The Packers aren’t the only team with quarterback issues heading into Sunday’s matchup, as Giants signal caller Eli Manning hasn’t been too sharp either during Big Blue’s three-game winning streak.
The Packers (5-4) certainly have a more dire situation as Aaron Rodgers is on the shelf with a collarbone injury and even his backup, Seneca Wallace, is on injured reserve with a groin injury, which means third-stringer Scott Tolzien gets the ball. Manning, meanwhile, is the model of durability, but his performance lately has not matched the level of excellence of his consecutive-games streak.
While the Giants (3-6) as a whole are on a roll, led by a stifling defense and a resurgent running game with the return of Andre Brown, Manning has struggled. During their three wins, Manning has posted performances of 23-of-39 for 200 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings in Week 7, 25-of-39 for 246 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions in Week 8 at Philadelphia and 12-of-22 for 140 yards, one touchdown and one interception (a pick six) against the Raiders in Week 10.
“He gets knocked around a lot and gets back up and plays again. He’s done it for a long time and it’s no different now. And we talk about it [affecting his play],” said head coach Tom Coughlin. “But I like winning … whatever we have to do to win is all that matters.”
The offense has been winning ugly lately. Through nine games a year ago, the Giants were 6-3 and had scored 254 points, as compared to having scored just 165 points this season. That’s almost nine points a game less than they were scoring in 2012. Manning used to victimize opponents on deep seam routes to his tight ends and long throws to his wideouts, but this season he’s only completed 33 passes of 20 or more yards, which places them 17th in the NFL. They’re 28th in the NFL with eight passes of 30 or more yards— a significant drop from the 15 they had at this time a year ago. The Giants have five completions of 40 or more yards, which is 23rd in the league and just one less than they had last year.
Coughlin still believes Manning and Co. can get back to their successful ways, and reasoned the current struggles aren’t necessarily an indictment on his quarterback.
“We’ve always been a throw-the-ball-down-the-field team,” said Coughlin. “We’ve gotten, in terms of numbers a little bit away from that, although we’ve had our spots picked this season, but it hasn’t worked out yet. We’ll continue to do that.”
Manning thinks his troubles are more a function of what defenses have been able to focus on, especially in the early part of the season when the running game was non-existent.
“It just kind of depends on what defenses are doing when you can hit the ball down the field,” Manning said. “Sometimes you call for plays with the possibility of getting the ball down the field, but it all depends on if the defense gives you those opportunities. We try to get a few balls down the field, but if we’ve got to dink and dunk and get positive yardage and get in third-and-manageable situations and get first downs, then that works also. … You can’t force things down the field just to be throwing it down the field. It’s only worth it if you have a chance to complete it and make some big plays.”
The topic of “dead arm” then came up, as there are always whispers around this time of year during Manning’s tenure any time he begins to struggle. The veteran quarterback shook his head and scoffed at that notion, noting that it’s really been the lack of execution and lack of opportunities to improve their passing game, and nothing physical.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to fight through [because] things aren’t always easy for us. But there are also times when we’ve been able to put together a couple of good drives when we needed to,” Manning said. “Obviously we have to get better. … We just have to figure out how to execute a little bit better, especially in the passing game.”
Big Blue notes …
» Manning said he never takes his consecutive-games streak for granted, especially when so many of his peers go down during the course of season. He credited his offseason work— and his in-season maintenance— as the key, along with a little luck.
“I try to work hard in the weight room and in my preparation to avoid injuries as much as possible, but yeah, there’s obviously a luck aspect to it as well,” Manning said. “I try to be a fast healer on some things and just not taking some of those awkward hits that can obviously just happen at any time.”
» Running back Brandon Jacobs (knee/hamstring), tight end Bear Pascoe (ankle) and cornerback Terrell Thomas (knee) all practiced on a limited basis.
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) did not, although Coughlin was “optimistic” he could practice on Friday and be available for the game. Cornerback Corey Webster (groin) also didn’t practice and Coughlin sounded as if the veteran defensive back won’t be available on Sunday.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.