Eli Manning in 2007 already earned acclaim and respect in leading the New York Giants to a Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. In capturing another ring last season he joined an impressive list.
Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady, John Elway, Bob Griese, Joe Montana, Jim Plunkett, Ben Roethlisberger, Bart Starr, Roger Staubach and Manning: the only quarterbacks with multiple Super Bowl wins.
"He's an elite quarterback and I think he's kind of grown into that," Washington Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. "I think people had a perception of him and he had to kind of break out of that mold. With a second Super Bowl and the way he's leading his team, he's really changed his perspective from other players, fans and the media."
No longer just Peyton Manning's little brother, Eli is now considered among the elite, and the Redskins know that going into Sunday's game at the Giants. He has completed over 60 percent of his passes every season dating to 2008 and boasts a 94.9 quarterback rating through six games.
"He executes the offense as well as anybody. He's got a great feel for the offense. He's got a good knack of staying alive in the pocket. He has an unbelievable arm," Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. "He doesn't take sacks. He does a great job. I think he's getting better and better."
The effusive praise of Manning from inside the Redskins' locker room didn't stop there. But the reason Manning has been so successful this season hinges on more than just the 31-year-old's improvement.
The Giants have allowed Manning to be sacked just five times this season. He credited a combination of things for that accomplishment.
"The offense line, obviously, playing well and doing a great job with their one-on-one blocks and picking up blitzes," Manning said. "It's running backs doing their jobs and seeing their responsibilities when blitzes come and stepping up and making blocks and when they're not helping out and getting chips and helping out our tackles and our offensive line, receivers getting open in a timely fashion and not getting stuck with a whole lot of third-and-longs.
"You have to hold the ball and every once in a while I have to do my job and either move in the pocket or break out of the pocket to make some throws."
In other words, the Giants are doing a lot well on offense. It doesn't hurt to have receivers like Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, either.
Chemistry with receivers is another strength of Manning's.
"He works at it. He works with the receivers. It doesn't matter if they're old, young, whatever; he's been able to communicate very well with them about what his intentions are," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "They study together and communicate what expectations there are in terms of adjustments and where the quarterback expects the receiver to be."
And when receivers take a while to get open, Manning deserves credit for extending plays. He's not a running quarterback like Robert Griffin III, but Redskins defenders described him as slippery.
"Eli's playing great. He does a great job of moving in the pocket, not trying to scramble and run with the ball, but just moving, buying time," middle linebacker London Fletcher said. "He has a great feel for pressure. He understands coverages and he reads them well."
Nose tackle Barry Cofield pointed out that the Redskins' pass-rushers better make the most of opportunities to get to Manning, because there won't be many of them. Manning hasn't been sacked in the past three games, a streak the Redskins hope to break.
"If you can't get to him, you have to put some pressure on him because he's so accurate and he's going to come up with big plays," coach Mike Shanahan said. "If you can't get a sack, you better get in his face or you're in for a long day."
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