The Giants are undoubtedly Eli Manning’s team, but as good as he’s been for this franchise since his arrival, he cannot do it alone.
Sunday marks the first game this season in the month of December for the Giants (5-6), and while Manning has been known to make miracles happen in the postseason, his track record in this month shows that he’ll need all the help he can get.
Manning’s career record in December is a meek 24-25, while his completion percentage is a paltry 56.5 -- his lowest of any month – with a pedestrian passer rating of 77.8.
Despite those depressing numbers, head coach Tom Coughlin said he has total faith that his fearless signal caller can lead Big Blue out of its current doldrums and get the team back on track.
“No doubt, I have faith. He can do it,” deemed Coughlin. “But he’s got to have some help, too.”
Help is something Manning’s had little of this season, outside of wideout Odell Beckham Jr., of course. But as great as the star receiver has been, if Big Blue plans on overtaking the Jets on Sunday, the Giants will need more than just that elite 1-2 duo.
Beckham, who has 72 catches for 1,005 yards and nine touchdowns this season, is averaging 7.1 catches, 100.4 yards, and almost a touchdown per game during his 23-game career. But when he lines up against the Jets, he’ll be visiting Darrelle Revis and the infamous “Revis Island.” And while Beckham had a modicum of success in their first meeting – the third preseason game earlier this summer – and Revis’s game isn’t at the apex anymore, the latter is still considered a premiere cornerback. Revis, who is still in the concussion protocol, will certainly trail Beckham wherever he goes if he’s in the lineup. And should that happen, Manning will need others to step up and hold their own against one of the league’s elite defenses.
“It’s not about Odell versus Revis. It’s about our offense versus the Jets defense, and us moving the ball, finding completions, and trying to win individual battles,” said Manning. “I think we just have to find ways to make some plays, whoever the play is called for. This is just a matter of us coming together and making plays … Our execution has to be better.”
It’s been difficult for the Giants’ offensive players to execute, mostly due to health reasons and a lack of continuity with the lineup. The offensive line has been in tatters since the spring – beginning with left tackle Will Beatty’s torn pectoral. It’s only gotten worse in recent weeks, as everyone, save for right tackle Ereck Flowers, has missed either extensive practice time, game action, or both.
As great as the Manning-Beckham combo has been, they’ve received little help from the supporting cast, as it’s difficult to succeed when the guys up front are a shell of themselves, the running game non-existent, and losing the services of their top-two tight ends.
The Giants’ offense has essentially been the Manning and Beckham Show, considering the next-best successful receiving option has been Rueben Randle (40 catches, for 511 yards, and four touchdowns) and a running back, Shane Vereen, who’s amassed 40 receptions for 342 yards, and three touchdowns.
It’s time for guys like Randle, Dwayne Harris, and Rashad Jennings to step up and consistently help the dynamic duo. Manning threw to Beckham 18 times, last week, or on 35 percent of his attempts. Overall, the Giants tried to get the ball in Beckham’s hands on 27 percent of their plays.
And while it’s smart to try and get your top weapon the ball as many times as possible, it’s also wise to try and spread the ball around, so the Jets can’t just key on one player. Coughlin admitted that force-feeding Beckham is understandable (“You certainly do want the ball in the hands of the guy that can be the most productive”), but added now’s the time to diversify the offense and have everyone contribute during this crucial stretch run.
“We tell them that you have to extend yourselves this time of year. If it’s that important to them, they’ll extend themselves. We’re in December now. There are not many games left to play. There is no reason not to commit yourself totally and completely to something you have spent your life wishing and hoping for. That’s the attitude that I think [we need],” Coughlin said, adding work ethic shouldn’t be in question for a team trying to end its three-year playoff drought. “Go to the office early, stay late. Make sure you are responsible for your assignments, make sure you are prepared, and make sure you know the guy you are going to play against. Do everything in your power.”
Big Blue notes:
- The Giants are banged-up along the offensive line. Rookie Bobby Hart was seen manning the right tackle position during practice, in place of Marshall Newhouse, who is nursing a back ailment. Coughlin said he’s hopeful that guard Justin Pugh (concussion) and center Weston Richburg (ankle) will play this week, although he noted he’s not sure if that’s realistic. Hart stepped in for right guard Geoff Schwartz (fractured leg/injured reserve) on Sunday, but may have to play right tackle versus the Jets.
- Manning has thrown 12 touchdown passes in the last four games and 23 total for the season. That projects to 33 scoring throws for the 16-game season, which would tie Y.A. Tittle (1962) for the second-highest total in franchise history. Tittle holds the record with 36 in 1963. Manning set his career high with 31 in 2010.
- Manning’s 3,021 passing yards this season gives him 11-straight seasons in which he’s thrown for more than 3,000 yards. He is one of seven quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for at least 3,000 yards in 11 different seasons, joining Brett Favre (18), Peyton Manning (16), Tom Brady (13), Dan Marino (13), Drew Brees (12) and John Elway (12). This achievement also allows Manning to be the fourth quarterback ever to throw for 3,000 in 11 consecutive seasons, joining Favre (18 from 1992 to 2009), big brother Peyton (13 from 1998 to 2010), and Brees (12 from 2004 to 2015).
- Beckham needs 42 targets to break the Giants’ single-season record. He’s currently averaging 11.1 targets per game, including 15.6 over the last three games.
- Manning is the Giants’ nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award, for on- and off-the-field excellence. No Giant has ever won this award, which was established in 1970.
- Perhaps it’s a sign of the way this season is going – and an omen for his immediate future – but Coughlin put his house in Park Ridge, N.J., up for sale.