Examining Eli Manning's Struggles with Consistency in 2012

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Examining Eli Manning's Struggles with Consistency in 2012
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Eli Manning. One week he's the best quarterback in the NFL, and the next week he looks as perplexed as a toddler who's just discovered his nostrils.

Consistency has been a major issue for the New York Giants signal caller, and as the success of the team rests in large part on his shoulders, there's reason for concern.

Through nine games this season, Manning has only had three outstanding games and has struggled badly in three-plus. He has brought his team back for fourth-quarter, come-from-behind victories three times, which is why he's such a dangerous quarterback and considered among the elite in the NFL. 

Still, when you look at his overall numbers this season, it's hard to be impressed. 

Manning has completed 61 percent of his 318 attempts this season, passing for 2,426 yards with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. 

So what's ailing Manning? Why has he struggled so much to consistently play at a high level in 2012?

Let's take a look at a sample of the worst of Manning's 2012 campaign and see what we find.

 

Second Quarter in Week 2 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Manning threw three interceptions in the second quarter of this game—one of which went for a touchdown the other way.

During this 15-minute stretch, he completed 12-of-18 passes for 119 yards with one touchdown to go with his three picks. 

Going back to look at the tape, here's what I saw.

On Manning's first interception, he was pressured from the right side as Michael Bennett got right around Sean Locklear. Martellus Bennett had lined up on the right and was crossing over the middle, and middle linebacker Mason Foster trailed the play underneath. 

Manning failed to recognize Foster underneath due to the pressure, and rather than take a sack deep in his own territory, he tried to force the throw into coverage. 

On Manning's second interception, Bennett once again gets pressure on Manning in no time flat, causing him to make another costly mistake. 

The sad part about this play is that the Bucs only rushed three men, and it's clear from the tape that the Giants offensive line didn't have a clue on how to stop the three men who did rush Manning.

Right before he is about to get creamed by Bennett, Manning overthrows Victor Cruz, and Brandon McDonald comes up with an easy interception. On this play, there's always a chance Manning thought the Bucs were in four-deep coverage and was simply trying to throw the ball away, but the more likely scenario here is that he simply overthrew his pass under pressure.

Manning's third interception of this game can be explained easily enough. 

After getting pressured into throwing two previous interceptions, Manning didn't want to let the same thing happen a third time. 

On this particular play, Eric Wright lines up right over Cruz in what looks to be man coverage. Then, at the last second, Wright moves to come off the left corner on a blitz, and Manning tries to beat the blitz by throwing into the area Wright just vacated. 

Unfortunately for Manning, Wright made a sensational grab and took the pass 60 yards the other way for a pick-six. 

Three interceptions in less than 15 minutes of game time, and all three can be directly attributed to pressure. 

One noteworthy stat to consider: Manning wasn't sacked a single time in this game, proving that stats can be extremely misleading. 

 

First Quarter in Week 9 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers made Manning's life a living hell in Week 9. 

For the game, he only completed 10-of-24 passes for 125 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception, and though the Steelers only sacked him twice, Manning was pressured all night long. 

Taking a look at the interception, we see that pressure once again is the cause of Manning's struggles.

The Steelers only bring four rushers on this play, though it looks from the start to be a five-man rush. 

Manning had barely finished his seven-step drop here.
Only moments later, Manning was hit by Heyward at the moment he threw the pass.

Cameron Hayward and LaMarr Woodley collapse the right side of the line (big surprise by now, right?) and Steve McLendon gets penetration up the middle. 

The coverage downfield is excellent, and Manning doesn't find any of his primary reads open. Then, as he's about to get smacked by Heyward, he panics and heaves the ball downfield in the general direction of Cruz (his security blanket), only to have his pass picked off by Ike Taylor, who had safety help over the top. 

 

Conclusion

Manning doesn't usually make big mistakes when he has time in the pocket. 

The Giants have given up only nine sacks this season (No. 1 in the NFL), but the offensive line has allowed plenty of pressure. 

Does Manning deserve the blame, or do you blame the offensive line?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Manning is inconsistent because his offensive line is inconsistent. Rarely do you see him struggle with accuracy or timing when he is being protected. 

Furthermore, Manning has been without a healthy Hakeem Nicks most of the year, as his big wide receiver has been in and out of the lineup with a gimpy knee and foot.

If the Giants can get Nicks back to 100 percent and keep Manning from getting harassed in the backfield, this team will be dangerous once again for the playoff push. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 and check out my weekly NFL picks at Pickfactor.com

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