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If the Giants are to hang with the NFC’s last remaining
unbeaten team, they may have to get involved in a shootout. The question
remains, though, if the sometimes erratic Eli Manning can go holster-to-holster
with arguably the league’s best gunslinger, Jay Cutler.
The once enigmatic Bears' quarterback has blossomed under the
tutelage of first-year offensive coordinator Mike Martz, posting 870 yards
passing, six touchdowns and only two interceptions. Conversely, Manning, who
had a career year last season posting 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, has
uneven stats of 810 yards, five touchdowns with six interceptions in 2010. Although
Manning has shown he can carry an offense when he gets hot, he’s also shown he
can be inaccurate and lay out his receivers at inopportune times.
The seven-year vet said he’s prepared for such a
high-scoring affair if needed. One way to do so is to open up the playbook and
allow Manning more freedom with the n-huddle offense. That’s a scenario, said
Manning, that New York
[1-2] could use to upend the Bears [3-0].
“We could go down and do that and move the ball and get a
score right away [because] we work very hard at the two-minute drill,” said
Manning. “We do well and it simplifies what the defense does. They can’t get
into all their different coverages and disguises and you can see what they’re
doing, and you can go out there and play well.”
If New York
decides to go sling-for-sling with Cutler, they’re going to need their
receivers who can actually catch the ball and not contribute to tipped
interceptions. Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham have both had balls careen off
their hands leading to interceptions. Head coach Tom Coughlin may be reluctant
to open up the offense if such bad bounces continue because he has such a
disdain for turnovers – specifically self-inflicted ones.
“You ask yourself, ‘Why this is taking place with Hakeem?’ You’ve
got to catch that ball,” said the exasperated coach. “I can tell you that,
yeah, the routes should have been this way and the quarterback should have put
it here and so on [but] you’ve still got to catch the ball. If you throw the
ball inside the numbers in this league and it is tipped, it’s intercepted.
That’s all there is to it.”
Coughlin may be gun-shy to try and match Cutler even if he
says he has the utmost confidence with his own passer.
“He has a great ability to go to the next play. He’s always
been able to do that,” Coughlin said of Manning. “But let me just tell you,
everybody is upset about it [miscues]. It shouldn’t be happening. It’s come to
this that when we have a couple of balls that are tipped I’m holding my breath [and
the interception results] weren’t surprises…you expect a guy at this level, if
he gets his hands on the ball, to catch the ball. Period.”