Are the New York Giants Losing Confidence in Eli Manning?

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistNovember 12, 2013

Nov 10, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) reacts after throwing a interceptions agains the Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

With 1:20 left in the half and the Giants trailing by three points, Kevin Gilbride called three running plays to run out the clock despite holding three timeouts in his back pocket.  

Of course, Eli Manning had just thrown his third pick-six of the season during the Giants' previous possession when Tracy Porter, who had the biggest pick-six of his career against Peyton Manning during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIV which all but secured a title for the New Orleans Saints, jumped a pass intended for Victor Cruz.

“When you run the route, you kind of know who is in your area and you kind of know when you're going to get the ball and when you're not," Cruz said after the game according to the New Jersey Star-Ledger. "And when he threw the ball, I was a little surprised because it's a coverage that we've gone over. I'm assuming he didn't see him in that area but that's why I was surprised when I saw it."

That was apparently all that the Giants’ coaching staff needed to see.

"I decided to regroup there," Coach Tom Coughlin told Ian O'Connor of after the game.

So with 1:20 left in the half against an Oakland Raiders defense that came into the game ranked 20th in the league against the pass and had just given up a record-tying seven touchdown passes to the Eagles’ Nick Foles the previous week, the Giants decided that going into the half down by three points was a far better proposition than putting the ball back in Manning’s hands deep in Oakland territory.

This was a signal as clear as any that the Giants have begun losing confidence in their $20 million quarterback, and this is a problem that can no longer be overlooked.

For much of the first half of the season many simply chalked up Manning’s struggles to a poor offensive line and the lack of any running game whatsoever.

After all, Manning has been wildly successful in the past when the Giants have had the right pieces in place. Most had still given Manning the benefit of the doubt despite a quarterback rating of just 68.4 and a league-worst 15 interceptions through the first eight games of the season.

Manning had been sacked 15 times going into Sunday’s game and was dropped in the backfield another three times against the Raiders, but that isn’t anything completely out of the ordinary.

Russell Wilson had been sacked 27 times heading into Week 10, yet he had only thrown six interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 98.1.

Tom Brady had been sacked 26 times through his first nine games of the season, yet he had also thrown just six interceptions while dealing with a very young and inexperienced receiving corps.

Throughout the first eight games of the season the Giants running game had been poor at best.

Heading into last Sunday’s game against Oakland, the Giants had started five different backs in their last six games and were ranked 30th in the league in total rushing yards.

But with Andre Brown returning to the lineup and rushing for 115 yards on 30 carries last Sunday, the running game excuse is no longer valid.

The Giants defense also did their job last Sunday afternoon, accounting for seven points with a Terrell Thomas interception that was returned to the Raiders 4-yard line and resulted in a three-yard touchdown run by Brown.

The defensive special teams unit also stepped up when Damontre Moore blocked Marquette King’s punt in the first quarter which was then returned for a touchdown by Cooper Taylor.

Virtually every aspect of the Giants’ team was firing on all cylinders on Sunday afternoon, except for their two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback.

Manning completed 12 of his 22 passing attempts for just 140 yards and was off the mark for much of the afternoon.

Perhaps Manning’s biggest blunder of the game outside of his pick-six late in the first half was completely missing a wide-open Cruz on 3rd-and-goal with just eight minutes left in the game. This forced the Giants to settle for a field goal when a touchdown would have required Oakland to score another touchdown themselves and then convert for two points in order to tie the game.

Luckily for Manning, Mathias Kiwanuka forced a fumble on Terrelle Pryor during Oakland’s next possession which essentially sealed the deal for the Giants.

"We're finding ways to win," Manning said after the Giants' 24-20 victory over the Raiders at MetLife Stadium. "We just have to figure out how to execute a little bit better, especially in the passing game."

Despite a 3-6 record, the Giants are miraculously just one win out of first place in the abysmal NFC East.  

The defense has picked up its game over the past several weeks and the Giants finally appear to have found some form of a running game in Brown.

But any potential late-season playoff run is going to rest squarely on the shoulders of Manning, just as it has for the past nine seasons.

It often takes a calamitous series of events for a team to begin losing confidence in a quarterback, but as we have seen time and time again, it can take just one strong performance to turn the tides of confidence back in the other direction.

The ball will be in Manning’s hands both literally and figuratively for the remainder of the season, and there is only one person that can break Eli Manning out of his slump, and that is Eli Manning.