Eli Manning Gets Too Much Credit for His Giant Success
Manning ended Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins with a 77-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz. What isn't mentioned is how very average he was up until that point. Until his 77-yard strike to wide receiver Victor Cruz, Manning had thrown for 260 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. He finished the game with 337 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a passer rating of 78.9. It was a season-low for Manning.
There aren't very many people in the sports world, including the media, that will admit that Manning isn't a good quarterback, because it isn't true; in fact, he's pretty good!
Before that beauty of a bomb (courtesy of the busted coverage of the Washington Redskins), Manning was being becoming somewhat of an after thought as Washington's rookie sensation, Robert Griffin III continued to reinforce his argument as to why he's worth two first-round picks and a second in April's draft. Of course, it will take more than a season or two of quick feet and savvy throws to gauge how good he can really be. Carolina Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton was Rookie of the Year in 2011; after an offseason of game film, and the simple fact that the Panthers are just not a very good team, Newton is getting a taste of something he's not used tooÂ—losing. The jury is still out on Griffin, but Sunday, he was better than his divisional rivalÂ—until the last 1:20.
The fact is Washington did give the Giants a gift, as Washington Redskins DB DeAngelo Hall admitted:
"I feel like we gave him that play. That wasn't nothing he did, like, 'Aw man, he saw this and saw that.' We just had one guy set his feet, one guy not do this, and I could have thrown that ball and he could've scored."
Washington gave the Giants gifts in the form of turnoversÂ—four of them in the second half alone. In the third quarter, on first and ten, two of the game's best defensive ends, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora, combined to force a Griffin fumble, giving the Giants the football. On their first play following the fumble, Eli Manning, returning the favor, throws an interception into the waiting arms of Redskins' linebacker Rob Jackson. On the year, Manning already has 7 interceptions.
Griffin would comeback later in the fourth to dazzle with his feet, showing his skill the pass, hitting Santana Moss for the touchdown giving the Redskins a 23-20 lead with just under a 1:30 left in the game. Against the Cowboys and the Eagles, Manning couldn't engineer one of his famous fourth quarter miracles. Not so for the Redskins, cornerback Josh Wilson and safety Madieu Williams, caught with their pants down, allowed Victor Cruz to cruise on by catching the easy pass from a well protected Manning.
As for the gift from Washington, Manning took it in stride, thanking Hall, but giving as much, if not more credit to himself, claiming rocket science had nothing to do with it:
"I appreciate him giving it to me," Manning deadpanned. "Thank you. No, I didn't think it took a rocket scientist to figure it out, either. We had a guy running open and you hit him."
It was a great play, but once again, it was Washington that made it possible. Williams, Wilson, and Hall were picking daisies on that play. Hall admits it.
Manning's two interceptions came off turnovers by Washington. Where was Manning's slide rule on the interception to Jackson? What about missing Nicks in the end zone?
Eli Borrows Page from Aikman's Book
Manning's ability to find his receivers wide open, streaking down the field go hand-in-hand with his offensive line allowing only 5 sacks in 7 games. At present pace, he's do to eat the turf just over ten times this season; you don't need a lab coat and pocket protector to know that adds up to a lot of big plays downfield when your quarterback has all day in the pocket.
Like Aikman, Manning not only has the comfort of playing behind a seasoned offensive line, but the added protection of running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who's not only a great downhill runner, but is adept at picking up blitzes, just like a certain NFL rushing champion. Wide-outs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, arguably the best receiver tandem in the league, give Manning familiar targets from one season to the next. Aikman had Irvin and Harper. Where Aikman had tight end Jay Novacek, Manning has a rejuvenated Martellus Bennett.
If the Giants have one flaw that Aikman's team didn't have, it's an average secondary. The Giants don't have the likes of Deion Sanders, Darren Woodson, or Kevin Williams in their backfield. Who they do have are the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul, Jason Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Mathias Kiwanuka up front. In 2011, the Giants recorded 48 sacks against opponents, while giving up only 28. For a comparison, Tony Romo was sacked 36 times in 2011.
In all fairness, Manning has had to work a little harder at winning than Troy Aikman; Dallas' teams of the '90s were much better, but is he good enough to be called "elite"?
The formula for beating the New York Giants is simple: get to Manning. In their first game against the Cowboys this season, Manning was sacked 3 times; the Cowboys won. Manning never had time to look down field, while Cruz and Nicks did wind-sprints for sixty minutes.
Teams don't need a slide rule to beat the Giants; just steal their formula for success; pressure the quarterbackÂ—s-a-c-k doesn't spell elite.
Photo Credit: Mike L Photo's