By Frank Pingue
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning knows a thing or two about beating the New England Patriots in a Super Bowl and thinks the Philadelphia Eagles can do the same in the NFL’s championship game on Sunday.
Manning is the only quarterback to beat a Tom Brady-led New England team in the Super Bowl, having done it in 2008 and 2012, and offered the Eagles a blueprint for success.
“In both Super Bowls our defense played outstanding,” Manning told Reuters on Friday. “We got a great pass rush on Tom and we were able to disrupt him a little bit and then when it came to the fourth quarter we played our best football.”
The Patriots are 4-1/2-point favorites heading into Sunday but Manning feels the underdog Eagles have all the pieces necessary to pull out a victory in Minneapolis.
“They have a great defensive front and they can get pressure on the quarterback,” said Manning, who is in Minneapolis to promote the Courtyard Super Bowl Sleepover Contest.
“They run the ball well, their quarterback is playing at a high level in Nick (Foles) so they have the ingredients. Now can they put it all together on gameday?”
At 40, Brady is well past the age when quarterbacks tend to be much less efficient but he is playing as well as ever and often saves his best for the NFL’s biggest game.
Last year, with the Patriots trailing 28-3 in the second half, Brady led his team to the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.
Manning said for the Eagles to prevail over the defending champions, they must emulate his Giants teams and nullify the five-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback’s timing.
“Obviously Tom’s playing at a high level. But the best way to slow down any quarterback is get pressure on him and make him throw the ball earlier than he wants to,” said Manning.
The Eagles are the NFC’s top seed but they have been home underdogs in both their playoff games, a label the players have embraced with many wearing dog masks after games and even during the buildup to the Super Bowl.
But Manning said that while the Eagles appear to be having fun with their underdog status, they are likely also using it as motivation going into the biggest game of the year.
“They’ve kind of used that approach all through the playoffs as motivation that they’ve been the underdog and they’ve embraced that role,” said Manning.
“That’s definitely been kind of something that has been a little chip on the shoulder and helped them get through it. On paper they are the underdog again so I know they are talking about that.”
Manning did not reveal his prediction for the outcome of Sunday’s championship, saying only that the game will likely be a close encounter.
“I don’t have a favorite of who’s going to win. It’s tough to say that the Patriots aren’t going to win. They seem to get to this game a lot and find ways to win it,” he said.
“But I think it will be a tight game and come down to whoever has the ball last with little time left.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Christian Radnedge)