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Manning Leads Giants Into Lambeau Again


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There was a time when New York doubted him, booed him, wished he hadn’t forced his way here on draft day from San Diego. The slumped shoulders, the aw-shucks demeanor, the absence of fire ... we were certain we were about to eat this guy alive, because the meek shall not inherit the earth around here.


And Sunday, Eli Manning steps back into Lambeau Field, steps closer to his second Super Bowl championship, and there isn’t any other quarterback the New York Football Giants would want to lead them into battle against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers than him.


Their Rambeau. At Lambeau.


He may not look like a stone-cold killer, but he is.


“Eli has that cool, calm demeanor — but there’s a lion in there, man,” Dave Tollefson told The Post.


How do you know?


“Look at how he plays! That man wants to win. I want to win with him. It’s like ‘Speak softly, carry a big stick.’ He’s my kinda guy.”


Tollefson was shown the Post’s depiction of Rambeau II and he chuckles.


“That’s cool,” Tollefson said.


Then he said, “You gotta look in his eyes, man. The facial expressions, the goofiness, how he acts and stuff ... the man’s got a soul of a fighter. With his shirt off, does he look like a fighter? Probably not. But it’s about the insides, and Coach [Tom Coughlin] talks about it all the time — the spirit will conquer the sword.”


Think about how Rambeau-tough Manning is:


He has played in 127 straight games since Coughlin handed him the keys to the Giants kingdom in his 2004 rookie season. Plantar fasciitis couldn’t stop him. A sprained throwing shoulder couldn’t stop him.


We asked him to live up to older brother Peyton’s greatness, and he never tried to, and was resilient and driven enough to win a Super Bowl in his fourth season.


John Rambo was the “mentally unhinged” ex-Vietnam Green Beret played by Sylvester Stallone in the movie “First Blood.” The difference with Manning is as mentally hinged as you can get.


“Oh I loved Rambo, man,” Tollefson said, “just about this guy who just came back from Vietnam, and people were messin’ with him, man.


“Don’t poke a grizzly with a short stick ... kinda like my guy.”


Your guy?


“Eli,” Tollefson said. “Don’t poke a grizzly with a short stick. That grizzly’ll rip your face off. It might look like an old circus bear ... but it’s still a bear!”


Mark Bavaro was the original Giants’ Rambo, mostly because of his toughness and resemblance to Stallone. He renounced the nickname because his uncle and cousin had served in Vietnam. “Rambo exploited the Vietnam veteran,” Bavaro said at Super Bowl XXI.


Rambeau II is meant only as an appreciation of Manning’s burning will to win.


“Every athlete, competitor, that’s what it’s all about,” Manning said. “That’s why you try to stay healthy. That’s why you work out in the offseason. That’s why you spend hours watching film — it’s all to put your team in a situation to win games. It used to be at one point just about going out there and playing hard, but as you get older, and the sport gets more complicated and more things on the line, it’s about preparation. And that gets you started, but then once you get on the field, it’s really just a matter of competing, and competing ’til the end no matter what the circumstances or condition, just trying to figure out a way to win.”


His stoic face is a mask for what burns inside him.


“Eli has a baby face.” tight end Travis Beckum said. “How some people are monotone? He’s monofaced.”


The Packers better think twice if they expect Rambeau to ever surrender.


“He’s gonna be tough to be beat, I’ll just say that,” Justin Tuck said. “Not only his confidence in himself and his abilities, but the confidence that we have in him. It just seems like this team grows as the game goes on, as Eli gets hot, as that confidence just builds ... it’s like we don’t feel like we can lose when he goes out there and plays like that.”


You can’t rattle him.


“I don’t think I could remember one time this year where there was that one split second where he was flustered, “ Victor Cruz said.


Manning is Rambeau during the week as well.


Mathias Kiwanuka: “During the week, that’s one of the last cars out of the parking lot. And regardless of how early you get here, it’s one of the first cars that’s already there. Regardless of what his body language might look like on TV, when he walks through this locker room, we look at him as a confident quarterback who has the ability, so we trust him 100 percent.”


Especially in the fourth quarter. Especially now, two games from the Super Bowl.


“There’s no other person I’d rather have back there at quarterback when the game’s on the line,” Kevin Boothe said.


Their Rambeau. At Lambeau.




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