No need to panic, but Giants must bounce back in Eli-Peyton bowl

Peyton Manning #18 of the AFC's Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning #18 of the AFC's Denver Broncos talks with brother, Eli Manning #10 of the NFC's Giants after the conclusion of the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl (Jan. 27, 2013) (Credit: Getty)

Neil Best

Newsday columnist Neil Best Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned

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It was disappointing, embarrassing, sloppy, careless and every other description Tom Coughlin offered in the immediate aftermath of the Giants' opening night flop Sunday.

As he correctly noted: "You're not going to win anything with minus-five in turnovers. There's just no way."

But in the larger context of the new season, it could have been worse, because losing by only five points when you have a minus-five turnover differential is only slightly less difficult than actually winning with a minus-five.

Eli Manning threw for 450 yards, three receivers had more than 100 each -- a first in Giants history -- and the defense mostly held up on a night when the Cowboys had the ball for more than 37 minutes.

Add the team's resolve in the face of what seemed an insurmountable road deficit and the Giants left with some reason for optimism should they figure out how to avoid handing the ball to future opponents.

(Helpful reminder: Giving Peyton Manning possession inside your 20-yard line is not recommended.)

Though no one involved with the Giants sought to sugarcoat the turnover debacle once the dust had settled and the game video had been watched Monday, there also was no denying a silver lining.

"Absolutely, absolutely," guard Chris Snee said on a conference call with reporters. "Just look at what we did with six turnovers, how close we were to beating that football team."

In an interview with WFAN, Manning considered his array of offensive options and said, "You see the firepower." He also promised this: "We're going to be explosive."

Having said all that, there is one glaring concern for the Giants after Week 1: This is a team with a running back problem.

There is no established backup to David Wilson, who himself now must be regarded as a physical and psychological liability, to the point the Giants are planning to work out other backs Tuesday, including Brandon Jacobs.

Wilson expressed confidence that God would help him through his two-fumble ordeal, which resulted in being benched for the duration by Coughlin. "There's nowhere to go but up from here," Wilson said. True.

There was some thought among fans and media that Coughlin had spited himself by benching Wilson, who might have helped down the stretch. But fact is, unlike Manning, the young back was unimpressive even when he wasn't coughing up the ball, finishing with seven rushes for 19 yards.

Careful followers of Giants history understand this is no time for panic. Three of the four times they won the Super Bowl, they lost their season opener -- twice in road games against the Cowboys.

But looming this weekend is Peyton and the Broncos in what might be the third and final Manning Bowl, given that Peyton is 37 and the teams' next regular-season meeting won't come until 2017. So this could be Eli's last chance to beat his big brother, against whom he is 0-2.

Let the hype begin! According to TiqIQ.com, the averaging asking price for the big game at MetLife Stadium was $442.63 as of Monday, the third-highest in the NFL this season behind 49ers at Seahawks and Steelers at Patriots.

Safety Antrel Rolle lavishly praised Peyton on a conference call Monday, then said his presence "doesn't fear us."

Eli said the two might have a brief "brotherly chat" but he added, "Obviously, no football will be discussed." The rest of us will take care of that.

If the Giants play like they did Sunday -- other than you know what -- there is no reason they can't manage an all-is-well bounce-back game. But their margin for error has slipped away, just like all those footballs did Sunday.

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