EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – During the fourth quarter of the Giants’ comeback win at Philadelphia, Eli Manning told Amani Toomer to get out of the huddle and go to the bench.

It’s not something a third-year quarterback says to an 11-year veteran receiver who happens to be leading the NFL in catches. But Toomer was cramping badly and Manning was concerned.

With the Giants trailing, Toomer ignored his quarterback and paid the price after making a career-high 12 catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-24 overtime victory.

“I felt like this is what we live for, the competition, the fourth quarter,” said Toomer, who had seven catches in the final four minutes of regulation and the overtime. “Somebody is going to give up and I just felt it wasn’t going to be me. It was going to be their team.”

Toomer barely outlasted the Eagles. The 32-year-old collapsed on the field after the final play because of dehydration and needed four bags of intravenous fluids after the game. He looked like an old man walking back to his locker and needed help taking off his shoulder pads. A Giants staff member had to help him put on his shoes.

Off to the side, coach Tom Coughlin stared.

“It was in admiration that I was watching, to make sure that he was OK,” Coughlin said.

Toomer wasn’t worried.

“I knew I would get better,” he said. “I have confidence in the training staff. If my health would have gone south, I knew I was in the best hands I could possibly be. I didn’t expect that to happen.”

What is unexpected is that Toomer is now leading the NFL in receiving with 17 catches for 178 yards, a 10.5 yard average. It’s one more catch than Marvin Harrison of the Colts and two more than Donald Driver of the Packers and Reggie Bush of the Saints. Laveranues Coles of the Jets leads the league in reception yardage with 253.

While Toomer is the Giants’ all-time leading receiver with 546 catches, he has not led the team in receptions since 2002.

His 60 catches last season were his second-lowest total since he became a starter in 1999 and were third on the team behind Plaxico Burress (76) and tight end Jeremy Shockey (63).

Last year was a major adjustment for Toomer. The signing of Burress changed his role, moving him from split end to flanker. Instead of being the deep threat on the outside, he was moved inside and given the dirty jobs of going over the middle and setting screens. In some three-wideout formations, he played like a tight end on the strong side.

The good news for the Giants is that Toomer can line up as a flanker and run plays designed for a split end. His two touchdown catches on Sunday covered 37 and 22 yards. Both came on plays where Toomer ran past the defender as a split end would.

“When I was on the outside I always thought it would be nice playing on the inside, and now I think maybe it wasn’t so bad out there,” Toomer said. “I like the fact that I can do both. In the game I demonstrated both. I think my versatility kind of sets me apart.”

The second catch was also impressive because Toomer dragged his feet in the back of the end zone to make the catch legal. It was his 46th career touchdown reception with the Giants, two shy of the club record held by Kyle Rote and one behind Joe Morrison, who is No. 2 on the list.

“That’s just having a great sense of football, knowing where you are at, reading everything and being a player,” said Burress, who ended the game with a 31-yard TD catch in overtime.

Toomer may want a bigger role, but he never complains when Manning spreads the ball around to Burress, Shockey and Tiki Barber.

Burress complained several times last season when Manning went elsewhere and Shockey has become animated on the field when he has not gotten the ball.

“Amani is a guy who is always going to be in the right spot,” Manning said. “He continues to make plays. He had some great plays where he caught the ball and made the guy miss and got a first down. All game he made plays for us.”



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