EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It was one of the most impossible plays that led to one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history, a signature moment that will forever be a part of Eli Manning’s legacy.
You remember:

Giants trailing the Patriots 14-10 in the final moments of Super Bowl XLII … third-and-5 from the Giants’ 44 … Manning back to pass, under a heavy rush … breaking free from the grasp of Jarvis Green and Richard Seymour … heaving the ball downfield for David Tyree, who outleaps Rodney Harrison, catches the ball, pinning it to the side of his head to maintain possession … setting up the winning touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds to play.

“Obviously, it was an important play in our success that year,” Manning said Monday. “I think that season, that will be one of the plays you always remember, is David making that catch and that drive to go down and win a championship.”

Manning faces the Patriots for the first time in a regular-season game since that memorable night in Glendale, Ariz.

“No, I don’t think so,” Manning said when asked if he’ll take a moment to reflect on the Super Bowl win. “I think this is a whole new environment, whole new situation. Obviously an important game, we have to have a great week of preparation. We know we’re going against a great team, a Hall of Fame coach, a Hall of Fame quarterback. We just have to go in there expecting to play sound football like we’ve been doing. Eliminate the mistakes, try to execute the game plan, try to get into the fourth quarter and win the game.”

Sorry, it’s all business for Manning, who would rather think about getting to 6-2 than taking a stroll down memory lane when he sees Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots in a huge matchup for both teams. For the Giants, it’s a chance to prove that their 5-2 start against mostly lightweight opponents can weather the test of an elite opponent. They go from playing the patsies to playing the Pats, as Manning’s team faces a slate of games that features four first-place teams, four division games and an intracity matchup against the Jets.

If it turns out the Giants can handle the heavyweight competition coming up, then it will be Manning and his vastly improved play this season that gets them there. The last time Manning played this consistently for this long a stretch was in 2007, when he had a late-season flourish and put together four mistake-free playoff games, capping it off with the win over the 18-0 Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Manning has thrown for 2,127 yards, 13 touchdowns and only five interceptions, and has a 102.1 rating that is more than 20 points above his career rating of 81.7.

He has been interception-free in four of seven games, with a three-interception performance in a home loss to the Seahawks the only real blemish on this year’s stats.

“He is playing very well and we expect that to remain that way,” Coach Tom Coughlin said. “The poise and confidence, the accuracy and the knowledge with all the studying that he does, the way that he performs is by knowing the opponent.”

Now that the Giants step up in class, Manning needs to continue his sharp play. The Patriots are a very tough out in Foxborough, but Manning will see a defense that is, in a lot of ways, a mess, allowing a league-worst 424.4 yards per game that includes a staggering average of 323.1 yards passing allowed.

With the Giants struggling to run the ball, and Manning’s efficiency about as good as it’s ever been, chances are he can take advantage of the Patriots’ sloppy coverages and make a bunch of plays.
But Manning takes nothing for granted.

“When you play New England, you always have to expect that they’re going to have a great game plan,” he said. “They’ve been a top team for as long as I’ve been in the NFL. They’re going to be well-coached, and we have to make sure we play a flawless game.”

So no time for looking back at his finest hour, even if he’s tempted to for just a moment. Too many X’s and O’s swimming around in Manning’s head to focus on anything but the here and now.

Manning knows if there’s another championship run in his team, it’ll have nothing to do with what happened on that memorable night.