The Giants gave Eli Manning the home farewell he deserves

Surrounded by cameras, serenaded by cheers, No. 10 jogged off the field, perhaps for the last time.

Eli Manning waved to the MetLife Stadium crowd as his mother, Olivia, waved back from her perch inside a luxury suite, alongside her husband Archie and other members of the Manning clan. Together, the couple watched from on high as their youngest son said his final goodbyes to the fans before being greeted in the stadium tunnel by more familiar faces. Manning leaned in and kissed his wife, Abby, before taking turns hugging and holding their three daughters and infant son.

It was a family affair from start to finish and a fitting ending for one of the most important figures in Giants' history. And the disappointment of a 3-11 season couldn't put a damper on Manning's unofficial exit. 

All that mattered to the veteran quarterback was the chance to lead his longtime team to one more victory. And all his teammates cared about was helping him go out on top.

"Saquon [Barkley] and I looked at each other right when we were going out for the first series and we said let's send him out on the right note, do everything in our power," receiver Sterling Shepard said after the Giants' 36-20drubbing of the Miami Dolphins.

Technically, there's a chance this isn't the last start of Manning's career. There still are two games left on the schedule: at Washington and the Giants' season finale at home against Philadelphia. But the gametime status of the two-time Super Bowl champion depends on the health of Daniel Jones, the new face of the franchise who's currently sidelined by an ankle injury. 

Asked if he wants to start next week, Manning predictably said: "Of course I'd like to. I know Daniel is getting close. I get it either way."

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) runs off the field during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Whether Jones starts against the Redskins is somewhat immaterial in the grand scheme of things. Manning's time in New York is coming to a close and, as a result, Sunday became his unofficial swan song. 

"I don't know what the future is," he said. "I don't know what lies next week, let alone down the road. Obviously, the support and the fans, their ovation, chanting my name from the first snap to the end, I appreciate that. I appreciate them always and all my teammates coming up to me. It's a special day, a special win and one I'll remember."

But if this was, actually, it — Manning's last stand in a Giants uniform — it will go down as one of the Eli-iest. 

His final stat line (20 for 28 for 283 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions) told a familiar story. Manning was good, but definitely not great. But even so, for every errant throw, there was a dime dropped directly into the arms of a receiver. There were moments where he looked like the Manning of old, the same savvy veteran who twice earned Super Bowl MVP honors. And then there were flashes of the regression that helped paved the way for Jones to prematurely supplant him as the Giants' starter in Week 3.

The victory over Miami also improved Manning's career record to 117-117 — a fitting .500 success rate for the polarizing future Hall of Famer. But in the end, all that mattered in the locker room was that Manning had guided the Giants to a victory for their first since Week 4 and helped them snap their franchise-record losing streak at nine games.

The Giants' typically listless offense awakened at just the right time. Barkley returned to form, rushing for over 100 yards for the first time since Week 2, while Shepard rebounded from an early drop to haul in nine catches on 11 targets for 111 yards. The Giants' depleted defense also came alive, sacking 37-year-old journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick three times and limiting the Dolphins (3-11) to 10 points over the final two quarters.

They did it for him, they said.

They did it for his 16 seasons and two Lombardi trophies.

They did it for the yellow "C" he proudly wears on his chest.

They did it for the leader he has always been, both on the field and behind the scenes.

"It was definitely something that we rallied behind and we got fired up about," safety Michael Thomas said. "Guys said let's call it like it is, we are playing for him. We are playing for Eli today. Let's send him off right. He's a legend, let's send him off the right way. 

"…We put so much into this game, but for him, the storm he's been through in his career, the ups and downs. …We just wanted to come out here and get the win for him."

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Eli Manning through his career
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Eli Manning through his career
University of Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning (R) greets Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Josh Fields after the Rebels defeated the Cowboys 31-28 at the 68th Cotton Bowl Classic in Dallas, Texas, January 2, 2004. Manning passed for 259 yards. REUTERS/Jeff Mitchell JM
Quarterback Eli Manning (L), from the University of Mississippi, stands with his brother, NFL quarterback Payton Manning, after Eli was chosen as the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, at Madison Square Garden in New York, April 24, 2004. Manning was originally selected by the San Diego Chargers, who then traded him to the New York Giants shortly afterwards for future draft picks. REUTERS/Chip East MS/HB
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10), the first choice in the 2004 National Football League draft, listens to Offensive Coordinator John Hufnagel (L) as he works out on the first day of the Giants Mandatory Mini-Camp at the Giants practice facility next to Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, May 7, 2004. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine RFS
New York Giants starting quarterback Eli Manning throws a pass during the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, November 21, 2004. Manning, this season's number 1 overall NFL draft pick, was making his first start for the Giants replacing Kurt Warner who started the Giants' first nine games of the season. REUTERS/Mike Segar MS
New York Giants quarterback Manning celebrates throwing a touchdown pass next to Arizona Cardinals Okeafor in East Rutherford. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (R) celebrates throwing a touchdown pass next to Arizona Cardinals Chike Okeafor (L) during first quarter action in their NFL game in East Rutherford September 11, 2005. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning throws against the Washington Redskins in the first half of their NFL game in Landover, Maryland, December 24, 2005. Washington defeated New York 35-20. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (L) talks with his brother, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, following their NFL football game in East Rutherford September 10, 2006. The game was the first time the brothers played against each other as quarterbacks in the NFL. Indianapolis defeated New York. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (UNITED STATES)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning tries to evade a tackle by Dallas Cowboys linebacker Demarcus Ware (R) in the fourth quarter of their NFL footall game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, December 3, 2006. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES)
New York Giants' quarterback Eli Manning (10) rolls out of the pocket during second quarter of his team's NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, New York December 23, 2007. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES)
New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin (L) stands with quarterback Eli Manning before their NFC Divisional NFL playoff football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Irving, Texas, January 13, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is interviewed by the NFL Network during press conference in Phoenix, Arizona, January 28, 2008. The Giants will play the undefeated New England Patriots in the National Football League's Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona, February 3, 2008. REUTERS/Jeff Topping (UNITED STATES)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) celebrates after his touchdown pass to teammate David Tyree (not pictured) in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots in the NFL's Super Bowl XLII football game in Glendale, Arizona, February 3, 2008. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy during his team's ticker tape Super Bowl victory parade through the Canyon of Heroes along Broadway in New York February 5, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES)
New York Giants Eli Manning looks on as time expires during the fourth quarter of their NFL football game loss to the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland, Ohio October 13, 2008. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and his wife Abby McGrew watch the match between Andy Roddick and John Isner at the U.S. Open tennis championship in New York, September 5, 2009. REUTERS/David Gray (UNITED STATES SPORT TENNIS ENTERTAINMENT)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning celebrates throwing a touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks against the Carolina Panthers during the first quarter in their NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, September 12, 2010. The touchdown was the first scored during a regular season game in the Giants new stadium. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning waves as he leaves the field after the Giants defeated the Dallas Cowboys in their NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, January 1, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning addresses the media during a news conference for the Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis January 30, 2012. The Giants will play against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on February 5. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Giants defeated the New England Patriots in the NFL Super Bowl XLVI football game in Indianapolis, Indiana, February 5, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning passes against the New York Jets during the first quarter of their pre-season NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey August 18, 2012. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (L) stands with teammate Lawrence Tynes in the final minutes of their NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles in East Rutherford, New Jersey, December 30, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
May 4, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning watch the game between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 9, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) hands off the ball to New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings (23) in the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 28, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) reacts after a touchdown was called back on a holding penalty during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) before a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 5, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; From left Benjamin Watson , Eli Manning , Anquan Boldin stand with their awards during the Walter Payton man of the year press conference at Moscone Center in advance of Super Bowl 50 between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 20, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) drops back to pass against the Chicago Bears during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 10, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) leaves the field after the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) reacts after a play against the New York Giants during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - DECEMBER 23: Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants throws a pass down field during the game against the Indianapolis Colts in the first quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 02: Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants runs off the field after his teams 30-27 win over the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium on December 02, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 08: New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) amd New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) prior to the National Football League pre-season football game between the New York Giants and the New York Jets on August 8, 2019 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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The ovations for Manning began before the game even started.

The crowd rose to its feet and chanted, "Eli Manning! Eli Manning!” as the Giants offense took the field pregame. And with 1:50 remaining in the game, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur substituted backup quarterback Alex Tanney in the game, allowing for another Manning ovation.

"I just felt like it was the right thing to do," Shurmur said of the curtain call.

As Manning walked to the sideline, he was greeted by handshakes and high-fives from his teammates. His eyes welled with tears as he scanned the crowd and a chorus of "Eli Manning" chants rained down from the stands.

Said Shepard: "David Tyree and I were talking about it on the sideline. He was saying Eli has a piece of all of us and it's just a special day. We were able to get this win for him and send him out on the right note and it's a blessing."

Even Giants CEO John Mara was teary-eyed in the aftermath of the win and the crowd's reaction to what very well could be Manning's final game.

"He's a class act all the way, on and off the field," Mara told reporters as he held back tears. "It's very emotional. It was just nice to see him smile in the locker room."

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