- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- They spoke for about 10 minutes before the game, then they went out and went to work and big brother beat little brother again. Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos threw two touchdown passes to push his league-leading season total to nine. Eli Manning of the New York Giants threw four interceptions to push his league-leading season total to seven. The Broncos won 41-23, improving Peyton's lifetime record against Eli in NFL games to 3-0. The best thing Eli can say about the matchup is that the postgame stat sheet doesn't include noogies. But he doesn't expect Peyton to give him a hard time about it -- now or really ever.
"I don't think so," Eli said, once again concealing, with class, his disappointment at the outside world's persistent failure to understand his relationship with his brother. "This is something we're both passionate about. This is our job. My concern is to this team and getting back to winning right now."
"It's not like beating another team," Peyton admitted in the other locker room. "It's not quite as enjoyable as it would be if you were beating somebody else."
Eli handled the brother angle, and the questions that went along with it, like a perfect professional all week. He's surely glad those questions are over, if only because it means one of the toughest games on the Giants' schedule is now in the past. Eli did his share of grimacing after this game, but not because he'd lost to his brother. He was agitated about those four interceptions and his team's 0-2 record.
"We have to find a way to play better," Eli said. "I thought our defense played really well the last two weeks, so we have to help them out by scoring some more points and putting the opposing offense in a bind. And obviously I've got to eliminate the turnovers."
Obviously. Seven interceptions through two games puts Eli on pace to throw 56 in the season. His career high is 25 in 2010. The NFL single-season record is 42 by George Blanda in 1962.
"Yeah, that's never a goal," Eli said. "Before the season starts, I like to set a goal of keeping interceptions in the single digits. So obviously, I kind of have to start over from here on that one."
And yeah, that got a laugh, but it's clear (and not surprising) that this is eating at Eli Manning. He's supposed to be the most reliable thing the Giants have -- their rock, their leader, the two-time Super Bowl MVP they can count on to keep his steady cool no matter the score or the situation. Sunday night, he was a mess. He was 28-for-49 for 362 yards and the four interceptions. He threw one right before halftime, when it looked as though they were sure to at least get a field goal, go into the locker room with a lead and get the ball to start the second half. He threw one that bounced off a defender's heel and into another defender's arms. He made some lousy throws that weren't intercepted. It was anything but steady. Heck, it looked like a guy trying too hard because his older brother was the opposing team's quarterback.
If that's what it was, then the problem is easily fixed. He's got to beat Cam Newton next week, and he's done that before. Eli Manning can leave mistakes in the past. It's one of his great strengths as a quarterback. It would be no shock to see him deliver a big game next week, protect the ball responsibly and get the Giants' first win of the season. After the way the first two games of the season have gone, Giants fans would consider that a huge relief. And so would he.
"Honestly," he said, "I'm not trying to throw interceptions."
Honestly, though, he's still got to find a way to stop. Or else this Giants' season is going to be over before it ever had a chance to get going.