Commentary

Manning at his best against Cowboys

The QB's exceptional play vs. Dallas will bode well as Big Blue makes playoff push

Updated: December 8, 2011, 8:36 AM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. --The Dallas Cowboys have gotten some of Eli Manning's best games, especially in Dallas.

But now the Cowboys will get Manning as he is playing arguably the best football of his career … twice … in one month.

Manning has saved some of his best games for the Cowboys and that bodes well for the New York Giants, who can win the NFC East and make the playoffs by beating the Cowboys twice in a month and finishing 3-1 in their final four games.

"I think everybody last week was talking about Aaron Rodgers being a Super Bowl MVP and he is a great quarterback and having an unbelievable year, but we have the same thing on our side behind us," left tackle David Diehl said. "At the beginning of the season when he compared himself in the same caliber, he got a lot of heat for that and people said how can he do that?"

The Cowboys won't argue with anyone about whether Manning is an elite quarterback. Entering this season, Manning threw for more touchdowns (26) against Dallas than any other team in his career. Manning has thrown for 300 yards or more and at least two touchdowns in three of his past four games against Dallas. He has more 300-yard games against Dallas (four) than any other team in his career and three of those outings came in Texas.

"I think it is definitely a place that he feels comfortable and a team that he has seen a bunch," wide receiver Victor Cruz said. "[And] he has been locked in for just about the entire season almost. We are doing some great things. He is on such a stride that whenever we pay attention to detail, we can just about put up big numbers against anybody."

So perhaps it should be no surprise that the Giants (6-6) have been the better team of late in this NFC East rivalry. The Giants have won five of their past seven meetings against the Cowboys (7-5) since winning at Dallas in the playoffs in 2007.

"Playing Dallas is a good game," Manning said when asked about why he has had success against the Cowboys. "It is a big game, a division game, you know they are talented. We have had good things, it is on turf, indoors, always good weather there. All those things make it a good condition so that we can go out there and play well. Hopefully we continue to do that."

The Giants' passing game has given Dallas fits before. Wide receiver Mario Manningham has scored three touchdowns against the Cowboys and has two games against Dallas in which he has 10 receptions each. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks also has three touchdowns in three games against the Cowboys, including a game in which he had nine catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns.

On Sunday night, the Cowboys' secondary will get its first taste of Cruz, who did not play against Dallas last year. Cruz leads the Giants in receiving yards (1,076), receptions (62) and receiving touchdowns (seven) and has six or more receptions in eight of his past nine games.

The Giants believe they can hit the Rob Ryan's defense with some big plays through the air.

"I have noticed that and especially the type of defense they like to play now, where they like to do a lot of different coverages to try to confuse us and that causes time for error or they may misplace a receiver in coverage," Cruz said. "I'm excited for the amount of big plays out there and I am ready to take on that challenge."

Manning has been up to the task this season. In his past two games against New Orleans and Green Bay, Manning threw for 406 yards and 347 yards with a total of five touchdowns and two interceptions. Manning did more than hold his own on the same field with Drew Brees and Rodgers.

Now he has to beat Tony Romo twice to help give the Giants a chance to win the NFC East.

"This is exciting," Manning said. "When you're getting into December and you're playing for playoffs and division leads and different things, this is what it's all about."

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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