Whatever the case, he looked rejuvenated, and others noticed.
“Tonight was one of those games where he was alive, and he was making some of those plays, and he was distributing the ball the way we’re used to,” said wide receiver Victor Cruz, who caught Manning’s second touchdown throw of the night.
Manning’s passes weren’t always perfect — he overthrew fullback Henry Hynoski in the end zone in the first quarter and later badly underthrew Hakeem Nicks — but he adjusted. Manning made a 25-yard pass to Nicks in the second quarter look easy, and he found Rueben Randle in the back of the end zone for his first scoring pass.
Whatever was suspected of being wrong with Manning was, for one night, hidden beneath a 249-yard passing performance. These were similar to the concerns that, midway through Griffin’s rookie season, defenses had already begun learning how to stop the youngster.
On Sunday, New York’s defense showed no intimidation against Rodgers. The Giants’ defensive line has made itself famous, but their secondary frustrated the Green Bay quarterback as much as anything. New York’s defensive backs closed passing windows, and while Rodgers searched for an opening or ran toward one, there was that defensive line, latching onto him again. Other than a six-sack performance against San Francisco in the season’s sixth week, Sunday was the Packers’ season-high.
“To have him throw the ball on our timing, rather than his, we were glad to see that,” Giants Coach Tom Coughlin said of Rodgers.
This is the fun part of the NFL, but it’s also the most maddening. Who is a contender, and who will be exposed in due time?
The Giants are used to this, having entered the final turn of two mediocre seasons, 2007 and ’11, on a hot streak — then ended them each time by lifting the Super Bowl trophy.
Was it rest during those seasons? Or just adjustments? Maybe it just takes time for a team to find itself.
No, next week’s game, between two teams searching for identity, won’t be for first place in the division. But it’ll go a long way toward validating or casting doubt on what has been seen in these recent weeks.