In four of the last five Super Bowls, the game has been determined by a turbulent, exciting final drive. In this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED senior writer Austin Murphy (@si_austinmurphy) takes us through the history of the two-minute drills that make NFL games, especially Super Bowls, so memorable. From Unitas to Montana to Manning (Eli, that is), Murphy breaks down some of the most iconic drives. The piece also dives into the drill’s evolution, such as communication between quarterback and coach via headset, the growth of hurry-up offenses and the intense preparation of all the possible late game scenarios coaches stress to get ready for games.
“There’s so much more emphasis on [hurry-up offenses]. Especially in OTAS and training camp,” says new Cardinals coach and former Colts interim coach Bruce Arians (PAGE 34), who helped rookie quarterback Andrew Luck become a two-minute maestro this season.
Murphy also poses the question of which Super Bowl quarterback has the better chance to lead a winning two-minute drill in this year’s game. Will it be Joe Flacco, who already has 10 fourth-quarter comebacks to his name, or the elusive Colin Kaepernick, who showed at Nevada that he has the potential to be a “future maestro of the 2MD”?
“Flacco’s guys know he can do it. They’re going to have a confidence that the 49ers can’t have because they haven’t done it,” says Randy Cross (PAGE 32), the former 49ers center who was a part of in the winning drive in Super Bowl XXIII.
The Low-Key Star QB is the NFL Embodiment of Cognitive Dissonance
The Redskins and the Cowboys are surging in the NFC East, and Peyton has come back from oblivion to fashion one of his typically flawless campaigns in Denver, but analysts are mapping ways the Giants could miss the playoffs entirely. In other words, Eli Manning has ’em all right where he wants ’em. Life just feels better when it’s played like an endless two-minute drill.
Call him a handhog hero, a sad-sack Superman, kid brother to a legend—but would you bet against Eli Manning when it’s all on the line in February? The MVP of two Super Bowls, a scion of football’s first family and the ultimate gamer, S.L. Price writes that the Giants’ quarterback, who plays with an air of simplicity and calm, has forced us to rethink what we expect in a star. “Every day the fans call in and ask, ‘What the hell’s the matter with Eli?’” says Boomer Esiason, talk-show host on New York’s WFAN radio station and former Jets QB. “And I say, ‘There’s nothing the matter with Eli. That’s who he is.’ He’s better suited for this than any of us idiots are” (page 37).
More excerpts from this story:
“Every day the fans call in and ask, ‘What the hell’s the matter with Eli?’ And I say, ‘There’s nothing the matter with Eli. That’s who he is.’ He’s better suited for this than any of us idiots are.” –Boomer Esiason
“You ever go some place and have a burger, and don’t know why that place’s burger is so much better than the others’? It’s a hamburger at the end of the day, but this one’s just better. That’s Eli.” –Giants TE Martellus Bennett on his teammate’s simple but effective style of play
On Manning’s post-game press conference comments after breaking Phil Simms’ franchise TD record, just weeks after Simms said he didn’t think Manning was an elite quarterback: “Into the mike he called it ‘an honor’ and left it at that. But he had to fight himself. This was a piñata just begging to be whacked. Manning even had a zinger prepared: ‘Well, I don’t know if Phil Simms was an elite quarterback anyway, so I don’t know if it’s that big of a deal.’ Instead he held his tongue.”
“If Peyton wasn’t a football player, I can assure you he would be the CEO of some company and be super successful. He wants it. It’s important to him. It is who he is. Failing is not an option—or not trying, at least,” says oldest brother Cooper Manning. And Eli? Cooper shakes his head. “I have no idea what he would be doing.”
“Dad? You know, your numbers weren’t very good.” –What Eli Manning told his father after he studied up on Archie’s career at Ole Miss
“Golf trips, you don’t want to go to sleep before Eli…The one thing Peyton and Eli have on ’em is a Sharpie–and you can’t get that stuff off. He’ll do somebody’s face, and you get up the next morning to play golf, go to breakfast? Or you’re out, and he’ll do your calves, all colors. You can’t get it off!” –Archie Manning on Eli’s passion for playing pranks
“In high school [Peyton] would come back when I was in spring practice and make my dad film my drops, and we’d watch it that night. He’d tell me, ‘This is what we’re learning at Tennessee: On your three-step, make that second step real short and quick to get the ball out.’ When I was in college and he was in the NFL, he’d come to spring football and watch our practices and we’d do drills. He wanted me to have success. Everything he learned, he wanted to come back and teach me.” –Eli on Peyton’s willingness to share football knowledge with his younger brother
Some athletes wow us with their sheer physical brilliance, others through displays of courage, poise and passion, or by their willingness to push limits, break barriers and hoist fans’ hopes on their shoulders. This week’s Sports Illustrated celebrates those special stars—the inspiring performers who made 2012 a sports year to remember.
For their refusal to be silent victims of sexual abuse, two of those performers, New York Mets knuckleballer and 2012 National League Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey and 2012 Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison are featured on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated. In a year when the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State rocked the sports world, award-winning SI senior writer Gary Smith asks us to reimagine, a century from now, looking back on the plague of sexual abuse and celebrating the courage of Dickey and Harrison, who shined a light on a dark history.
Both were abused as children—Dickey by a babysitter and a stranger, Harrison by her judo coach—and the pain of abuse became part of who they were. Smith describes the torture Dickey and Harrison had to endure en route to breaking their silence, and how they support victims who now have the courage to tell their own stories.
“My heart broke for those boys in the Penn State scandal because I knew what they would be up against,” Dickey would say. “And then … I felt for Jerry Sandusky because of what happened to him in his life. The toxicity of it all is so frightening. It energized me, made me see that there’s a real need for activism. The taboo’s been breached. Finally the elephant in the room is out—it’s raising its trunk and bellowing” (page 66).
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Three quarterbacks were chosen in the first 11 picks of the 2004 NFL draft and two, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, have won two Super Bowls apiece. The other one, Philip Rivers, is still trying to claim his first ring. With each failed attempt at reaching the Super Bowl, the shadows of Manning and Roethlisberger grow longer over Rivers and the Chargers’ franchise. Particularly because unlike them, the former N.C. State star has yet to put his signature on a memorable playoff win (page 46).
Rivers preaches patience and says his primary motivation is helping his Chargers teammates achieve a big win together, but as Manning and Roethlisberger have both two-upped him in the Super Bowl ring department, Jim Trotter wonders: Can Rivers really believe the journey is as enticing as the destination?
Fourth quarter comebacks became a common occurrence for Eli Manning and the New York Giants this season. When Super Bowl XLVI came down to the Giants possessing the ball for a final time with a chance to win, the team felt right at home. Coach Tom Coughlin said, “We’ve won so many games like this, at the end, in the fourth quarter. We talk about finishing all the time and winning the fourth quarter, being the stronger team. It happened again tonight.” (page 36).
Even with a family drama playing out publicly, as the injured Peyton’s football future a source of endless discussion for the media masses in Indy, the unflappable Eli remained focused and sharp during his preparation for one of the biggest games of his career.
Said Archie Manning, “I think Peyton’s a little embarrassed that he’s been in the news so much, but Eli probably likes it. He just doesn’t worry about much. If Eli orders a steak and they bring him flounder, he’ll just eat it. What would Peyton do? You ought not bring Peyton the flounder.”
As they so often do, Eli and Peyton talked strategy on the phone the night before the game. Said Peyton, “Four years ago before Super Bowl XLII, we had more of a specific Patriots talk, because I was so familiar with them. This year Eli, having played them seven weeks ago, he knew them as good as anybody.”
Manning appears on the cover of the Feb. 13, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated. This is the second time that Manning has appeared on the cover.