New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning found himself in an unusual situation during the fourth quarter of a 26-3 win at the San Francisco 49ers in a rematch of last season’s National Football Conference championship game.
Manning, who has guided the Giants to 22 fourth-quarter comeback victories since taking over as New York’s signal caller in 2004, was able to sit on a big lead yesterday and run down the clock instead of having to craft another rally.
He threw just two passes in the final period against the 49ers and handed off the ball 12 straight times on a final drive that lasted more than seven minutes.
“That’s what you want to be able to do,” Manning said in a news conference. “That’s where the offensive line can take over the game. That was a drive that ended the game.”
Manning passed for 193 yards for the Giants (4-2), who got 116 yards rushing and a 1-yard touchdown run from Ahmad Bradshaw. Manning threw a 6-yard scoring pass to Victor Cruz and Lawrence Tynes added four field goals.
Manning, 31, has led the Giants on 26 game-winning drives in his career. The latest of his comebacks came on Sept. 16 against Tampa Bay when the Giants scored 25 fourth-quarter points in a 41-34 victory against the Buccaneers in which New York scored the winning points with 34 seconds left.
Manning also led the Giants to a 20-17 overtime win in the NFC championship game in January at San Francisco, a game in which New York trailed 14-10 in the fourth quarter, before rallying the Giants in the final period to beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in February.
He was able to relax in the fourth quarter yesterday after New York’s defense shut down quarterback Alex Smith and a San Francisco team that had beaten its previous two opponents -- the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills -- by a combined score of 79-3.
“We were just waiting for them to play the way we know they can play,” Manning said of his team’s defense. “When you see them play like that, we can be patient offensively. We didn’t have to force things.”
Antrel Rolle made two of the Giants’ three interceptions, Smith’s first three-interception game since December 2009. Smith began yesterday with one interception in five games this season. He was 19-of-30 passing for 200 yards for the 49ers (4-2).
Smith, who came into the game as the highest-rated quarterback in the National Football League with a mark of 108.7, had a quarterback rating in yesterday’s game of 43.1.
“I could tell at times that we had him a little rattled,” Rolle said of Smith. “I think this is our most complete game all year long.”
Rolle’s two third-quarter interceptions led to field goals. The other Giants interception, by Prince Amukamara, set up Manning’s scoring pass to Cruz in the second quarter. New York’s Jason Pierre-Paul had two of New York’s six quarterback sacks.
“They don’t give up anything easily,” Smith, 28, told reporters. “We forced some things. I felt like I forced some things. We, uncharacteristically, turned the ball over. Any time you turn the ball over like that, it’s tough to win.”
David Akers’s 42-yard field goal in the first quarter was the only score for San Francisco. Akers missed two other field goal attempts.
“The defensive line finally decided they were going to play this week,” said Giants coach Tom Coughlin.