Eli Manning Makes 2008 a Distant Memory

Manning is the biggest reason why the 2012 team stands alone

The notion seems to be even more irresistible than it was before.

Winning at Lambeau Field on a cold Sunday afternoon would appear to make attempts to avoid allusions to 2008 as a big waste of time. The defense just shut down an elite quarterback and high-powered offense, the Giants are the hottest team in the league at exactly the right time and Tom Coughlin's red face is leading them every step of the way.

It's a nice narrative that holds up just as long as you didn't actually watch the game that unfolded on Sunday afternoon. If you did watch the game, you'd know that there wasn't much about the game that looked anything like 2008.

The biggest difference was the guy slinging the passes for the Giants. Eli Manning was there in 2008, of course, but while revisionist Giants historians like to argue that he was a top quarterback in those days, the honest observers among us know that he was asked to do very little for a team that won because of their defense and running game.

Manning of 2008 bore no resemblance to the player that was on the field this Sunday. The Manning back then barely completed half his passes and wouldn't have done that well if not for Plaxico Burress making catches that made you wonder if you were watching a real game or a cartoon.

The Manning of the present day needed no such help as every one of his passes dropped right where it needed to go, most notably the Hail Mary to Hakeem Nicks at the end of the first half that put the game in the Giants' pocket once and for all. Manning made play after play, thwarting any attempt by the Packers to swing momentum back in their direction and keeping the Giants pointed directly toward San Francisco.

Nothing should discount the job the defense did against the Packers, but there wasn't a moment on Sunday when you felt that Manning wouldn't have been able to answer if Aaron Rodgers did recover his MVP form. Manning was that good, as good as he has ever been at a time when his team needed nothing less.

We should be used to this by now. The Giants don't sniff the playoffs if not for Manning carrying them in the first half of the season and then bailing out an awful defense in Dallas in Week 14. 

Now the rest of the group is catching up to him and giving the world real reason to believe that this Giants run can end up somewhere special. That destination might be the same one that the Giants reached in 2008, but the journey looks completely different than the last one.

Manning was along for the ride in 2008. In 2012, he's driving the bus.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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