Giants-Broncos Week 2 Thoughts: Excuses for Eli Manning

I’m really good at making excuses for Eli Manning. Like really, really good. I’m so good that I would be surprised if Archie or Olivia or Peyton or Cooper are as good as me at making excuses for the youngest member of their family. Why am I so good at this? I think it’s because I think Eli is better than his numbers seem to suggest or better than everyone gives him credit for. And because of that I thought the Giants would get the last laugh at Vegas for making 5 1/2-point underdogs at home against the Broncos and Eli would win what’s likely to be the final Manning Bowl. Instead, Vegas got the last laugh (at me) and Peyton added another footnote to help his case in any Manning debate forever.

How am I supposed to make an excuse for Eli after Sunday’s performance against the Broncos after last Sunday’s performance against the Cowboys? How can I sit here and tell you neither loss was Eli’s fault (or at least mostly his fault)? Should I also tell you that the day after Sunday is Tuesday or that Thanksgiving isn’t always on a Thursday or that CC Sabathia isn’t a complete waste of $23 million this year or that I’m looking forward to a postseason-less October for the Yankees? No, no, no and no. I can’t sit here today and make excuses for Eli Manning, but I don’t need to. Eli has made excuses for himself.

That’s right. Two Super Bowl MVPs or not, Eli Manning answered questions after a four-interception performance in a loss as if to say, “No big deal.” And maybe it is “no big deal” for a quarterback playing with a $106.9 million contract, but that’s also why it should be a big deal. So instead of the usual “Thoughts” following each Giants game, let’s analyze Eli’s postgame answers.

On his level of concern for the way things are going.

“I think we’ll bounce back and I thought there were some good things. The first half I thought we had a lot of opportunities. I think that’s where we did some really good things. We just didn’t get touchdowns. We got field goals and in the second half we had a weird interception off of a foot and we tried to fight back.”

Wow. What a way to start answering questions after an 18-point, four-interception loss that puts the Giants in an 0-2 hole. What a way to open the postgame media session. This would be like CC Sabathia opening a postgame session after giving up five earned runs in five innings or blowing a late-game lead by saying that he needs to get better and he will fix things and turn it around only to never get better, never fix things, turn nothing around and continue to lose. Wait a second …

“Some good things?” “Some really good things?!?!” “SOME REALLY GOOD THINGS?!?!” You threw four interceptions. Hakeem Nicks dislocated his finger. David Wilson rushed for 17 yards on seven carries. Brandon Jacobs rushed for four yards on seven carries. The famous pass rush recorded zero sacks. Should I go on?

But you’re right, in the first half there were some opportunities. And you’re right that you and offensive genius Kevin Gilbride destroyed every opportunity by settling for field goals. And saying “We just didn’t get touchdowns” so nonchalantly is just a little bit of a problem. And it was a nice touch trying to act like the “weird interception off of a foot” was the reason for the loss or the only interception and not just one of four interceptions that included three incredible picks that left me asking myself if I even like football.

“When we got down a couple of scores and tried to press, it could go either way. You could make some plays hopefully and also make some mistakes. We were in a bind. The offense, we have to get a little more balanced. We have to run the ball better and we have to eliminate the turnovers. I think we’ll keep fighting and get back on track. I know everybody in our division lost today, so the way we can look at it, we’re one game back in the division. We’ve got to get back to winning some games.”

You don’t think the offense is balanced? You don’t think 812 passing yards and 73 rushing yards through two games is balanced? Get the eff out of here! Me too!

And everyone else in the NFC East lost on Sunday? Well, when you put it that way who even cares that the Giants lost? Just like who cares that the Yankees lost on Sunday since the Rays and Rangers lost?

On going 3-for-12 on third downs.

“We’ll have to look. Just had a couple … I can think of one drop, some misfires, I got pressured on a few things. I think a couple were down in the red zone that were unfortunate. If we could have converted on those, they could have led to scoring touchdowns and not field goals.”

Yes, “we’ll have to look” at how you can convert 25 percent of your third downs with a receiving trio of Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle. It’s at least a little reassuring that you do realize that converting first downs in the red zone is an important factor in scoring touchdowns and not settling for field goals. At least we’re on the right track.

On whether or not the season feels like 2007.

“We just have to play better. I’m not trying to make comparisons to years obviously … You can look at it the same, but we have to find a way to play better. Better offense, better defense. I thought the defense played really well that last two weeks, so we have to help them out by scoring some more points and putting the opposing offense in a bind.”

Thank you, Eli! Finally, someone with their head on straight. Can everyone else please stop talking about 2007? Please? Does every 0-2 team go on to win 10 of their remaining 14 games and then win four road games in the postseason and knock off what would have been the best team in NFL history in the Super Bowl? If so, then forget me telling you to stop talking about 2007 and go on and continue to lazily use that storyline and connection and try to relive the most improbable playoff run. But that team had a pass rush and an 1,000-yard rusher. This team has turned the ball over 10 times, has two sacks and 73 rushing yards in eight quarters. Let’s hold the comparisons for a week or two or until the Giants get a win.

On whether or not Peyton will tease him about never beating him.

“I don’t think so. I think this is something that we’re both passionate about. What we’re doing is our job.  It’s my concern to this team and getting back to winning right now.”

Oh, he’s definitely going to tease you. But luckily you have that trump card in the second ring and both of them coming against Tom Brady, who Peyton has had trouble beating his entire career.

On if the loss is more disappointing because it’s against Peyton.

“It’s all team-related. You want to go out there and play well, so you’re frustrated that you lost another game. We had some opportunities early on. Their offense started clicking and making some plays. We had turnovers and we just couldn’t catch any breaks. We just really want to get back to where we’re playing better football offensively and get back on track.”

Oh, BS. You know it bothers you that you lost to your older brother and have never beat him.

On the interception intended for Nicks at the end of the first half.

“Just a bad decision by me. I was really just trying to kind of … in a little … on a blitz and trying to throw the ball away, where we wouldn’t get an intentional grounding, but we would get it close. It was unfortunate that I threw it in a spot where their guy could make a play.”

You didn’t “throw it in a spot where their guy could make a play.” You threw it to their guy as if he was the guy trying to make the play. “Unfortunate” was a good word to use.

On the fourth and final interception.

“The last one was on me. Rueben did the right thing, he ran the right route and I threw the wrong route.”

Not only did you throw the wrong route, but I would say that was the worst interception of your career. And that’s coming one week after I said your first throw of the 2013 season, which was an interception, was the worst of your career. OK, maybe the one from last week is still the worst, but this one has to be Top 5. I’m scared to know what’s in store for Week 3 and if you’re going to try to one-up yourself all season with these.

On the pass to Cruz on the first play of the game.

“It was honestly a great way to start the game. Our defense got us a turnover and to hit Cruz on a big one down the field on the first play and then got another first down running with Brandon, it was a good drive. We had a third and long and weren’t able to convert on that one, had to settle for a field goal, but it was a good start. First half there was really good things going on, we just didn’t finish some drives as well as we needed to.”

This is why the interception last week was so insane. The Giants had an entire offseason to decide what the first play of the season would be and Eli threw the ball directly into DeMarcus Ware’s chest. Then they had a week to decide how they would attack the Broncos from the start of the game and they decided on airing it out, which led to a 51-yard pass to Cruz. It was the best play of the day because it set the tone after the Broncos punted, but it also made the day that more frustrating (and of course last week’s season-opening interception that much more unfathomable).

On throwing seven interception in two games.

“Yeah, that’s never a goal. Before the season I like to set goals, keeping interceptions in the single digits.  I kind of have to start over here. Obviously, some of them happen and you have to look at decisions and you get some bad breaks. Sometimes you get late in games, fourth-and-10 and we have to make a play and force something here and whether it’s intercepted or incomplete, an interception probably ends up being better right there for us field position-wise. At the end of games or when you’re competing, I’m going to be aggressive and not worry about the stats or quarterback rating at the end. Honestly I’m not trying to throw interceptions, but obviously I’m just worried about getting back to playing well offensively and eliminating some of these turnovers.”

I think you could have gone without saying “that’s never a goal.” I’m pretty sure no one was going to ask if you that was a goal of yours. And I hate to break it to you, but Brendan Ryan (who has 19 career home runs in 2,327 at-bats) has a better chance of hitting double-digit home runs in 2013 (he has four home runs and there are 12 games left) than you do of keeping your interception total to single digits this season. Starting over is a good idea. We can come up with some goals this week before the Carolina game. (I already have some in mind.) And good for you for not worrying about stats or quarterback rating or anything that puts your team in a better position to win. Just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s obviously working.

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