Traveled back from Indianapolis Monday - so this is the first chance I got to post my thoughts from this game, and there will be lots more to come this week. I was at the game and it was simply the best football game I have ever attended and one of the best I have ever seen (Super Bowl LXII wasn't too shabby either).
One simple thought - Eli IMO is now the best QB in football. Not among the best.... the best. The question should not be does Eli deserve to be mentioned among the top QBs in the game - Brady, Brees, Rodgers, maybe Roethlisberger - the question is whether they deserve to be mentioned in the same company with him. For those of you football purists who consider it sacrilege to question the holy Tom Brady, with his 3 Super Bowl wins, his Hollywood looks and his trophy wife on his arm, consider the following. Eli has now faced Brady down in two of the big games and has flat outplayed him both times. If it happened once, you might attribute it to blind dumb luck - if Brady and Pats are better and they had, say a 90% chance of winning, there is still a 10% chance that one time the underdogs could win. However, when it happens again, you have to say that the underdog may not really be the underdog.
I am not saying that Eli's career is better than Brady's. I am certainly not saying that the body of work and the full resume Eli has is equal to Brady's. Brady has three rings and Eli has only two. Brady has better regular season statistics and winning percentage. They do both have two Super Bowl MVPs, but I am not asserting that at this point in their careers, their accomplishments are equal. But it is certainly true that the arc of Eli's career is still ascending and it is undeniably true that Brady's is descending. Brady may have a fuller career resume, but right now Eli is a better QB.
Let me boil it down to two moments, two plays in the same game against similar defenses to illustrate my point. Patriots winning 17-15, 4th quarter about 4 minutes left in the game. Patriots driving down the field and if they score a TD right there, they go up two scores with about 3 minutes to go and lock up the game. 2nd and 11, Giants blow the coverage and leave Welker wide open for what would be a 20-30 yard gain and put Pats in perfect position to run the clock down further, set them up for a score and put the game away. Instead, Brady throws a poor pass to the wrong side of Welker which required Welker to turn completely around, twist his shoulders and try to catch the ball on the other side of his body . Some will say that Welker could have or even should have caught the ball, but Welker is not a big WR, he is small and quick, is not tall, does not have a big wingspan and a long reach, so this was a very hard catch for Welker. Even if it was a catch he should have made, it was a bad throw by Brady, when a good throw probably would have won the game for the Pats. Brady actually followed that poor throw with some other bad throws the rest of the game and the Pats had to give the ball back to the Giants. Then, on the Giants first play after getting the ball back - same game, same 4th quarter, same score, that other QB, our own Eli Manning has the opportunity to make a throw to get the Giants in position to win the game and he makes a perfect throw to a receiver that was not really open, was double covered and Eli has about a 3 inch window to drop the ball into and he makes the throw. Just reviewing: Brady with a chance to win the game, with no pass rush and a wide open WR makes a poor throw. Two minutes later, Eli with a chance to win the game, under a bit of a pass rush with a WR that was not open makes a perfect throw and makes several other great reads and throws after that to close the deal and win the game.
I'll take it one step further - there is no QB in the league that would have made that throw to Manningham and won the game for the Giants. Brady's arm is not strong enough anymore - nearly 100% of his throws are now short and between the numbers. In the Super Bowl, on passes of greater than 20 yards, Brady was 0-5. Brees does not have the arm strength either and while Rodgers has the arm strength and accuracy, he does not have the touch. Rivers doesn't have the accuracy, and Roethlisberger... please. Ben would have been running around for 10 seconds, looking for an open man, would have broken three tackles running through DL-men and would have forged forward for an 8 yard run with the announcers ooooh-ing and aaaah-ing about how great he is because he extends plays. One QB could have made that throw and won that game, the one who wears number 10 for the Giants. Even if you argue that someone else COULD have made the throw, there are none that could do it in that moment, 4th qtr of the Super Bowl with your team down 2. Case closed.
Brady has better career accomplishments but right now Eli is better.
Even looking at the career numbers - coming into this game, Brady had a 16-5 career record in the post season and Eli was 7-3. Now, after the Giants win, Brady is 16-6 and Eli is 8-3. Brady has twice as many career playoff wins and twice as many losses. Do the math, boys and girls - that means they each have the same career playoff winning percentage of .727. Come back to me in 7 or 8 years and let's take a look at what the career numbers look like then.