Is Eli Manning 'elite' - you better believe it!

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Is Eli Manning 'elite' - you better believe it!

From Comcast SportsNet
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Back in August, back before the season began, Eli Manning was asked whether he considered himself an "elite" quarterback a la Tom Brady. Manning replied simply that he belonged "in that class." He was questioned and criticized for that, and -- shocking, right? -- it all became quite a big deal in New York. Hard to imagine anyone arguing about his status now. Perfect at the beginning, cool and calm on a closing drive to the go-ahead touchdown, Manning won his second NFL championship in a four-year span -- and second Super Bowl MVP award, too -- for steering the New York Giants to a 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday night. Right now, no one, not even his older sibling Peyton, is as good in the clutch right now. Right now, no one, not even New England's Tom Brady, is as adept at erasing deficits. "We've had a bunch of them this year. We've had some fourth-quarter comebacks," said Manning, 30 for 40 for 296 yards, with one touchdown pass and zero interceptions. "We'd been in those situations, and we knew that we had no more time left. We had to go down and score, and guys stepped up and made great plays." Led, as usual, by Manning himself. He opened the game by becoming the first quarterback to complete his first nine attempts in a Super Bowl. And he finished the job by directing the nine-play, 88-yard TD drive that put New York ahead with 57 seconds left. "That was quite a drive that he was able to put together," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "He deserves all the credit in the world, because he really has put his team on his shoulders all year." This late drive, so reminiscent of the way New York beat New England in the 2008 Super Bowl with Manning as MVP, started on the Giants' 12, with a little more than 3 minutes left and the Patriots ahead 17-15. It closed with running back Ahmad Bradshaw easing into the end zone from 6 yards out. The Patriots decided not to contest the run, trying to save some time on the clock for a final drive -- a risky and desperate decision by Patriots coach Bill Belichick. But New England couldn't get the ball back in the end zone, with Brady's final heave from his 49 falling barely beyond the grasp of tight end Rob Gronkowski. "We had this goal to finish, finish, finish," Coughlin said, "and win the fourth quarter." That's precisely when Manning takes over. In the regular season, he threw an NFL-record 15 TD passes in the final period. He also led six game-winning drives to bring New York back from fourth-quarter deficits. "He's become confident over time; kind of grew into it," Manning's father, former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie, told The Associated Press after Sunday's game. "I always felt like you have to experience those situations before you become confident. He's certainly had his share." That's true. Manning's even done it before in the Super Bowl. Four years ago, he took home his first MVP award after a scoring pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left allowed New York to upset Brady and New England, ruining the Patriots' bid for a perfect season. Back then, Manning got a boost from David Tyree's Velcro-helmet grab on the go-ahead drive. This time, the key play was Mario Manningham's 38-yard, over-the-shoulder catch between two defenders along the sideline, which held up after the Patriots challenged it. The Giants had trouble putting up points Sunday despite getting into New England's territory on every drive except a kneeldown at the end of the first half. But Manning kept at it, using eight receivers, led by Hakeem Nicks' 10 catches for 109 yards. "We just tried to be patient," said Manningham, who finished with five receptions for 73 yards. "Got to be patient with this game. We knew big plays (were) going to come. We just had to take advantage of them." Manning now is one of only five players in NFL history with multiple Super Bowl MVP awards. He joined the guy he got the better of in the big game yet again, Brady, along with Terry Bradshaw, Bart Starr and Joe Montana (the only player with three). And Manning did it in the House that Peyton Built, the stadium where his Big Bro -- a four-time regular-season MVP but owner of only one Super Bowl title -- has starred for the Indianapolis Colts. "It just feels good to win a Super Bowl. Doesn't matter where you are," said Manning, 10 for 14 for 118 yards in Sunday's fourth quarter. As he spoke, he clutched the silver Vince Lombardi Trophy. Once again, he'd outdone Brady, who was 27 of 41 for 276 yards, with two TDs and one interception. In one stretch, Brady completed 16 consecutive passes, breaking Joe Montana's Super Bowl record of 13. All Brady could do after the game was praise Manning. "He made some great throws there in the fourth quarter," Brady said. The biggest turnaround of all this season for Manning was the way he brought the Giants back from a 1-5 slump that left them 7-7 and in serious danger of missing the playoffs. But from there, he took them on a season-closing, six-game winning streak. He finished the postseason with nine TDs and only one interception, solid as could be the whole way. "I never doubt Eli," Giants safety Kenny Phillips said. "I don't think anyone on this team doubts Eli." No one -- anywhere -- possibly could doubt him now.

Horford admits he was 'very emotional' after 'special' win

Horford admits he was 'very emotional' after 'special' win

CLEVELAND – For about 30 or so seconds following Boston’s 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland, Al Horford was not Al Horford.

He’s a passionate player, but seldom is it on display in as outwardly a fashion as it was following their Game 3 victory.

In an interview with CSN’s Abby Chin after the game, Horford tried to put into words what the victory meant.

But the aggressive high-fives to teammates passing him by, the intense way he looked into the camera … that spoke volumes about what this game meant to the veteran big man.

“It’s big, it’s big!” Horford said in between high-fives with Jonas Jerebko and other Celtics who came past him.

“A lot of people doubting us out there!” Horford said, staring intently into the camera as if he was saying, ‘yeah, I’m talking about you!’”

Less than 24 hours after the game, Horford’s emotions had cooled down considerably.

“It was an emotional game,” he told CSN following a short practice at the Q Arena on Monday. “Just, having to hear … since the blowout, everybody counting us out. Everybody really believing that it was over.”

The Celtics came into Game 3 having lost both Games 1 and 2 at home by a combined 57 points which includes the worst playoff loss (Game 2, 130-86) in franchise history.

So with that as the backdrop, knowing full well that no one outside of their locker room gave them an ice cube in hell’s chance at winning Game 3, the victory brought about a level of satisfaction that Celtics players had seldom experienced before if at all.

“The emotions at that time were high for our group,” Horford admitted. “And it shows what we’ve been talking about all year, a resilient group that has a lot of fight in them. We were hit with some adversity with Isaiah being down but our group responded.”

Thomas re-aggravated a right hip injury in Game 2, and was later ruled out for the rest of the playoffs. 

After falling behind 77-56 in the third quarter, the Celtics closed out the third with a 26-10 run to come within 87-82 going into the fourth quarter. During the run, Marcus Smart had 11 points which turned out to be equal to LeBron James’ scoring output … for the entire game.

This is Horford's 10th NBA season, all of which have included a trip to the postseason.

That, combined with having won a pair of national championships when he played at the University of Florida, serves as a reminder that the 30-year-old has been on the winning ledger of big games before.

But even he acknowledged Sunday’s Game 3 win was … different.

“I have had plenty of moments like this,” Horford said. “But this was definitely emotional. This was very emotional, exciting, on the road, no one really giving us any chance. To be able to come through like that, it just felt great. I’ve been part of emotional wins, but this one was a special one.”

That was evident in Horford’s energy-charged, post-game comments.

“Heart! Heart! This team got heart!” he yelled. “We got beat bad (in Game 2), but it’s all about how you rebound!”

And we get that message, loud and clear!

'Ecstatic' Thomas was with Celtics teammates via FaceTime after Game 3 win

'Ecstatic' Thomas was with Celtics teammates via FaceTime after Game 3 win

CLEVELAND – Gone but definitely not forgotten.

Isaiah Thomas, out for the rest of the playoffs with a right hip injury, wasn’t in the Q Arena physically, but his presence – and his face via FaceTime – were inside the locker room in the initial moments following their 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland.

“We called him right after the game,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “He got to celebrate with us a little bit. It’s sad that he’s not here. We wish he was here with us. We just want him to get better.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens added, “I didn’t even realize that had happened until later on. one of my first text messages was from Isaiah.  He’s hurting not being out there but he’s completely invested, for sure.”

He initially suffered the injury on March 15 at Minnesota, but re-aggravated it in the first half of Boston’s Game 2 loss to the Cavs. Less than 24 hours later, Thomas was deemed out for the remainder of the playoffs.

Instead of Thomas being the rock of sorts that the Celtics lean on with his play, he has become their rallying cry for the remainder of the playoffs.

“All we can do is play hard for him,” Bradley said. “He was excited with the way we played. We’re a family. Other guys got an opportunity to step up for us. Marcus (Smart) had a big game for us. It could be somebody else next game.”

Smart led the Celtics with a career-high 27 points which included a career-best seven 3’s going down.

And most important, the Celtics avoided going down 3-0 which would have all but sealed their fate in this series considering no team in league history has ever come back for a 3-0 series deficit.

Doing so without Thomas, the Celtics’ leading scorer and the top regular season scorer in the Eastern Conference, made the win all that more impressive for Boston.

“It meant a lot,” Horford said. “We know, Isaiah gives us so much and gave us so much this year. For him, we definitely wanted to come out and fight for him and our season and our team. It felt good to keep believing despite being down big. Just felt good to win the game and bring life back to our locker room. Because going down 3-0, that’s a death sentence pretty much. This was big.”

Not only to the Celtics players but also to Thomas who also texted head coach Brad Stevens full of excitement following Boston’s surprising win.

“He was excited,” Horford recalled. “He was ecstatic. I know he wishes he was here being part of it. We just need to keep doing it for him and our group and doing the best we can.”