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Fact or Fiction: Sideline Catch vs. Helmet Catch

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In honor of the 10th anniversary celebration, the Giants.com crew debates a variety of topics about the 2011 championship season.

The Sideline Catch is a better play than the Helmet Catch.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - Well, this all depends on how you define "better." The Sideline Catch by Mario Manningham in Super Bowl 46 was a more precise and better executed pure football play. The David Tyree play was more amazing, consequential to the result of the game, and required multiple things to happen that we are unlikely to see again. The Helmet Catch might have been the best escape-from-pressure play in Eli Manning's entire career, and the greatest catch of Tyree's career. It is hard to beat those two factors.

Dan Salomone: Fiction - More skillful? Yes. Better? No. The Helmet Catch is one of the best plays in sports history, let alone in Giants' lore. And let's not forget the first part of that play. Eli Manning's escape was just as improbable as David Tyree's catch, with referee Mike Carey getting set to whistle the play dead. If it weren't for that element of the play, then the Sideline Catch might be closer in the rankings.

Lance Medow: Fact - Let's get this out of the way right from the start. They're both ridiculous plays, but Eli Manning's pass to Mario Manningham in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 46 is near perfection. Eli put the ball in the only place it could have been thrown - over Manningham's outside shoulder. It was either going to be a completion or incomplete. Manning's ball placement didn't allow either of the Patriots defenders to record an interception because he used the sideline as a barrier. That's just one half of the play. Manningham not only made a great grab, but he managed to keep both feet inbounds with very little space to operate. With respect to the David Tyree helmet catch, both he and Eli made two impressive extra-effort plays - with Manning escaping twice and Tyree winning a jump ball - but there was a lot of luck involved. The former was a result of precision and strategy.

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Tickets for 2011 10th Anniversary Celebration

Limited tickets are available for the 2011 10th Anniversary Celebration game

The 2011 NFC Championship Game was the best performance of Eli Manning's career.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - It might have been the gutsiest performance, but it certainly wasn't the best. The Giants' offense was pedestrian that day. They had 12 drives in the second half and overtime, scoring on only two of them. Both scores were set up by turnovers with the Giants getting the ball inside the San Francisco 30. The Giants didn't have a possession where they gained more than 31 yards. Manning showed his toughness by continuing to get up after getting pounded into the turf time and time again, but the production just wasn't there. You can list a dozen games where Manning played better.

Dan Salomone: Fact - It wasn't pretty, but Manning got the job done when it mattered most and earned the respect of his peers along the way. The same can be said for his entire career.

"Offensively, my gosh, I didn't think that Eli could take any more damage and punishment than he did that game," safety Antrel Rolle recently said on the Giants Huddle podcast. "I kept saying to myself, 'Oh man, he's done. He's done. He's not getting up. That's too much.' Every single time, that dude with the No. 10 on the back of his jersey would get up, he would fix his shoulder pads, he would fix his jersey and he would come out swinging.

"That's when I honestly became an Eli Manning fan. I always loved his game, always appreciated him as a teammate, but that game made me a fan, to the point where I could look up at him and I could honestly glow because I knew that he had that dog in him. I knew that he was relentless. I knew that he was willing to withstand and do anything and stand that pain in order for us to be victorious. When you have a guy like that on your side, how can you not go out there and give him your all? How can you not go out there and exhaust yourself? That's what it was all about. Just riding for the guy next to you."

Lance Medow: Fact - The box score doesn't always do a great performance justice and that's why you have to watch the 2011 NFC Championship Game to truly appreciate and understand why this tops the list for Eli Manning. First of all, the weather was far from ideal as wet conditions set the tone throughout the entire game. Despite that, Eli dropped back 64 times. He attempted 58 passes and was sacked six times. The Niners' defensive front just kept coming for him and recorded 13 quarterback hits. Six different players had at least one hit and five different players collected at least half a sack yet Manning just kept getting up and ultimately threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns. Although there were other games when he put up more impressive numbers and contests in which he recorded a fourth-quarterback comeback, if you're looking for one game to define Eli's career, put this ahead of the pack.

The Giants' thriller in Dallas was the wildest game of the 2011 season.

John Schmeelk: Fact - There were so many great games that season, but the Dallas game had four touchdowns and a potential game winning field goal within in the fourth quarter. The Giants had a 22-20 leading after three quarters before Dallas scored touchdowns on consecutive drives of 80 and 49 yards, thanks to a 74-yard completion to Laurent Robinson and 50-yard pass to Dez Bryant. The Giants got the ball back at their own 20 with just 5:41 remaining while trailing, 34-22. Eli Manning drove the ball 80 yards in just 2:27 before completing an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jake Ballard. A 23-yard completion to Victor Cruz and 24 yard completion to Hakeem Nicks were essential to the scoring drive.

The Cowboys got the ball back, and ran a surprise play action pass on third-and-5. Miles Austin was wide open on the right side of the field but a Tony Romo pass fell incomplete. The pass looked slightly overthrown but Austin later claimed he lost the ball in the lights. A completion would have ended the game.

The Giants got the ball back at their own 42 at the two-minute warning after a poor punt. Ballard caught two passes for 39 yards on the drive before Brandon Jacobs ran it in from a yard out with only 46 seconds remaining.

But it wasn't over yet. Dallas gained 51 yards on just three plays, including two passes to Austin for 45 yards. With six seconds remaining, Dan Bailey came on the field to attempt a potential 47 yard game-tying kick but Jason Pierre-Paul managed to get his hand on the kick it and preserve the game for the Giants. Without the victory, the Giants likely would not have made the playoffs and their Super Bowl hopes would have been dashed.

Dan Salomone: Fact - The NFC Championship Game was high drama, but in terms of straight wildness, that Week 14 trip to Dallas will always be remembered. If two sacks, a forced fumble and a safety weren't enough for Jason Pierre-Paul, the defensive end put an exclamation point on his breakout campaign by getting just enough of Dan Bailey's kick to prevent the ninth lead change of the game and nail down the win.

Lance Medow: Fact - There's another regular season game that comes close. The Cowboys led this contest 34-22 with 5:41 left in the fourth quarter following a 50-yard touchdown connection between Tony Romo and Dez Bryant and appeared to be en route to a fairly uneventful victory. Instead, the Giants outscored Dallas, 15-0, to win the game in one of the craziest finishes in team history.

Ahmad Bradshaw scoring the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLVI was the right play instead of letting the clock run down and attempting a field goal.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - Bradshaw's initial instinct was correct: stop short of the goal line and let more time run off the clock. The Giants trailed by only two points with just over a minute remaining and had the ball on the New England 7. The Patriots already used two timeouts, with only one remaining. If Bradshaw didn't score, the Giants could have forced the Patriots to use another timeout and bring the clock down to a mere seconds before kicking a chip shot field goal for the win. After scoring the touchdown, the Patriots still had 57 seconds and a time out remaining to get into position to reach the end zone. They didn't, but the odds of winning if Bradshaw stopped short of the goal line were higher.

Dan Salomone: Fact - Awkward? Yes. The right play? Also yes. Much greater football minds may disagree, but you can't get too cute when a Super Bowl is on the line. You have to take the points and the lead – even if it gives Tom Brady's canon another shot or two, just like in Super Bowl XLII. That was yet another similarity between the two Super Bowl victories over the Patriots.

Lance Medow: Fact - It's funny when some debate whether a player scores too soon. There is no such thing unless you have a crystal ball and can accurately predict every result that follows. What happens if there's an issue on the snap for the field goal attempt? What happens if the kicker misses? Is your defense incapable of keeping the opposing team out of the end zone? Don't overthink it. Whenever you have a chance to score, you should take advantage. Even though Ahmad Bradshaw initially tried to stay out of the end zone, it was a good thing he fell in and gave the Giants a 21-17 lead, If they settled for a field goal, a make would have left it 18-17 and meant the Patriots only would have needed to get into field goal range – and that completely changes things.

View photos of the Giants' epic win over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.

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Tickets for Eli Manning Ceremony

Limited tickets are available for Eli Manning's jersey retirement and Ring of Honor induction game

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