In case you hadn’t noticed, Giants’ Pro Bowl quarterback Eli Manning is in a bit of a slump. Three games, at most.
If it wasn’t very noticeable before Sunday, it’s because Tom Coughlin’s squad was covering it up with wins over Washington and Dallas before running out of gas in the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh.
Had Manning orchestrated yet another game-winning drive Sunday—his specialty—any talk of a slump on his part would be put off yet again. But that didn’t happen.
“It’s dangerous,” said Manning Wednesday, according to a report on the Giant’s website. “We’ve had good success in the fourth quarter in a lot of games. We’ve also failed in the fourth quarter in the last drive and we haven’t had success at times. I think we do a good job of remembering the successful ones.”
Many people do and Manning has more than most, leading the league in fourth-quarter comebacks last year and in 2007—both seasons that ended with Super Bowl wins—and leads again this season.
But not only did Manning and the offense sputter a bit at the end of the Pittsburgh game, he never got on track at all, finishing 10-for-24 passing for 125 yards and an interception—good for a quarterback rating of 41.1.
The previous week against Dallas, Manning finished a mediocre 15-for-29 passing for 192 yards and an interception (no touchdowns again) but was rescued by an incredible six Cowboy turnovers. Even so the Giants, who were saved by five field goals, had to hold off a furious comeback by Tony Romo and company to hold on.
Naturally, the lack of converting opportunities by the offense hasn’t gone unnoticed by Coughlin.
“We just had a talk. Just about how to get back on track, get back to playing at a high level, anything I needed,” said Manning. “Both of us want the same thing, for our offense to get back rolling and start scoring some points.”
Scoring points shouldn’t be too hard this week as Manning and company take on the 3-5 Cincinnati Bengals, which rank 25th in the NFL in points allowed at 27.3 a game.
Manning, who rarely gives the opponent any locker room fodder, was in true form Wednesday regarding the Bengals and their defense. “They do a good job of getting to the quarterback, getting the pass rush and they have some good blitzes, they have a bunch of talented guys back in the secondary. Overall, they’re a very sound, talented defense. We’re going to have to have great execution.”
The defenses though haven’t seemed to matter to Manning whose slump started the game after picking apart San Francisco, which has allowed the fewest points per game this season (12.9) in a dominating 26-3 win, back on October 14.
The very next week Manning needed the last-chance 77-yard touchdown bomb to Cruz with just over a minute to play to top the Redskins, on a play where the Giants took advantage of a error in coverage.
“We don’t have to re-write the book here. It’s just a matter of keep working at it and it’ll get better.”
Even if it doesn’t, the Giants have found ways to win.