Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants drops back against the Green Bay Packers at MetLife Stadium on November 25, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images North America)
Archie Manning was worried for a moment as sat in his seat at MetLife Stadium.
John Mara yelled, "Slide! Slide!" from his box.
Victor Cruz, standing nearby, cringed.
Many of the New York Giants' defensive players, watching the big screens from the bench, leaped to their feet.
But Eli Manning? He just walked back to the huddle nonchalantly, as if he just did something he'd done 200 times before.
This is not a reference to Manning's franchise-record-breaking touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks in the fourth quarter, or to either of the two previous ones he threw in the 38-10 blowout of the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. Rather, it's a retelling of the pivotal moment in this much-needed victory for the Giants - a 13-yard scramble by a quarterback whose running ability no one would confuse for Robert Griffin III's.
And it wasn't just about the conversion of a third-and-7 with that run late in the first quarter. It was about how Manning finished it, by lowering his shoulder into cornerback Tramon Williams in a moment where many other passers would've taken Mara's advice and slid.
Manning would have none of such cowardice here. Not without knowing for sure he'd gotten the first down. Not with this previously backsliding team needing this win even more than the standings showed. Not with the Giants needing to answer Aaron Rodgers' 61-yard touchdown pass earlier in the quarter.
Manning popped Williams. And maybe for the first time ever, he registered a new stat: Yards after contact. Three of them to be exact.
"Once he got up and he was okay, shrugged it off, I was excited because we needed that first down. It was a little bit of a turning point for us," Victor Cruz said as he left a very relieved locker room. "Once we got back in the huddle, we joked about it a little bit during one of the TV timeouts. We were just like, 'You lowered the boom!' He gave him a nice shot, so it was good to see from him."
This moment cannot be overstated, not with opponents dictating the pace against the Giants in their previous two games. The Pittsburgh Steelers did so in a victory here earlier this month, but when the Cincinnati Bengals did it in the game before the Giants' bye, there was reason to question the defending champs' toughness and mental makeup.