SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Eli Manning has a little something left in the tank.
The embattled New York Giants quarterback led a game-winning touchdown drive in a 27-23 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.
Manning hit Sterling Shepard for the decisive score in the final minute. It allowed the Giants to end a five-game skid, and perhaps extended Manning’s run as the Giants’ starting quarterback, a job he has held since midway through the 2004 season.
It was the 36th game-winning drive of Manning’s career, but just his second in the past two seasons. He also did it last year against the Kansas City Chiefs.
“Guys made some great individual plays, we did better in the red zone, scored some touchdowns,” Manning said. “Hit some big play and ran the ball.”
This one came just in time.
Monday night might have been Manning’s last stand. He was struggling. So were the Giants (2-7). Had Manning played poorly, his starting job was likely in jeopardy. Coach Pat Shurmur would only guarantee publicly that Manning would start against the 49ers. Nothing more.
When asked about his future, Manning said: “I am happy to be playing football.”
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Then came one more little piece of magic from an aging quarterback who hasn’t shown many signs of life the past few seasons. Manning hit Evan Engram down the right sideline for 31 yards with more than two minutes remaining. He later hit Saquon Barkley for 23.
The game-winner came when Manning hit Sterling Shepard just past the goal line near the pylon. Shepard made a leaping catch with 53 seconds remaining to put the Giants ahead for the first time in the contest.
Manning went 6-of-9 for 69 yards and a touchdown on the final drive. It came in his most productive game of the season.
Manning had eight touchdown passes in his first eight games. He had three on Monday night. A slight glimpse of light appeared, even if only for a second, fresh off the bye week.
Manning finished 19-of-31 passing for 188 yards.