SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Eli Manning has a little something left in the tank.
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. He was forced to sit out a single game last 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.
"It doesn't get old," Manning said. "It's fun. It's fun playing in those games, and having a two-minute drive to win it. Those are the situations you want to be in. You want to have a chance. Obviously, you'd love to have a two-score lead with a little time and run it out or whatnot, but you prepare and practice for those two-minute drives to go win football games.
"To come through is exciting. And the team needs that. The defense needs that, to know that we can do that; offense, we needed that for ourselves, saying, 'Hey, we can win.' If we get close in games, we can go win football games. And we just had to do it."
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."
This kind of performance, especially late in the game, was meaningful for Manning and the Giants. They have heard the buzz throughout a woeful first half of the season.
"It frustrates me when people go at him. I see that from the media, but you wouldn't want a better guy with the ball in his hands," Shepard said. "You saw what he did on that last drive. When we need him, he's going to come through for us."
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.
"[Told him] the same thing I always tell him. 'Take me home, 10,'" said wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who caught a pair of touchdown passes in the contest.
The game winner came when Manning hit Shepard just past the goal line near the pylon. Shepard made a leaping catch with 53 seconds remaining to put the Giants ahead.
It was a vintage Manning drive reminiscent of the prime of his career.
"After we went and scored, I came back on the sideline and was like, 'Man, you been doing this since I was like 12,'" Barkley said. "That's Eli. When he's in those moments, he's a heck of a player.
"When you're around him you know why. When you're young and you're watching TV you're like, 'Wow. He's just making those plays.' But his craft that he works on. Such a smart player. Such a hard worker -- on and off the field. In these positions he just thrives."
Manning went 6-of-9 for 69 yards on the final drive. It came in his most productive game of the season, and put to rest a long two weeks in which he faced constant questions about his future.
"It's more just getting asked about it," Manning said. "It doesn't bother me what people say, but just having to answer questions about it. You wanna go out there and play football. That's what I wanna do. I wanna be with my team and prepare and practice and go play football. And obviously get wins and feel good about what we're doing."
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, including the much-needed game winner.
"It was just time. It was just time," Beckham said. "Like I said, we've been in many close games, so we knew how to lose them, and we each had to find a way to win it, and we did."