Eli Manning's nightmare season continues
This was as emotional as we've ever seen Eli Manning in his 10 seasons with the Giants, his voice cracking as he beat himself up after this latest meltdown in an 0-6 season.
Only a few minutes after he'd thrown a third interception to seal the Giants' 27-21 loss to the Bears Thursday night at Soldier Field, Manning pointed the finger squarely at himself, and for the first time in his NFL career, he seemed at a loss to explain his mistake-filled performances.
"It's frustrating not winning. I feel like I'm not doing my part to give this team some wins and some chances," said Manning, who had never lost this many games in a row since becoming the No. 1 overall pick in 2004. "That's the frustrating part. I feel like the guys are fighting hard and guys are doing their parts, and I need to start doing mine."
Manning usually is unflappable and unapologetic no matter the circumstances -- he's nicknamed "Easy" because of that calm demeanor -- but he clearly was agitated as he explained his role in this latest chapter of the Giants' season from hell.
He feels terrible. He feels responsible for everything that has gone wrong, even if the blame for 0-6 has many culprits.
"It's difficult. It's not me I feel bad for. I feel bad for my teammates, my coaches, everybody fighting every day," he said. "I'm fighting too, and I'm trying to get a win for these guys. But it's tough. It's definitely tough at times when you don't feel like you're playing your best."
Manning hasn't been this ineffective for this prolonged a period of time since joining the Giants. He has thrown 15 interceptions, an average of 2.5 a game. If he stays at that pace, he'll finish the season with 40 interceptions. The NFL record for most interceptions in a season is 42 (George Blanda in 1962).
Manning's night started with more turnovers. On his first drive, he was picked off by Zack Bowman on a short pass intended for Rueben Randle to the left. The Giants held the Bears on a fourth-and-2 from the 4 and escaped without further damage.
But Manning was picked again on the second drive, this time throwing a deeper route to Randle on the right side. Tim Jennings stepped in front, made the interception and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown.
But Manning battled back gamely, driving the Giants 80 yards for their first score late in the first quarter. And he drew the Giants into a 14-14 tie on a 37-yard scoring pass to Randle.
"We were doing some good things," Manning said. "We got off to a terrible start but fought back, went down and scored a touchdown after the interception for a touchdown, evened the game up. We responded well, got the game to within six, and there were some good things. I felt confident we could go down there and have a good drive and go win the game."
But with the Giants trailing 27-21, Manning couldn't connect with tight end Brandon Myers on what might have been the game-winning drive. Myers ran a route that took him beyond the linebackers and in front of the defensive backs, and Manning delivered a pass that was a bit high. Myers did manage to get both hands on the ball -- but it deflected in the air and into the waiting arms of Jennings. The Bears ran out the clock to preserve the win.
Manning fell on his sword about the pass, saying he threw it too high. Myers? He bolted from the locker room without comment, leaving his quarterback to take the blame.
"I just threw it a little too high," Manning said. "I had a guy open, felt that it came out like I wanted to, just obviously threw it a little too high. Trying to win a game, and I make a mistake."
It's the latest of many mistakes for the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, who can't seem to recapture the magic.
"I've seen him do some remarkable things on the football field when all odds have been against him," Justin Tuck said. "He's leading us down in those final minutes in the fourth quarter, and it just seemed like this was the time we were going to get over the hump. But it wasn't to be tonight and it's frustrating.
"I know he's frustrated. He wants to come here and be the Eli of old and lead us to victory. All we can do as his teammates is continue to support him and continue to encourage him. I still truly believe that he's going to get out of this rut and start leading us to some wins."
Manning is desperate to do just that. The emotion in his voice and on his face after this latest failure tells you just how deep that desperation runs.