New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning hasn't finished a game with a passer rating over 100 since Week 1 against Dallas, when he posted his best statistics of the young season (27-of-42, 64.3 percent, for 450 yards, 4 TDs and 3 INTs).
Since that opening game, Manning’s stats have taken a sharp nosedive. He hasn’t completed more than 58 percent of his passes in Weeks 2 through 5 and has thrown for four touchdowns and nine interceptions in that time period as well, while also being sacked 12 times (out of the 15 total).
Manning’s latest shaky performance came in the Giants’ 36-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, a game in which he threw the ball 52 times, completing 24 of those attempts (46.1 percent) for 334 yards and two touchdowns.
However, he also had three interceptions to bring his 2013 season total to 12, and he was called for intentional grounding three times.
When it was all over, Manning finished the Eagles game with a 56.1 passer rating.
Despite his struggles, head coach Tom Coughlin believes that too much of the blame is incorrectly being placed on the offensive captain's shoulders.
“I know that we’re maligning my quarterback today and believe me, there’s a bunch of people involved in that,” Coughlin told reporters on a conference call.
“It’s a team concept. Whether you have a pressure situation, whether you have somebody that comes loose in front of him and he tries to move, whether the receiver doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do, whether people don’t come back for the ball—whatever it is—it’s a team game.”
The head coach just might be on to something with his observations. According to ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required), Manning’s receivers have dropped 13 of his passes.
Of his 221 dropbacks, Manning has also been under pressure 90 times, completing 32 of 72 pass attempts (44.4 percent) for 519 yards, three TDs and four interceptions.
The most alarming stat of all? Manning has been sacked once every 14.7 drop back attempts.
So when Coughlin, who implored the public to put the blame for the team’s slow start on the signal-caller, he isn’t just playing the role of a protective head coach.
However, Manning, being the accountable person he is, wasn’t so quick to absolve himself of any blame for the team’s worst start to a regular season in a non-strike year since 1979.
“I know I can play better. I’ve just got to keep working and have a great game plan and just try to make good decisions,” he said after the Giants loss to the Eagles.
“Sometimes in a game, things are going to go wrong and you have to make the best decisions, whatever that is—throw it away, take a sack. But I know I can’t keep turning the ball over.”
The Cowboys stood toe-to-toe with the undefeated Broncos for most of the game. However, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's errant throw to Denver linebacker Danny Trevathan ruined the first-ever 500-yard passing game in Cowboys franchise history.
The pick, which came with 2:04 left in the game, set up Denver's game-winning scoring drive, a 28-yard field goal by kicker Matt Prater, made as time expired.
The loss puts Dallas into a tie for first place with the Eagles in the NFC East while the Broncos remain one of three undefeated teams in the NFL, the other two being the Kansas city Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints.
The Giants will head to the Windy City for a Thursday night showdown against the Chicago Bears, who lost to New Orleans Saints, 26-18.
The Cowboys will host the Washington Redskins, who are coming off their bye week, in the Sunday night featured matchup.
The Eagles will visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had a Week 5 bye.
According to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports, running back David Wilson’s neck injury could be something much more than just a few days of soreness.
With Wilson’s immediate status uncertain, Garafolo reported that the Giants will be re-signing running back Da’Rel Scott, whom the team let go in Week 4.
Long snapper Zak DeOssie, a new addition to the injury report, was spotted having his back stretched out on the trainer’s table during Sunday's game.
The seven-year veteran has had issues with his back in the past but hasn’t had to miss much, if any, time because of it.
Tight end Brandon Myers, another new addition to the injury report, has a sprained ankle, though it’s not clear if his is a high or low sprain.
If he is unable to go, figure Bear Pascoe, who has been working at fullback, would get the start in his place, and fullback John Conner, who has yet to receive any snaps on offense, would likely get his first snaps.
Defensive end Damontre Moore didn’t really get much of a chance to have the impact he hoped to have on the game, as his injury occurred early. The severity of his injury wasn’t immediately known.
Three Things That Must Improve
When a team is 0-5, there's obviously a long list that must be improved if it's to get back to its winning ways. Here are three that are no doubt at or near the top of the Giants' list as they head into Week 6:
1. Offensive Line
No unit has undergone more weekly changes in personnel than the Giants offensive line. Unfortunately, those changes haven’t been for the better as there have been numerous communication breakdowns that are taking place.
In one example, left guard Kevin Boothe and left tackle Will Beatty were not on the same page during a running play in which Boothe initiated a block against a defender and then went to hand him off to Beatty, only to find that Beatty decided to engage another man who was already blocked.
One of the biggest culprits in the run-blocking woes is center Jim Cordle, who on virtually every play can be seen on the ground.
That’s not what you want to see from an offensive lineman engaged in run blocking because that means he’s either off-balance at the point of attack, or he’s just not strong enough to handle the defensive charge against him.
The other problem with the line is what it's being asked to do. Why, for example, is David Diehl being asked to pull when that’s not either’s strength?
Back in the day, right guard Chris Snee, now on injured reserve, could execute a pull with the best of them. However, Snee is no longer in the lineup, and Diehl will not be confused for the version of Snee from several years ago.
The sad reality is that the current offensive line configuration probably won’t be the last, which means more communication problems are on the horizon for a unit that just can’t seem to buy any consistency, regardless of the collective millions of dollars it receives to get the job done.
2. Team Discipline
Coughlin’s teams are supposed to have a reputation for being disciplined, yet the Giants have been anything but when it comes to penalties.
Against the Eagles, they had a season-high 12 penalties for 136 yards.
According to NFLGSIS.com (media login required) the Giants have 39 penalties for 314 yards through five games. In addition, 120 yards of offense have been nullified, as have 11 first downs. Also, 12 penalties have contributed to stalled scoring drives.
The most committed penalty is offensive holding, of which the Giants have been flagged nine times. That’s followed by four each for intentional grounding and neutral zone infractions.
The interesting part is that it doesn’t seem to be just one player who is consistently committing penalties, though of the 26 Giants flagged for penalties, Manning is the team leader with five for 50 nullified yards and five stalled drives, the penalties coming in Weeks 4 and 5.
He’s followed by Beatty, who has four penalties (three of which are holding) for 25 nullified yards and two stalled drives.
3. Eli Manning's Patience
As noted earlier, Manning is far from being the only problem on the Giants right now, but as one-time Giants quarterback and current NFL Network Analyst Kurt Warner noted on NFL GameDay, Manning’s patience has been wearing thin with his teammates.
As a result, Warner believes that Manning is taking on more than he’s realistically capable of handling.
Again, Manning’s teammates haven’t given him much reason to trust them—his pass protection is spotty, his running backs are diving at defender’s ankles rather than laying into them with their shoulders and his receivers aren’t always running the correct routes or making the catches when the ball hits them in the hands.
With all that being said, at some point Manning, known for his cool demeanor, has to realize when it’s smart to simply take a sack rather than putting the ball up for grabs or heaving it without any kind of plan.
Once he is able to do that, perhaps he can be more forgiving of himself if a play doesn’t go as expected.