Manning, Jacobs and the Ravens

Ultimatenyg comments in red

Out of Blue, Eli Manning hits a slump (where have we seen this topic before?)
By RALPH VACCHIANO
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Tuesday, November 11th 2008, 8:50 PM

For 23 remarkable minutes Sunday night, Eli Manning was putting on a quarterback clinic. He had recovered beautifully from his opening-drive interception, which was batted at the line of scrimmage. He was right on the mark on almost every pass after that.

Then, suddenly, it all disappeared. He went from a brilliant, 13-for-17, 143-yard performance in the first 23 minutes against the Eagles to 4-for-14 for 48 yards over the final 37 minutes. Sure, the Giants won, 36-31, but the drop-off in the passing game was pretty dramatic. To be fair, he had a few dropped passes, but it is the “Old Eli” who would not be able to play 4 quarters with the same consistency and urgency.

Still, while Tom Coughlin admitted he’d prefer to see Manning “statistically being a little more proficient,” he didn’t sound concerned about what appears to be a quarterback slump. Manning may have failed to top 200 passing yards in any of the last five games, but the Giants (8-1) have won four of those. Maybe, just maybe, it is the job of Gilbrown to put Manning in play action for his pass atempts when the run is so effective, and NOT have Manning in shotgun? Ya think?

“We still had a lot of production,” Coughlin said. “And we would prefer to have pretty much a mix (of the run and the pass). You’d like to come off the field with an explosive team like Philadelphia and have the ball for 39-plus minutes. That’s the way you would want the game to come out. Gilbrown has the best OL in football. This was a game when punching Jacobs was more than adequate. To be fair, it was not Gilbrown’s fault that Jacobs decided to do his Olympic hurdles imitation.

“If you could sit and design something where everything was perfect, that would be fine. But it’s not going to be that way.”

The Giants did hold the ball for 39:10 against the Eagles, and their powerful rushing attack had its fourth 200-yard game of the season (219). Add in a stifling (huh? what DL non-existent pass rush were you watching?) defense that held the dangerous Brian Westbrook to just 59 total yards, and it’s clear the Giants don’t need big numbers from Manning to win.

The problem is that eventually they will need more from him – maybe even this Sunday when they host the Baltimore Ravens (YES, correct, Ralph… Ray Lewis and company will be waiting to tackle the behemoth and they will not be nearly as charitable as the Eagles), who have the best rushing defense in the NFL (65.4 yards per game). Through the first four games of the season, when Manning was completing 63.6% of his passes (84 for 132) for 1,032 yards with six touchdowns and just one interception, nobody doubted his ability to deliver. But starting with the Giants’ lone loss in Cleveland on Oct. 13, Manning’s numbers have dipped. (Manning Malaise, ahem.) His completion percentage in those games is at 57.7 (86 for 149) and he has thrown five interceptions to go with his eight touchdown passes. His yardage total in those five is 894, with a high (at Pittsburgh) of just 199.

Is it a slump? Is it a product of playing tougher defenses? Is it just because the Giants are content to rely on the run? And how can the Giants explain his dramatic in-game decline in Philadelphia, which seemed to start the moment Brandon Jacobs lost a second-quarter fumble? Until the Giants pulled in the reins in the fourth quarter and ran on their final 13 plays, they were a perfectly balanced team – 32 runs and 32 passes. (Gilbrown wuz here.)

But after his hot start, Manning went 1-for-5 for just six yards in the final 6-1/2 minutes of the first half, and was 3-for-9 for 42yards in the second half.

“I don’t know what exactly the reason would be,” Coughlin said. “There are always things as you look at a play you go hindsight. Sometimes there is a balance issue, there is a set issue or whether the quarterback is rushed or whether he just makes an inaccurate throw, or whether the receiver wasn’t on the same page with the quarterback and that type of thing, or a Gilbrown in shotgun.”

Those issues are part of the reason why the Giants’ once-dangerous passing game is now ranked just 16th in the NFL (205.8yards per game). And those are issues Manning needs to work out down the stretch, against a difficult schedule. A powerful defense and running game could carry the Giants to another Super Bowl championship.

But at some point they’re going to need their quarterback, too.

This was a fantastic article by Ralph Vacchiano. He nailed it. This Sunday we will need to pass against what Wonder refers to as a suspect group of DBs for the Ravens. Yes, we have to run vs the Ravens to keep them honest. But Manning is going to have to deliver. Hixon and Burress need to stretch the field, because if this team cannot go vertical, that just means the Reed and Lewis poaching will get ever more pronounced. The Giants like to punch, and that can work against an undersized Eagle DL, but against the front 7 of the Ravens, punching with Jacobs will not be as effective as BOXING with a mix of passing, passing deep, running with Ward and running with Jacobs. DO ALL 4, and don’t be utterly anal in your attempt to be balanced. Jacobs does not need 20 touches this game for us to win, spread it around, keep this defense off-balance, Lewis knows tendency better than anyone. I may be wrong, but I fear that Jacobs’ lack of speed will be a tremendous liability against this run defense.

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