackle, short of a first down.  On 4th and 2, the Broncos put their offense on the field but Mike Shanahan called time out to think it over.  He decided to keep Elam on the bench and send back out Plummer, and handed off to Anderson running to the right, where he cut past Emmons and Pierce missed him, and he was able to scoot out to the 18 yard line, where he was fallen on by Wilson, but the Broncos got the first down.  So the drive continued, Anderson the work horse took the run to the left, got past the line of scrimmage and was stopped by Pierce at the 11 yard line for a 6 yard gain.  2nd and 4, the Giants tried a run blitz, but didn’t get in the backfield, allowing Anderson to make a quick cut back over the middle and stopped again by Pierce after a 2 yard gain.  3rd and 2, Plummer faked the handoff, rolled to his left and had an easy completion to Putzier at the 11, and he took it up field, evaded a couple of Giants, and got it to the 6 yard line, stopped by Emmons and Brent Alexander but it was first and goal.  The Broncos began with a run up the middle to Anderson, but he only gained a yard, stopped by Strahan and Joseph.  2nd and goal at the 5, the Broncos faked an end around and handed off to Bell up the gut, stopped after only a yard by Emmons and Pierce.  However, the refs called a personal foul on Pierce for a facemask/helmet opening tackle and gave Denver a first down at the 2 yard line.  The Broncos would bring in the beef and cash in

In a pretty simple case of power football, Anderson took the handoff, plowed straight ahead past Emmons and Pierce where he barely crossed the plain for a TD.  After the play, Strahan got dinged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that would be enforced on the kickoff and Elam put through the extra point to make the score 13-7 Denver with 5:45 to go in the 2nd quarter capping a 13 play, 87 yard, 8:19 minute marathon drive.

Sauerbrun came on to kickoff again, this time with the shorter field thanks to the penalty, but he tried to get cute and pooch it in front of the return men to see if he can get a long onside kick.  But the ball squibbed out of bounds for a penalty and by rule, the Giants got the ball 30 yards from the spot of the kick, so they got it at the 25 yard line, not the 40.  Eli started with a playaction fake to Tiki, and he tried to dial up a deep bomb that was supposed to go to Tim Carter, but a delayed safety blitz by Lynch just got to Eli and he hit him as he threw it and the ball fluttered and fell incomplete in front of Darrent Williams.  2nd and 10, the handoff went to Tiki, who was grabbed and taken down by Gold after a 3 yard gain.  On 3rd and 7, Eli in the gun, and he was again hit on the pass by Warren, causing the ball to flutter towards Plaxico, where he tipped it and it was snagged by Lynch at the 50 for an interception.  However, a pass interference call on Gold (though it was really on Champ Bailey) and gave the Giants a first down at the 40.  Shanahan would throw the challenge flag saying the ball was tipped coming out of Eli’s hands, thus allowing interference and giving the Broncos an INT.  After going into the peep show booth, the ref Jeff Tripplett bumbled out an explination that Plaxico was interfered with before the ball was thrown, so whether it was tipped or not didn’t matter.  Challenge denied.  Denver loses a time out and left them with one more in the first half.  The Giants decided to calm things down and handed off to Tiki running to his right for a 2 yard gain.  2nd and 8, Eli would pump fake and stumble, but he would throw a dart to Plaxico at the 33 yard line where he beat Lynch down the sidelines, and he would take it all the way to 15 yard line, where he was shoestring tackled by Lynch.  Flags flew all over the field on the play and the refs’ caucus came out with a pass interference call on both Lynch and Plaxico, thus offsetting the big gain.  So still 2nd and 8, Eli back and threw a dart down the middle towards Shockey, but the pass sailed incomplete, and the refs would pick up another flag for no particular reason.  3rd and 8, Eli in the gun with Carter in motion, had time to throw, and Plaxico caught an in cut at the 43 yard line in front of Bailey for a would be first down, but another flag thrown would go against the Broncos, with a hold called on Bailey.  The refs ruled that Plaxico trapped the pass and it was incomplete so they accepted the 5 yard penalty and the first down.  However, after a deeper look, Coughlin challenged the play, saying that Plaxico had control and it was pulled out going to the ground and should have been a reception.  The refs ruled that Plaxico didn’t have control, the challenge denied and the Giants lost a time out, but still had the first down from the penalty.  After all that back and forth, Tiki took the handoff, tried to break to the right, but was tackled for no gain by Foxworth.  2nd and 10, Eli tried a hard count and ended up drawing a penalty on Kareem McKenzie and set them back to 2nd and 15.  Eli would fake the draw to Tiki, had time to throw and found Burress who had gotten wide open over the middle, catching it at the Broncos’ 40 behind the linebackers and took it out to the 34 yard line and slid down to avoid the hit and good for a first down and took the game to the 2 minute warning after a 23 yard gain.  As Eli would come to the field, he didn’t like what he saw and called a timeout right after the 2 minute warning, so they were down to 1 time out left.  Re-setting on first down, Eli did another play fake to Tiki and took a deep shot down the field trying to hit Shockey in a deep seam, but Eli got hit on the throw, and was lucky to not injure his knee on the hit by Demetrian Veal,  and the ball sailed out of the end zone.  2nd and 10, a quick screen to Barber didn’t work at all as Trevor Pryce ended up right in the way and knocked him down for no gain.  3rd and 10, the Broncos came on a blitz and Eli had Warren coming in on him and did one of his sadly patented chuck and turn/duck heaves that went out of bounds.  Feely came on to try a 52 yard attempt with 1:08 to go in the half and the Giants took a time out to think it over and Coughlin decided to let him kick.  Feely, who hadn’t missed on the season to this point, kept up his streak and converted on the 52 yarder to make the score 13-10 with 1:03 to go in the half.  

Feely would kickoff midway in the end zone and Williams thought about running it out, but was halted by his blocking team and took the touchback.  Denver came out at the 20, and Plummer began with a safe handoff to Anderson up the gut for a 4 yard gain stopped by Emmons.  Shanahan decided that it was best to get out of the half with no further damage, handed off again to Anderson, tackled a yard shy of the first and the Broncos wouldn’t run another play, going into the locker room leading 13-10 at halftime.

Feely would kickoff to start the second half, and this time his kick was much shorter, taken by Williams at the 10 yard line and he was able to burst all the way to the 40 where he was tackled by Wilson.  With great field position, Denver would start with a fake to Anderson, and Plummer found the fullback Kyle Johnson down the middle, beating Griesen for a huge 33 yard gain all the way to the Giants’ 26 yard line.  First down, the Broncos would go to the ground, Anderson would follow a huge hole on the left side, chug through the Giants defense and would get barely tripped up at the 4 yard line by Alexander, while Coughlin yelled from the sidelines in disgust at the defensive effort.  The Broncos would continue to make it look easy on the next play

A fake to Anderson held up the linebackers, Johnson came out of the backfield in the flat where he easily beat Pierce coming over to cover, for a text book pitch and catch TD as the frustrated Giants’ fans, who just got back to their seats after the half, booed the defensive effort.  Elam’s extra point made the score 20-10 with 13:26 to go in the third quarter after a 3 play, 60 yard drive in only 1:34 off the clock.

Sauerbrun’s kickoff was high and short into the wind and was taken by Ponder at the 15 yard line and he would get a nice return out to the 39 yard line.  Eli would start with another play fake and dropped back with plenty of time and found Tiki as a safety valve and Barber took it up the field for a 7 yard gain stopped by Williams.  2nd and 3, Eli in the gun, tried and inside draw to Tiki, but Pryce barged into the backfield to tackle him for a 3 yard loss.  Now 3rd and 6, Eli had pressure up the middle from Warren and Pryce, and he threw off his back foot in the direction of Shockey and was nearly picked off and fell incomplete.  Jeff Feagles on to punt, just avoided a block, and his punt was a beauty, a 50 yarder to the 7.  Williams fielded it with no fair catch and was hit immediately by David Tyree and pushed out of bounds.  

The Broncos, deep in their own end, the Giants hoped to keep them there.  No such luck.

Bell would run a sweep to the right and follow his pulling guard Matt Lepsis to the hole, Emmons would miss the tackle and Bell would take off down the sidelines until Alexander got the angle and took him down all the way to the 45 yard line, good for a 37 yard gain.  Denver would stay on the ground, give to Anderson up the gut, tackled by Pierce at the 48.  Plummer would try a deep shot to Rod Smith, who beat Allen on an out and up, but the ball was just thrown a yard out of reach (and Allen was lucky to not get called for a defensive hold).  On 3rd and 7, Plummer took another deep shot down the middle to Lelie, but the ball sailed over his head and was nearly picked by Alexander.  The Broncos had to punt and Saurbrun got off the kick, which was taken on a fair catch at the 12 by Chad Morton, however Denver had flipped field position.

The Giants would come out with a run to Tiki going to his right, but was strung out and pushed out of bounds after a 4 yard gain.  2nd and 6, Eli back on a play fake, and had some time to throw and tried to go for Toomer on a curl, but the ball sailed on him as Eli’s technique went out the window and he did his turn/throw and lost accuracy.  3rd and 6, with a blitz on, Eli read it and took the hit by Ebenezer Ekuban, and threw an inside slant to Toomer, who caught it at the 25 and took it to the 28 for a first down.  Tiki again on the run, got the ball to the 30, stopped by Al Wilson.  2nd and 8, a fake to Tiki, Eli had a rush on him again and tried to hit Plaxico but Bailey was right there with him and the ball was incomplete.  3rd and 8, Eli with another blitz in his face, tried to hit Plaxico on a slant, but Bailey shoved Burress to the ground as the pass was in the air and the pass interference penalty put the ball 41 yard line.  First down, a handoff to Tiki, who broke a few tackles as he made his way out of bounds for a 4 yard gain.  2nd and 6, Eli back, he had time initially and dumped the ball off to Finn for what would have been a first down, but everyone in the building saw McKenzie mug Warren for a holding penalty and set the Giants back to 2nd and 16.  Eli back in the gun, set up a screen to Barber right, but it was read by Al Wilson and he took Tiki down after just a 1 yard gain.  3rd and 15, Eli just got snap off ahead of a delay of game and the Broncos ran another delayed blitz by Lynch.  This time Eli was able to read it and threw a deep shot towards Toomer, whow was double covered, however, the two Denver defends actually hit into each other and Toomer almost came up with a circus grab and walk in TD, but the ball fell incomplete.  On fourth down, Feagles on to punt again booted it to the 23 yard line, and Williams called for the fair catch this time with 6:22 to go in the third quarter.

The Broncos would start with a hand off to Bell, who went around left end for an 8 yard gain, stopped by Strahan.  2nd and 2, Plummer pitched to Bell on a run to the left, but this time Justin Tuck made his way into the backfield and tackled him for a 5 yard loss.  3rd and 7, the Giants pass rush came collapsing around Plummer, but left a lane for him up the middle and he scrambled through the open lane to the 37 and slid down for a big first down, stopped by Wilson.  First down, a play action by Plummer and roll to his right, and threw a dart to Lelie, who dove for the pass and caught it at the Giants’ 48 yard line, and out of bounds for another first down.  Anderson took the handoff over left end, and gained 2 yards, stopped by Pierce.  2nd and 8, Plummer back, threw down the sidelines in the direction of Putzier, but he was well covered by Deloatch and the ball floated out of bounds.  3rd and 8, Plummer back on a 3 step drop and a quick slant towards Putzier, but the ball was knocked away by Allen and nearly picked off by Alexander on the tip.  Sauerbrun came on to punt and hit a high kick to the 17, which was fielded by Morton on a fair catch with 2:43 to go in the 3rd quarter.

Down 10, Eli trotted back on the field and started with a quick out to Plaxico, but the ball just sailed a bit and went out of bounds and was nearly picked off.  2nd and 10, Eli would play fake to Tiki and had Darrent Williams come on a corner blitz and forced a heave somewhat in the direction of Plaxico deep, and again incomplete, just barely avoiding an intentional grounding.  On 3rd and 10, Eli in the gun, had good pass protection and tried a deep out to Toomer, who did his best to stay in bounds with the tip toe catch, but couldn’t do it.  So it was 3 and out, on came Feagles and his punt went to Charlie Adams at the 37, and he took it across the 50 to the Giants’ 46 yard line and was tackled by Pierce.

The Broncos started with a quick pass to Smith for a 6 yard gain on an out to the 41 yard line, hit down by Reggie Torbor.  2nd and 4, Anderson took the hand off and looked to have a big hole, but he tripped on his own man and fell down after a 2 yard gain.  3rd and 2, a fake inside hand off to Anderson and then a pitch back to Bell running to the left, went around Osi and he got the ball all the way to the 29 yard line, knocked out of bounds by Alexander.  First down, Anderson in a single back formation took the hand off, up the middle, and he would carry Griesen for a 6 yard gain on the final play of the 3rd quarter as the Giants’ fans began booing again.  2nd and 4, Anderson would get the ball again, and he would run past Osi, break a tackle by Clancy, and then cut up field and carry Wilson and Pierce all the way to the 14 where Torbor finally popped him down.  First down, a play action fake by Plummer and rolled out to his right, and took a shot at the end zone towards Todd Devoe, but the ball sailed out of the end zone.  2nd and 10, Denver would go back to the ground, handing off to Anderson running around right end, and got hit by Wilson and Pierce and looked to fumble the ball at the 10 yard line, but the refs called him down.  On 3rd and 5, things got interesting

With an empty backfield, Plummer dropped back and got pressure in his face almost immediately from Tuck and Torbor and Plummer looked to throw the ball, but it came awkwardly out as he got hit.  Brett Alexander fell on the loose ball at the 9 yard line and after several moments of uncertainty, the refs ruled it a fumble and a Giants’ recovery.  Simms was yelling that it was a pass and the challenge flag was coming, however upon further review, it suddenly wasn’t such a sure thing.  After several bad puns surrounding the tuck rule and Justin Tuck, it looked like the arm was going forward and Triplett reversed the call, gave the ball back to the Broncos and Elam came on hit the 27 yarder to make the score 23-10 Denver with 13:18 to go in the game.

The Broncos seemed in total control at this point and were kicking off again, the boot going to Ponder at the 2, and he raced his way all the way out to the 35 yard line and out of bounds.  Eli would come on and start with a hand off to Tiki, who found a lane, charged his way up to the 45 yard line, stopped by Foxworth, good for a first down.  Tiki would get the next carry as well, bursting around right end for an 8 yard gain, stopped by Keith Burns.  2nd and 2, a quick flare out to Tiki in the right flat, was stopped by Gold for no gain.  3rd and 2, a quick slant to Toomer was good for an 8 yard gain, with the cushion Bailey gave him more than enough for the first down at the Broncos’ 40.  Eli in the gun gave to Barber on an inside draw, but he only gained 3 yards up the gut, stopped by Lynch.  Eli back in the gun again, with a blitz on, Eli got away from the pressure, hit the hot man in Toomer who broke a tackle by Lynch at the 37, and cut up field to the 27 yard line, stopped by Bailey but another first down.  The next play was a drop back and quick pass that was knocked down at the line by Ekuban.  2nd and 10, a fake to Barber held up the pass rush long enough for Eli to heave a deep shot towards Plaxico who was double covered, but the 6’5” wide receiver went up and grabbed it and was forced out by Nick Furgeson with just one foot in bounds, but back in 2005, that was the officials discretion to award a catch, in 2015, you need both feet in regardless.  Either way, it was first and goal at the 4 yard line and the Giants would keep the momentum

Barber, and underrated goal line back despite being undersized, took the handoff up the middle, cut back and broke a tackle attempt by Warren and Lynch and plowed into the end zone to get the Giants back in the game.  Feely’s extra point made the score 23-17 with 9:07 to go in the game.  

Feely’s kickoff into the wind was very short and taken at the 25 by Al Johnson and he ran it out to the 33 yard line, stopped by Tyree.  The Broncos began with a handoff to Anderson over the middle again, took it out to the 37, stopped again by Pierce and Clancy.  2nd and 6, Plummer back, and hit Lelie on a slant over the middle, evaded Wilson and took it for a big 28 yard gain all the way to the Giants’ 34 yard line, however an illegal block on Stephen Alexander during the run cost Denver good yardage, but still had a first down at the Giants’ 45 yard line.  Plummer would drop back and run pretty much the same play, a slant to Lelie for a first down at the 34, tackled by Allen.  As the Broncos lined up to run the next play, Shanahan called a timeout from the bench, as there was some kind of miscommunication.  Plummer would drop back, and throw again to Lelie on a comebacker and took the ball to the 30, stopped by Pierce.  2nd and 5, and Anderson had a big gain across the 20, but the refs would call George Foster for a holding on Strahan, sending the Broncos back to the 40 and making it 2nd and 15.  Denver would go to an empty backfield and Plummer would drop back and try to hit Putzier on a seam route, but he was nearly picked off by Wilson who dropped a diving interception.  3rd and 15, again empty backfield and Plummer hit Alexander over the middle at the 34 and he spun down to the 31, tackled by Pierce, but got the Broncos into Elam’s range for a 49 yarder.  Everything pretty much to plan for Shanahan

Well, not quite everything to plan.  Elam’s kick had the distance, but the Giants’ Stadium winds took hold as they usually do when the weather gets cold and the ball sliced wide to the right and kept it within a one score game with 5:18 to go in the game.  

So Eli came back out to the field, and dropped back, with a rush in his face, tried to quick out to Toomer, but Al Wilson knocked the ball loose on the hit.  2nd and 10, Eli would hit Shockey up the sidelines for a would be 8 yard gain, however an illegal formation penalty as the WR was uncovered on the line.  On 2nd and 15, the Giants would go from bad play to worse play

Eli dropped back, with time to throw and was either going to Plaxico on a slant over the middle or Toomer on a fly up the field, but the ball was in between and ended up in the arms of Champ Bailey, who made the diving pick at the Denver 43 yard line where he was touched down by Burress and Denver got the ball back with 4:46 to go.

So Denver looked in command, started with a hand off to Anderson, who plowed forward up the middle for a 3 yard gain, stopped by Clancy and Wilson.  2nd and 7, again the ball went to Anderson, who was popped after a 2 yard gain by Strahan, and a timeout was called at 3:56 by the Giants on a 3rd and 5.  Needless to say, this was a huge play in the game, and again went empty backfield and Plummer would do a 5 step drop and sling a slant pass in to Bell at near midfield and Allen batted the ball in the air.  Pierce came sprinting over towards the loose ball and nearly picked it off in the dive attempt.  Sauerbrun came back out and pooched a kick towards Morton, but the ball would bounce at the 20 and go backwards to the 28 yard line where Denver fell on it.  However, offsetting personal fouls on both sides would offset and force a repeat 4th down, which would work to the Broncos advantage as the next punt was much better, taken by Morton at the 15 and he was tackled at the 17.

Stage was now set, 3:29 to go in the game, 87 yards, and needing a touchdown to win.  The Broncos would blitz and send everyone, leaving Tiki all alone in the flat as Eli dumped the it off to him.  He was so wide open that Tiki took his eye off the ball and dropped what would have been a huge gain.  2nd and 10, Eli hit Burress on a 6 yard slant and a diving catch at the 23 yard line.  3rd and 4, Eli would show a flash of how he can improvize

Now, this is not quite the play on the helmet catch to Tyree in the Super Bowl, but we saw the early flashes from Eli, who will never be considered fast, but we see him drop back with some time but no one open, and then begin to move around to keep the play alive and avoid the rush from Ekuban, and eventually find his open man in a tight spot, hitting Plaxico for a first down at the 29 yard line.  With the clock running, Eli again in the gun the Broncos decided to call a timeout as Darrent Williams got hurt on the play and they wanted to stop the clock and try to keep him out there with what looked like a cramp in his leg, but he had to come off the field.  So the Giants could settle down with 2:13 left and Eli would calmly sling another pass over the middle to an open Toomer for a 7 yard gain to the 36 yard line, stopped by Wilson and took the game to the 2 minute warning.  2nd and 3, an inside hand off to Tiki was good for 6 more yards and a first down, hit by Wilson.  Giants in the hurry up, Eli back in the gun with time, went to his safety valve in Tiki and he caught it at the 41 and vaulted his way to the Broncos’ 49 yard line, near another first down, stopped by Foxworth.  2nd and 1, Eli back, threw a short out to Toomer at the 45, where he made the catch, good for a first, but was tackled by Wilson in bounds and kept the clock moving with 1:15 to go.  The Giants would hurry up and Eli again in the gun, with a perfect pocket to throw, again would go to Toomer over the middle, who caught it at the 37 and made his way to the 35, absorbing a big hit by Gold and Wilson and now the Giants would call their 2nd time out with :51 to go in the game on a 2nd and 1.  Giants’ offensive coordinator John Hufnagle conferred with Eli and they would hand off to Tiki up the gut, and he took it to the 31 yard line, tackled by Gold, and easily a first down, but the clock would run as the Giants hurried to the line.  Eli would fake the spike and try to hit Plaxico on a quick out, but he only got one foot down at the 26 yard line.  With :34 to go, on 2nd and 10, Eli in the gun, he would pump fake down the middle and took a deep shot in the right corner of the end zone to Tim Carter, who dove to make the catch but it was just out of his reach.  3rd and 10 with :27 to go the Giants would need another big play

This play was one of the Giants favorites and they ran it for years with both Shockey and then Kevin Boss.  Essentially it’s a wheel route 20 yard or so pattern running to the right side.  And in this case, Shockey got off the line, beat Gold in coverage and snagged the ball at the 13 yard line and he took it down to the 8 yard line, knocked out of bounds to stop the clock with :21 to go.  First and goal, Eli would fake to Tiki and try to hit Toomer on a slant over the middle, but the ball was just a little too low and nearly picked off by Darrent Williams, who reaggravated his earlier injury and he had to hobble off the field.  :17 to go on 2nd and goal, Eli would dump off to Tiki on a small center screen at the 8 yard line, and he followed Chris Snee up the field when he was met by Lynch at the 2 yard line and the Giants called their final timeout with :10 to go.  On 3rd and goal, we would see the early clutch Eli

Eli would drop back and seemed to want to throw a quick slant to Plaxico, but he was well covered.  He would begin to get the rush coming up by his face from Lynch and Burns, and would drop all the way back to the 15 yard line, where he would sling a pass off his back foot to Toomer in the middle of the end zone, who came back to Eli to find an opening, beating Foxworth in coverage and tying the game at 23-23 with :05 to go in the game.  Giants Stadium was complete pandemonium as “Back in the New York Groove” blared over the speakers and his teammates ran to Eli, Strahan was jumped around for joy, and Shanahan was making Mike Shanahan faces of disgust and anguish.  Feely’s all important extra point was perfect and the Giants had taken the 24-23 lead.  

The Giants had to still kickoff and fans had good reason to be concerned of a Cal-Stanford play, but the kick went to Adams who ran it to the 30 and as he tried to lateral, James Butler would snag the pass back and fall down with the win in hand and snapped the Broncos win streak at 5 games.

Post Mortem/ Interesting Tidbits

  • This was Eli’s 2nd last second victory of his career.  His first came in the last game of the 2004 season against the Cowboys, when he twice rallied back from 4th quarter deficits and audibled to a hand off to Tiki for a 3 yard TD with :11 seconds to go in the game.
  • This would turn out to be Eli’s first victory against what would be a playoff team.  The 2005 Broncos would go 13-3 behind Jake Plummer, beat the Patriots in the 2nd round at Denver, thus preventing a “three-peat”, but would lose in the AFC Championship game at Denver to the Steelers, 34-17.  
  • This was Toomer's 2nd game winning late TD catch against the Broncos in Giants Stadium. In 1998, Toomer hauled in a 37 yard TD pass from Kent Graham to give the Giants a 20-16 lead that would beat the previously undefeated Broncos and set their record at 13-1.
  • The Giants won this game by 1 point, 24-23.  Going into the 2015 year, Eli Manning has started 167 games, his career record is 91-76.  Over the course of his career since 2004, he’s been involved in only 4 games decided by 1 point.  This was the only game he won by 1 point in his career.  The other 3 times were all losses
    • 2008: 20-19 loss @ Minnesota.  To be fair, the Giants had clinched the #1 seed the previous week in their OT win over the Panthers.  This game meant nothing and Eli was pulled after the first half for David Carr.
    • 2009: 21-20 loss to San Diego.  The Giants would take a 20-14 lead late in the 4th quarter but allowed a Vincent Jackson 22 yard TD with :21 to go in a frustrating loss.
    • 2012: 17-16 loss @ Washington.  Talk about frustrating.  The Giants kept kicking field goals, the Redskins got lucky with an RG III fumble that bounced into Josh Morgan’s arms for a 13 yard TD and the Redskins win kept them alive in the NFC East, which they would eventually win and bounce the Giants from the playoffs.
  • So how did the other Giants starting QBs do in 1 point games?
    • Kurt Warner- 9 starts- 0 times
    • Kerry Collins- 68 starts- 3 times (0-3)* Includes playoffs
      • 2001: 15-14 loss at St. Louis.  Known mainly for Michael Strahan destroying the Rams OL and Mike Martz scheme by refusing to leave in help to block him and he registered 4.5 sacks and many more hits on Kurt Warner.
      • 2001: 10-9 loss vs. Eagles:  On a Monday Night, the week after the Rams game.  Giants would blow a 9-0 lead, allow an 18 yard TD to James Thrash with 1:52 to go in the game.  The Giants comeback was thwarted when Jeremiah Trotter sacked Collins and forced a fumble that was recovered by Brandon Whiting.
      • 2002 Post Season: 39-38 loss at San Francisco in the NFC Wild Card- I’m still too angry to write up a blurb about this one.
    • Kent Graham- 19 starts- 2 times (1-1)
      • 1994: 10-9 loss vs Cardinals:  Giants blow a 9-0 lead and give up a late Steve Beuerlein to Bryan Reeves 9 yard TD.
      • 1999- 16-15 win vs Eagles: Giants would take the lead mid way through the 4th quarter and hang on to win.
    • Danny Kannel- 20 starts- 1 time (0-1) * post season
      • 1997: 23-22 loss to the Vikings in the Wild Card round.  Giants blow a 22-3 lead.  Refs miss Jake Reed catching a TD out of bounds.  Chris Calloway blows an onside recovery.  Horrific.
    • Dave Brown- 53 starts- 2 times (0-2)
      • 1996: 23-22 loss to the Patriots.  Giants blow 22-0 lead, Meggett returns a punt for a TD against his old team.  Parcells leads Pats to Super Bowl that year.
      • 1997:24-23 loss to Ravens.  Giants blow 23-14 lead in the 4th quarter.  Fassel screws up the “Go For 2 chart” by going for it down 14-6 in the 2nd quarter when it was waaaaaaaay too early and doesn’t convert.  If the Giants took the point, this game would have been tied at the end.
    • Jeff Hostetler- 25 starts- 2 times (2-0)* Post Season
      • 1988: 13-12 win at New Orleans.  Hoss would start and throw an 85 yard TD to Stephen Baker but Jeff Rutledge would take over in the 2nd half.  LT defining game with 3 sacks and forced 2 fumbles.  Win on a late Paul McFadden field goal.
      • 1990 20-19 win in Super Bowl XXV vs. Bills.  Giants come back from 12-3 deficit.  Take late lead and watch Norwood go Wide Right.
    • Phil Simms- 159 game starts- 5 times (4-1)
      • 1984: 28-27 win vs. Eagles: Simms throws for 409 yards and 4 TDs to post a perfect QB rating.  Giants hold off late Eagle comeback.
      • 1984: 28-27 win vs. Chiefs: Giants overcome 27-14 4th quarter deficit and Simms hits Zeke Mowatt for a TD late in the game for the win.
      • 1985- 30-29 loss vs Cowboys.  Simms throws for 432 yards but Giants blow 26-14 lead in 3rd quarter and 3 Rafael Septien fields goals in the 4th quarter give Dallas the win.
      • 1988- 24-23 win @ Redskins.  LT’s first game back from a 4 game suspension.  Giants take a 24-9 lead and hold off a Redskins rally, thanks mainly to Washington kicker Chip Lohmiller missing an early extra point and a late field goal.
      • 1990- 20-19 win vs. Cardinals.  Simms gets hurt early in the game.  Giants ovecome a 19-10 4th quarter deficit with Hostetler at QB and win on a Matt Bahr 40 yard FG at the gun.
  • Last time these teams met was the season opener on a Monday Night in Denver in 2001, which the Broncos won 31-20.  That game featured a 90 yard Rodney Williams punt.  A season ending broken leg for Broncos WR Ed McCaffrey.  The Giants would fly home and land at Newark Airport in the wee hours of the morning...on 9/11, that 9/11.
  • Jake Plummer was 0-4 in Giants Stadium going into this game.
  • Plummer got his start in the NFC East actually, as a member of the Cardinals.  Considered to be a “local” hero for the Cards, since he played in college at Arizona State and was their 2nd round pick in 1997.  Plummer sat behind Kent Graham and then Stoney Case until he was given the starting nod for the last 9 games of the season.  In his first start against the Giants, he put up an amazing 388 yards in a 19-10 loss, but served notice that he was going to be a problem.  Plummer would lead the Cardinals to a 9-7 record in 1998, good enough to win a Wild Card, their first playoff appearance since the strike shortened 1982 year, and actually went into Dallas and roared out to a 20-0 lead and won going away, 20-7.  That would be the final playoff game hosted in Texas Stadium with the Aikman/Emmitt/Irvin trioka.  After 1998, it was all downhill for Plummer in Arizona.  He never posted a winning record again with the Cardinals, they gave up on him after the 2002 season when he posted a 5-11 record and threw 18 TDs with 20 INTs.  The Broncos meanwhile went 9-7 in 2002, and missed the playoffs with Brian Griese at QB.  Griese would sign a free agent contract to play in Miami, where his father Bob would have a Hall of Fame career.  The Broncos decided to go with QB by committee, and signed Plummer as a free agent.  In the 2003 season, the Broncos would actually start 4 different QBs during the season (38 year old Steve Beurelein, Danny Kanell, Jarius Jackson, and Plummer).  Plummer would end up beating out that group to start 11 games, and help the Broncos finish 10-6, make the playoffs and get crushed in Indianapolis in the Wild Card round.  Plummer would remain the starter in the 2004 season (another 10-6 year, and another blowout in Indy in the Wild Card) and would actually have a career year in 2005, posting a 13-3 record (top seed in the AFC) and would make his only Pro Bowl, throwing for 3,366 yards, 18 TDs and 7 INTs.  Plummer would beat the Pats in the 2nd round (ending the three peat) and then lose to the Steelers.  By the 2006 season, the bloom started to come off the rose for Plummer.  He was 32 years old, not old by NFL QB standards, but the Broncos decided to draft their “QB of the future” and picked strong armed Jay Cutler in the first round.  Plummer would start the first 11 games, post a 7-4 record and was underwhelming, with 11 TDs and 13 INTs.  However, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, hardly a friend to QBs (see RG III later in Washington) was benched for Cutler.  The Broncos would go 2-3 the rest of the way, finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs.  Plummer would retire after the season.
  • Mike Anderson was one of those guys who had his full name on the back of his jersey.  The Giants over the years had a couple of those guys, such as Dhani Jones and Daryl Jones.
  • Speaking of Shanahan, he was a fantasy football running back nightmare.  going with RB by committee often, he would shuffle who his main work horse back was in different years, and get great productivity out of seemingly pedestrian type backs.  In this game, his lead guy was Mike Anderson, who rushed for 120 yards, a career high for him to that point in his career until he rushed for 126 yards the next week in a 49-21 blowout of the Eagles.  But look at the top rushing performances for the Broncos since Terrell Davis’ heyday in 1998.
    • 1998- Terrell Davis- 2008 yards, 21 TDs
    • 1999- Olandis Gary- 1159 yards, 7 TDs
    • 2000- Mike Anderson- 1487 yards, 15 TDs
    • 2001- Terrell Davis- 701 yards, 0 TDs
    • 2002- Clinton Portis- 1508 yards, 15 TDs
    • 2003- Clinton Portis- 1591 yards, 14 TDs
    • 2004- Reuben Droughns- 1240 yards, 5 TDs
    • 2005- Mike Anderson- 1014 yards, 12 TDs
    • 2006- Tatum Bell- 1025 yards, 2 TDs
    • 2007- Selvin Young- 729 yards, 1 TD
    • 2008- Peyton Hillis- 343 yards, 5 TDs
  • So in the course of his final 10 years in Denver, only one time did he have the same running back lead the team in rushing 2 consecutive years, when Pordis did it in 2002 and 2003.  And they would trade Portis to the Redskins after the 2003 season.  In return the Broncos got cornerback Champ Bailey.  Bottom line, top flight corners are much harder to find than top flight/productive running backs.  Portis was pretty good for Washington, rushing for over 1000 yards four times and made 1 Pro Bowl.  However, injuries limited him to 13 games in his final 2 years and was out of football at the age 30 after the 2010 season.  Bailey meanwhile became a Hall of Famer in Denver, playing 10 more seasons there, making the Pro Bowl in 8 of them, and helped the Broncos to the Super Bowl in his final season of 2013. 
  • From this list, interestingly, 2 of these RBs would eventually become Giants.  Droughns and Hillis.  Both were depth running backs at the tail end of their careers. 
  • Darrent Williams forced and recovered a fumble in this game.  Williams, an up and coming young defensive back, would tragically be killed on January 1, 2007 in a drive by shooting outside a nightclub in Denver after the end of their season.  Apparently earlier in the night his teammate, WR Brandon Marshall, got in an arguement/confrontation that led to the shooting.
  • Broncos hadn’t turned the ball over in over 20 quarters, until the final play of the game, James Butler snagged a wayward desperation lateral and broke the streak.