It's not easy being Eli Manning

Eli Manning looks on during the second half Eli Manning looks on during the second half of a game against the Dallas Cowboys. (Sept. 8, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept. ...

ARLINGTON, Texas - Like every other fan of the NFL, Eli Manning marvels at the things Peyton Manning does on football fields across America -- even if he sometimes does wish the guy would at least break a sweat.

"He makes it look easy; I don't appreciate that,'' Eli told Giants.com after watching his brother tie the NFL record with seven touchdown passes in the Broncos' season-opening victory over the Ravens.

No wonder, because Eli knows how difficult all this really is, and is in the process of fashioning a potential Hall of Fame career while managing to never make it look simple, even in two Super Bowl MVP performances that required late dramatics.

Sure enough, Manning was at it again Sunday night in the 2013 opener against the Cowboys, a wildly uneven game in which he overcame early struggles to make it very interesting before falling short in a turnover-marred 36-31 loss.

Afterward he pondered his four-touchdown, 450-yard, three-interception night and acknowledged the obvious, saying, "I can't turn the ball over three times.''

Nope, and yet he was far from the primary culprit. That dishonor went to David Wilson, who lost two fumbles, leading to his benching, which indirectly led to the game-deciding play.

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It came with less than two minutes left, when Manning seemed poised to lead a stunning comeback but saw a screen pass to reserve back De'Rel Scott bounce off Scott's hand and into the arms of Dallas' Brandon Carr, who returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.

Scott called it a "miscommunication.'' Manning called it "a bad break.'' He added, "We have some young running backs and some young guys; we just have to get on the same page. You know there are going to be mistakes and different things to fix every week. You're just hoping the mistakes aren't costly ones and end up being turnovers, because you can't afford those.''

There are enough other mistakes to go around on the roster that the Giants can't afford any extra ones from Manning. Speaking of which, what happened on his first interception, on which DeMarcus Ware picked off an attempted screen pass to Wilson six seconds into the game?

"That's on me,'' he said. "You have to throw it at the feet or don't throw it. You can't throw it to the other team.''

Manning can be maddening, which is part of his somewhat goofy charm.

Peyton is a leader of men and thrower of footballs out of central casting, even if he does have half as many Super Bowl rings as his brother.

Eli? Well, somehow it usually turns out pretty well in the end. But not always, and not easily.

The current problem for Manning and his mates is that there is little time to fix their problems because up next is . . . Peyton!

Before the opener, Eli told NBC's Bob Costas, "Obviously, he's playing at a high level, and hopefully next week we'll be able to slow them down a little bit. Hopefully after two games he'll be averaging 3.5 touchdowns per game.''

That's doubtful, based on Peyton's history. He surely has had his share of off days -- especially in the playoffs -- but he has been more consistent than his baby brother. And now he is coming off a game in which he made the defending Super Bowl champs look hapless.

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So it goes and so it always has gone for Eli, who to this point usually has managed to bounce back when he has had to. It is a credit to his easygoing personality, but also to a toughness for which he partly thanked, yup, big brother.

"Peyton used to hold me down with his knees on my arms and knock on my chest, and make me name all the NFL teams,'' Eli told NBC.

"Having two older brothers , it does kind of teach you to be tough and hang on, and always feel like you're going to get out of it."

More often than not, he has. This week would be a good time to do it again.

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