Eli Throws 4 INTs In Manning Bowl Loss
Where do I start? There were so many problems with the Giants' performance against the Denver Broncos that I must have just spent about a half hour trying to decide which of those problems to begin with. Everyone knew the Giants were faced with a tough task this afternoon. The Broncos were coming off of an emphatic opening night victory over the defending Super Bowl champs that saw Peyton Manning throw the ball at will and hang almost 50 on the board against what is, for the most part, a respectable defense. The Giants, on the other hand, were coming off an underwhelming, mistake-riddled opening game in Dallas that left a lot to be desired.
But this was the Manning Bowl, it was the home opener and it was a day when former coach Bill Parcells was to be honored at halftime in the presence of a handful of other Giants greats. Surely this game would be different — it had to be.
For most of the first 45 minutes, it sure seemed that way. Unfortunately for Big Blue, there are 60 minutes of football to be played. How about we start with the most glaring problem of the preseason that continued this afternoon: the team's immense struggles in converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns. Against a high-powered offense like the Denver Broncos, field goals are not going to get you very far and the Giants learned that the hard way this afternoon. Four first half scoring opportunities resulted in three Josh Brown field goals and one interception, turning what could have been — and should have been — a comfortable first-half lead, into a 10-9 deficit at the half.
The offense is still far too predictable inside the red zone and not being able to run the football certainly exacerbates that problem. It's hard to win games in the National Football League when you rush for 23 yards as a team on 19 carries and it's obvious that the addition of Brandon Jacobs is not really the solution the running game needs. Sure, his touchdown run in the third quarter was one of the few highlights of the afternoon but let's not forget that he was out of football before the Giants brought him in this week and there was probably a reason for that. He received seven carries on the day, as did David Wilson, whose stay in the Tom Coughlin Doghouse is apparently ongoing. Wilson was nowhere to be found for most of the day, except for when he was returning kickoffs, and when he did see the field he was never able to find a rhythm.
He wasn't the only one that wasn't able to find it, though. The entire offense seemed to be out of rhythm and outside of the team's first play from scrimmage (a 51-yard completion to Victor Cruz) and a few other plays scattered throughout the game, they never really found it. Even the first touchdown drive the team was able to produce late in the third quarter was aided by a flurry of Denver penalties that led to an excruciating sequence that saw the Giants offense need six plays to score from the Denver 9-yard line. Three of those plays were Brandon Jacobs runs that may have been more effective had everyone in MetLife Stadium not known that he was going to be the one carrying the ball.
The offensive line continues to struggle as well, despite the return of David Baas at center. The Giants were never able to establish a running game and the offensive line was getting pushed off the ball for most of the game. Although Eli Manning was only sacked once, he was hurried more than a few times and forced to throw off of his back foot frequently, leading to a few bad decisions, including a key interception on the last drive of the first half. It's unfortunate that "Eli Manning" and "bad decisions" are still appearing together in the same sentence, especially in his 10th year in the league, but there were quite a few of them today. Another four interceptions gives him seven now through two weeks, which is much too high of a number. Before the season started it was clear that in order for the Giants to succeed, Manning had to really cut down on his interceptions. Seven interceptions in two games is a step in the opposite direction and it's a discouraging sign.
For the most part, the problems that plagued the Giants today are the same problems that they have been dealing with since last season. The turnovers, the lack of a reliable running game, the poor offensive line play and the lack of a pass rush. There was virtually no pressure on Peyton Manning today and the few times that someone in blue was able to get a hand on him, he was able to slip away and complete a pass. There was no penetration by the defensive line and they were gashed twice on two nearly identical touchdown runs by Knowshon Moreno on a sweep to the weak side. On both of those runs — a 20-yarder in the first quarter and a 25-yarder in the third quarter — there was no contain and the linebackers were caught out of position. Dan Connor's absence was sorely felt, especially in pass coverage as the middle of the field was wide open for most of the day, a flaw that Manning was easily able to exploit with a smattering of completions to Julius Thomas and Eric Decker.
At 0-2, next week's game in Carolina all of a sudden becomes a must-win for the Giants. Even though all four NFC East teams fell into the loss column today and there hasn't been a single team to really emerge as an early favorite in the division, an 0-3 start might be too deep of a hole for even Eli Manning to pull his team out of. The Giants have a lot of game tape to watch this week and a lot of holes that need to be plugged up before next Sunday. If they can't, things are going to get ugly pretty quickly around here.