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Game Rewind: Eli Manning

We reviewed all 35 of the significant Eli Manning plays to get a better understanding of the game the Giants QB played on Sunday night.  The thing that is striking is how many good plays that Eli Manning actually makes. 

I counted 23 plays where Eli was terrific. 
Another 6 plays were somewhat innocuous and inconsequential. 
2 plays were classified as weak.
4 plays were ugly.

Let’s discuss the “ugly” plays first and get them out of the way, since everyone knows them. 

(1) On the first Samuel INT, Nicks fights back to get to the ball like he needs to do as the WR, but it does not matter because two things have happened that doomed the play.  First, Eli has telegraphed where he is going with the ball and second, Samuel has been watching Eli the whole way.  Despite a valiant effort from Nicks, the result is an INT. 

(2) It is 2nd and 17 in Q4 with 8:11 left.  Nicks has actually beaten Patterson on a crossing route underneath.  And to make the setup more egregious, Patterson stumbles thereafter and is now 3 steps behind Nicks. (The first angle on the original coverage did not look like Nicks had a lot of separation, but he actually had a ton.)  Manning misses Nicks high, and the ball tips off the WR’s hands for an incomplete pass.  YAHOO. (Yet Another High One Overthehead.)  Collinsworth: “that one might have gone for the first down had he hit it.”  Folks, these plays are like turnovers.  Yes, you get to punt after 3 downs, but you send the defense back on the field and give Vick another crack at you.

(3) ??? With 4:14 left in Q4 and the Eagles now ahead 24-17, Manning underthrows Hagan by a wide margin.  Hagan was past his defender.  Hagan slows up to come back for the ball, climbs over the back of the defender, the collision creates the deflection, which leads to an INT.  It is possible that Hagan has run an improper route, but we will not know.  From the simple review, it is a poorly thrown ball.

(4) The now infamous 4th down Eli rumble and fumble.  This one has been dissected and analyzed numerous times, no need for me to pile on.  My quick one sentence is that there is no excuse for the turnover.

So let’s take a review of everything.  23 times during the game where Eli was excellent.  2 terribleplays and 2 poorly thrown balls.  Samuel gets a lot of credit for spying Eli and jumping the route on the first pick, but Eli cannot telegraph vs guys like Samuel.  You know those types, the Ronde Barbers, the DeAngelo Halls, the Darren Sharpers… there are certain guys at CB and S who prey upon the telegraphing, and they are easy to beat… just look them off and come back at the last moment.  It means having confidence in your WR to be running the precise route.  But it is not an accident when you see which guys have feasted off of Eli.  When you talk about “protecting the ball” with the Giants, it means high and tight for Bradshaw, more accuracy from Eli and no telegraphing plays.

But here is the rub- Eli played a very good game.  He needs to simply eliminate about ~1 ill-advised moment per game and the team will win.  There were more than a few of those 23 plays where Eli was excellent that the Giants did not get help on the other end.  On Monday morning we commented about the Nicks 38 yard reception which is out of bounds because he lost awareness of the sideline.  That is a 3 and out at the beginning of the game which changes the game.  YES, even in Q1 on the first possession, it is a gamechanger.  The tempo of the game is changed.  Despite this, the Giants were able to fight and climb back to take the lead.  And it is not Eli’s fault that an offsides penalty throws the team behind the Eagles.  That second mistake hurts. 

Eli had a lot of company in the mistakes department.  But like it or not, he is not a second year WR who is less than perfect with his feet.  He is not a 2nd string rookie who makes a costly offsides penalty.  He is not the referee who fails to call pass interference on the rookie Nate Allen in the end zone vs Boss.  He is the 7th year franchise QB who must accept responsibility for the crispness and efficiency of the team.  Nothing less than a disproportionate amount of the fate of the team rests in his hands.  If Manning cleans up his mistakes, the Giants can ride out the injuries and get to the playoffs.  As we know from 2007, you get a few players back from injuries, start peaking at the end of the season, and anything is possible.  With Smith, Nicks, Diehl and O’Hara out, it is up to Manning to step it up.  Now.  Time to start collecting some interest on that $100M investment.

Separately: Bradshaw was benched in response to all of the fumbles.  Good.  Maybe he earns his starting job back, as Jacobs indicates.  But this is the time of the season that a coach has to right the ship.  The Giants were 7-4 when Fassel cut Bashir Levingston, and I maintain that it was not a coincidence that the team (in part) won its next 7 games.  Let Bradshaw’s demotion be a reminder that all players are accountable.  And yes, even Eli.