The Giants may be lacking in depth at key positions like cornerback and running back, but it helps to have Eli Manning masking the ills of the team.
Manning spearheads the second-rated passing offense in the NFL, as he’s amassed 1,011 passing yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions.
Manning has especially mastered the fourth quarter when the Giants needed him the most. Even his teammates marvel at his big-game consistency. They may not be able to put a finger on how it happens, but they’re just happy the even-keeled Manning is on their side.
Wideout Victor Cruz said if and when Manning is needed to rise above, he has total faith in his quarterback.
“It’s just his demeanor. He’s out there and he doesn’t change from the first quarter to the fourth. He’s always the same level-headed guy and he’s understanding what the defenses are showing him and he’s making the right reads and the right plays,” said Cruz. “It’s just great to see and to be a part of it. And to be a receiver on the receiving end, it’s always a luxury to have a guy like that, that knows what he’s doing and making things happen in the fourth quarter.”
The Eagles present a different type of problem for the Giants and Manning in that they have the necessary firepower to engage in a shootout, but also have enough talent on defense to bottle up the Giants on offense. Despite their rocky start, the Eagles rank fifth in total offense (416.3 yards per game), fifth in passing yards per game (285.7), fifth in total defense (275.7 yards allowed) and third in passing yards allowed (172.7). And that’s not even mentioning electric running back LeSean McCoy, who is off to a sluggish start (261 rushing yards), but is able to break a long run or reception at any time.
Something has to give on Sunday, which makes the importance of Manning excelling all the more pressing. The veteran quarterback said it’s a unique experience playing against a terrific defense, while having to match his opposite number, Michael Vick, point for point, in such a hostile environment like Philadelphia.
“It’s a great atmosphere. It really is. It’s tough and it’s loud. The fans are unique, but it can be a fun place to play,” Manning said. “It makes the experience of playing Philadelphia very interesting [because] it’s obviously a big game. Any time you play Philadelphia, it’s always important. It always seems like it’s a tight game. We have to come in, and have a great game plan, and go in and play our best football.”
The always deferential Manning never relishes talking about the importance of his role, so he quickly shifted gears by expounding the virtue of his running game. He said by having a healthy Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown backing him up, it’ll keep the feisty Philadelphia pass rush honest.
“You don’t like being down in the fourth quarter all of the time, that’s not what you’re looking for [even though] we feel comfortable in that situation,” Manning said. “Hopefully we can have a great combination.We need to run the ball well, getting good down and distance [because] third-and-long is such a tough situation to be in against Philadelphia with their great pass rushers. Hopefully, I can open up some play-action, and get our whole offense in a good rhythm, get a good balance to run our offense well.
“Having both [Bradshaw and Brown] is big. Ahmad’s back and the way he runs, he’s important to our offense. And Andre has been running hard, and doing a good job. So, having both of those guys come in and play well for us would be helpful.”
Big Blue notes
»The Giants were missing some key parts to their squad on Thursday, as several starters missed practice. Safety Antrel Rolle (knee), rookie cornerback Jayron Hosley (hamstring) and linebacker Keith Rivers (hamstring) didn't practice.
Wideouts Hakeem Nicks (foot) and Domenik Hixon (concussion), Bradshaw (neck), cornerbacks Corey Webster (hand — in a cast) and Michael Coe (hamstring) and defensive end Adewale Ojomo (hamstring) all practiced.
Right tackle David Diehl (knee) was on a stationary bike and his status for Sunday is day-to-day.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.