The arm looked rested.
So did the legs.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning bounced back from a rough stretch before the bye, but the truth is, he wasn’t all that different than he always has been.
He’s always been pretty good, even if he hasn’t been as well-regarded as others.
Manning led the Giants to a clean and thorough 38-10 thrashing of the Packers, to improve to 7-4 on the season.
He was 16-of-30 passing for 249 yards and three touchdowns, and showed some nerve (if not excellent judgement) by rushing for a first down early, and not sliding.
It was the kind of night he needed after a rough stretch before the bye. He used the time off to rest his arm (which, for the record, seemed fine) and clear his head by watching classing movies, such as “Road House.” Like Patrick Swayze’s character Dalton, who people constantly underestimate by saying “I thought you’d be bigger,” Manning’s had a harder time fighting perceptions than opposing defenses.
Manning threw his 200th career touchdown pass in the third quarter, passing Phil Simms for most in Giants franchise history. Simms can parse it however he chooses, the guy who spent his career being the little brother is elite.
And if he’s not, it’s the definition of the word that needs a second look.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. As long as Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback, there’s a ceiling on how often you want the ball out of his hands.
But there’s a difference between not wanting to run and not being able to. The Packers are stuck on not being able to.
Having a philosophy is fine. But there will be nights when good teams can game-plan your strengths out of your hands, and you have to have a Plan B. The Packers Plan B is simply “throw some more” and that didn’t get them anywhere.
2. Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has interviewed for head coaching jobs before.
He will again, and the Giants better enjoy him while they can.
Fewell (who was the runner-up to Ron Rivera for the Carolina job two years ago, and might have another chance soon) had the Giants defense humming after the bye week, constantly throwing new looks at the Packers.
He opened the game in a three-safety set, with the return of Kenny Phillips. That Stevie Brown had played well in Phillips’ absence made it reasonable, but they weren’t through tweaking. At one point, they threw safety Will Hill out there with Phillips, Brown and Antrel Rolle.
Coupled with the sheer talent they have up front, that gives Fewell the ability to tinker, and he’s proving he knows how to move the pieces around.
Phillips wasn’t able to finish the game with a knee injury, so Fewell’s ability to improvise will be tested again. He’s up to it.
3. In the third quarter, the Giants dropped Rodgers for the 36th time this season.
That’s the same number he absorbed last season, and there are five more games left to play.
The Packers line has been a hash all year, but losing right tackle Bryan Bulaga might have been a last-straw situation, putting multiple guys in bad positions.
In addition to getting some guys well, the Packers need to invest in blockers this offseason, which could add some balance to the offense as well as keeping Rodgers on his feet if he’s going to throw on practically every play.
4. Maybe practice is overrated.
Ahmad Bradshaw, who basically shows up for work on Sunday, ran well Sunday night. Taking the screen pass 59 yards early was one thing, but the burst he showed on his 13-yard touchdown run made him look like a guy who was tired of losing short-yardage carries to Andre Brown.
Bradshaw’s foot issues have obviously robbed him of some of his burst, but he can still get the job done, thanks in part to the fact they’re willing to use him smartly.
5. Perhaps Packers coach Mike McCarthy was giving his kicker a chance to hit a home run, to regain some confidence.
But letting embattled Mason Crosby try his first one from 55 yards in a stadium not known for its consistent conditions wasn’t the best bet to get him back on tack.
Naturally, Crosby missed.
He entered the game 11-of-18 on field goals this season, having missed five of his previous 10. He came back to hit a 28-yarder, but he’s well off his career pace, and you wonder how many chances he’ll get.
It also gave the Giants a short field, and they scored in a hurry to go up 14-7 in the first quarter, and they never looked back.