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Monday, October 7, 2013
Unthinkable: Manning is killing the Giants

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

The Eli Manning part of the storyline has devolved as rapidly as the New York Giants' season itself. In Week 1 it was "Eli can't do it all. He needs more help." In Week 2 it was, "He's just not as good as his big brother." In Weeks 3 and 4, "He never had a chance" because of the poor play of the offensive line.

But the Week 5 Manning storyline was the most alarming yet. In Week 5, Manning flat-out cost the Giants a win, throwing three interceptions in the span of nine fourth-quarter throws while the game against the Eagles was still in the balance. As Ian O'Connor wrote, Manning was the third-best quarterback on the field Sunday. He was outplayed in the first half by Michael Vick and in the second by Nick Foles, who showed Manning-esque poise and killer instinct as he converted the two-time Super Bowl MVP's mistakes into the points that put away the game.

Manning earned some pained but justifiable criticism from coach Tom Coughlin, who also pointed out the three very damaging intentional-grounding penalties Manning committed. There was no getting around it Sunday, and the realization likely was the most painful yet for the Giants in this painful 0-5 season. Not only can they no longer count on Manning to save them when things get tough, he has instead become a significant part of the problem.

Outwardly, Manning's loyal teammates continue to defend him, as they should and as you'd expect.

"When we keep him upright, he's the best quarterback in the NFL, and there's no doubt about that," veteran offensive lineman David Diehl said. "So if you want to put that anywhere, put it on us."

Fine, Dave. The line has been awful all year and is responsible for most of this team's problems. But too many of Manning's errors against the Eagles were unforced. And his problems extend the length of the field.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Manning was 3-for-16 on throws 15 or more yards down the field Sunday. Since the start of the 2008 season, no NFL quarterback has attempted that many such throws in a game and completed that few.

Also according to ESPN Stats & Information, Manning was 5-for-14 with two interceptions on throws within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage -- the worst completion percentage on such throws in any game this season for a quarterback with at least 10 attempts. His season completion percentage on those throws is now 54.1, with four interceptions. He had four total interceptions last year on throws within 5 yards of the line, and the league-average completion percentage on those throws is 69.7.

Manning isn't solely to blame for the Giants' 0-5 start, but he's more to blame than you might think, given the extent of the team's other issues. And when it comes to Sunday's game, you can put as much blame on him as you'd like. Coughlin admitted it. Manning himself admitted it. That there's no denying it may be the most alarming thing that has happened to the Giants in years. Manning is 3-10 in his past 13 games, and the way he's playing right now is a big part of the problem.