Costly mistake dooms Manning, Giants

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
12:14
AM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- With one pass, Eli Manning changed the complexion of a football game.

Granted, the interception wasn’t his fault. His intended receiver, Hakeem Nicks, did not run his route properly.

But with one throw in the red zone during the Giants' 33-20 loss to the Cowboys, which happened to perfectly land in the hands of Bryan McCann and led to the longest interception return for a touchdown in Cowboys history, Manning erased any chance of the Giants slicing into Dallas’ 9-3 lead, instead putting the team behind 13 points.

On third-and-2, Manning tried to hook up with his favorite red zone target, Nicks, who was in one-on-one coverage against McCann. Only there was a problem: Nicks stopped running his slant route and didn’t fight to get in front of the corner. McCann perfectly cradled the ball and burst down the right sideline for a 101-yard touchdown return that gave the Cowboys a 16-3 lead with 7:34 left in the second quarter. The Giants were never closer than 13 points for the rest of the game.

“At the worst, you take a field goal and best is a touchdown so that is a 10-point swing there at the least and it’s hard to overcome those things,” Manning said of McCann’s interception. “We did a good job fighting back. We just made too many mistakes.”

While Manning threw for 373 yards, his two interceptions and failure to pick up a loose ball cost the Giants. The quarterback completed 33 of 48 passes while throwing for more than 300 yards for the third time this season, but couldn’t bring his team out an early hole. He now has 13 interceptions this season, just one less than he threw all of last year.

“We have to learn and definitely learn and get it through our heads. We can’t keep making mistakes,” Manning said. “You are going to have some penalties, you are going to have some bad drives and mistakes here or there and it is about overcoming them. When you just keep doing some tings over again and when you are have too many good play taken out, we are putting ourselves in too many bad situations.”

While there were certainly plenty of reasons that the Giants lost the game, Manning’s throw seemed to be the costliest.

Manning said he and Nicks have worked it out and Nicks took full responsibility for the interception, but no matter the fault, the play helped galvanize the Cowboys.

“You can’t do that,” Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said about Nicks. “You have to continue to run the route, run through the defenders, do whatever you have to do. Unfortunately, that’s a basic principal. If you’ve got the slant called, you’ve got to run the slant.”

For the most part, despite the turnovers, Manning looked poised and in rhythm during the game. Even without Steve Smith, he spread the ball to different receivers and seemed to move the chains with ease at times, pulling the Giants to within 33-20 with 5:29 left in the third quarter. After that score, the Giants' offense couldn’t make a big play, and turned the ball over twice.

“You can’t afford to play mistake football,” Manning said. “We have kind of gotten away with it some other games because we are explosive and we are going down and scoring points. This game, the mistakes backfired and cost you points and gave the other team points.”

Matt Ehalt

ESPN New York contributor

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