Eli Manning has had some bad games for a Giants team that is struggling but still could muster a playoff run.
What else is new?
That description is not unique to the 2016 NFL season, in which the Giants (2-3) enter Sunday afternoon’s visit from the Baltimore Ravens (3-2) at MetLife Stadium on a three-game losing streak.
It is the story of Manning’s career and of the Giants’ history with him as their franchise quarterback.
Manning’s off-and-on play is not a sign that age is slowing him down. On the contrary, Manning, 35, has never been more himself. That could either assure or worry Giants fans, depending on how they look at it.
“I think it’s important for everyone to know that I have his back,” coach Ben McAdoo said Friday. “We’re committed to him. He’s played great football here. He’s a champion. He’s a leader.”
Most of that is true. Manning hasn’t always played great football here, though.
Eli Manning has looked terrible at times during the regular season before. It’s getting to the postseason, where he has won two Super Bowls, that has been key throughout his career.
This is the quarterback who threw four interceptions — three of which were returned for touchdowns — in a 41-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving weekend in 2007 and then led the Giants to a Super Bowl.
He followed up a 2007 regular season of a 73.9 QB rating, 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, with a postseason of 95.7 QB rating, six TDs and one INT, winning four straight and toppling the 18-0 Patriots.
Manning has won 99 of 188 career regular season games (52.6%) for a win percentage slightly better than the odds of a coin flip, yet he has won eight of 11 playoff games for a staggering 72.7% postseason clip.
The Giants have made the playoffs in fewer than half of Manning’s seasons as a starter (5-of-11). They have been one-and-done in the postseason three times (2005, 2006, 2008), and they have not made the playoffs since Manning won his second Super Bowl in 2011.
Translation: Manning, at any age, has a well-documented history of stumbling in the regular season, including 25 interceptions in 2010 and 27 in 2013. Last week’s loss in Green Bay was the latest example.
“It is just a matter of still executing and playing at a high level, and we didn’t do that,” Manning said of his inaccurate performance, hurt also by an overmatched offensive line and a zero-catch outing from Victor Cruz.
The fact that Manning’s age has become a topic of conversation leading up to this game against the Ravens, frankly, is only evidence that the NFL media is as much of a copycat business as the NFL is a copycat league.
The number one sign of a deteriorating QB body would be less zip on Manning’s fastball. There has been no evidence of that, not even in Green Bay. His problems were happy feet and overthrows, not velocity.
Manning’s age wasn’t a topic of conversation in Week 1 in Dallas, when he was slinging the ball all over the field at AT&T Stadium for three touchdowns to Larry Donnell, Sterling Shepard and Cruz, and a 45-yard completion down the sideline to Odell Beckham Jr.
It wasn’t a topic in Week 2 against the Saints, when Manning was 32-for-41 passing with a 78% completion percentage and two passes to Beckham that should have been touchdowns.
Manning’s age also wasn’t at topic in Dallas after — regardless of Shepard’s wrong turn on a route — the QB threw a mind-numbing interception to start the second-half. Know why?
Because that is who Manning is: A player with great talent prone to excellence but also to bad mistakes.
The Lombardi Trophies make it easy to forget, but even in 2011, Manning threw at least one interception in eight consecutive games from Weeks 9-16 that season. That included no TDs and three picks in a 23-10 loss to Washington in Week 15.
He was then 9-for-27 with an interception the next week but hit Cruz for that unforgettable 99-yard TD pass in the second quarter of a win over the Jets. The Giants wouldn’t lose another game that season.
Manning’s 2007 Giants (10-6) tied the NFL record for worst regular season record by a Super Bowl champion. Manning’s 2011 Giants (9-7) broke that record four years later.
This season’s 2-3 record doesn’t mean the Giants are done. Manning’s errant throws don’t mean he’s too old.
It’s simply vintage Manning and Giants, and history shows they are not reasons to count him — or them — out.
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GIANTS VS. RAVENS, METLIFE STADIUM, 1 p.m.
LINE: GIANTS by 3; O/U: 44 1/2
TV: Ch. 2 (Greg Gumbel and Trent Green)
RADIO: WFAN 660 AM, 101.9 FM (Bob Papa and Carl Banks)
FORECAST: Sun mixing with clouds. High 71°, Low 58°; Cance of rain: 8%
GIANTS HOT READ: The Pass Rush
After overhauling their defense this offseason with a $200 million splurge in free agency, including the signing of defensive end Olivier Vernon to an $85 million contract, the Giants have produced a league-worst pass rush through five games.
Their four sacks rank last in all of the NFL, and two of those have come from defensive backs. Vernon has one sack all season, as does Jason Pierre-Paul , who signed a one-year deal.
But there’s hope this weekend. The Ravens will likely be without two starters on the offensive line in right guard Marshall Yanda and left tackle Ronnie Stanley , who are both doubtful. And they could be missing a third in right tackle Rick Wagner, who is questionable. Not to mention, Baltimore has allowed the seventh-most QB hits in the league through five weeks.
The Giants defensive front is in desperate need of a breakout game. The Ravens’ depleted offensive line could be the remedy.
TRAINING ROOM: S Nat Berhe (concussion), OT Marshall Newhouse (calf) and S Darian Thompson (foot) are OUT. CB Eli Apple (groin), WR Dwayne Harris (toe), RB Rashad Jennings (thumb), LB Devon Kennard (concussion), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (groin), and CB Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie (groin) are QUESTIONABLE.
RAVENS HOT READ: RB Terrance West
The Giants remain in top half of the league in rushing defense, but they’re coming off two straight poor performances.
Last week, Big Blue allowed the Packers to rush for 147 yards — and it could have been worse if starter Eddie Lacy hadn’t left the game in the third quarter because of an ankle injury. In Week 4 on Monday night, the Giants surrendered 104 rushing yards to Adrian Peterson -less Vikings.
It’s a concerning trend, especially considering the Giants allowed just 131 yards combined in weeks 2 and 3. So watch out for Baltimore running back Terrance West , who’s posted back-to-back strong outings against the Raiders on Oct. 2 (21 rushes, 113 yards, TD) and against Washington last week (11 rushes, 95 yards).
If the Giants rush defense is faltering, expect a big game from West, a third-year player who could be starting to replicate the production we saw from him during his rookie season in Cleveland.
TRAINING ROOM: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot) is OUT. RS Devin Hester (thigh), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), WR Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), OT Ronnie Stanley (foot), OG Marshal Yanda (shoulder) are DOUBTFUL. S Kendrick Lewis (thigh), LB Albert McClellan (calf), WR Mike Wallace (chest), OT Rick Wagner (thigh) and CB Shareece Wright (back) are QUESTIONABLE.
With Daniel Popper
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News