Tom Coughlin believes in slumping Eli Manning

Eli Manning throws a pass during a game Eli Manning throws a pass during a game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. (Aug. 29, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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Tom Coughlin makes it a point to stop by the quarterbacks' meeting room on Tuesdays, where Eli Manning can be found poring over game tape in preparation for the next opponent. This week's routine was no different, but the conversation was more urgent.

Manning has struggled recently, failing to throw for 200 yards in three of his last four games, including Sunday's woeful 24-20 loss to the Steelers. So Coughlin wanted to make sure he was in the right frame of mind.

"We had an opportunity to have a nice conversation," Coughlin said Wednesday, when the Giants resumed preparing for Sunday's game in Cincinnati.

"Most of the time, it's about fundamentals and about us getting going. Little things that I can tweak, in terms of practice, that may help us. He's been very responsive with regard to that. We've been down this road before. He's going to get this thing right, and get our offensive team going again. I have great confidence in his ability to do that."

A pep talk? You could call it that, although Manning said it was nothing out of the ordinary.

"We just had a talk," he said. "Just about how to get back on track, get back to playing at a high level, anything I needed. That's not uncommon. We talk throughout the season, we have a great relationship, and both of us want the same thing, for our offense to get back rolling and start scoring some points."

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The Giants' offense has sputtered lately, going from second in the NFL through early October to 11th. They scored only two offensive touchdowns in the last two games, and settled for field goals on four of six trip inside the red zone.

Coughlin hopes a return to the basics will get the offense going. The Giants had only 11 first downs against the Cowboys and 13 against Pittsburgh, their lowest two-game total in nearly eight years.

"You don't get any continuity offensively if you don't make any first downs," Coughlin said. "When you don't have any first downs, it's like throwing darts at a board."

The passing game has been the biggest culprit. In their first five games, the Giants averaged 309 passing yards; in their last four, only 206.4. Against the Steelers, Manning threw for a season-low 114 net yards.

Hakeem Nicks, who has battled foot and knee injuries this season, did not practice Wednesday because his knee swelled. He has struggled the past month, causing a chain reaction in the passing game. Now defenses are shifting their attention more toward Victor Cruz, and he has struggled as a result.

"More double teams, more guys in my face," Cruz said. "More of them trying to get their hands on me. It's just something I've got to be prepared for and continue to work and defeat the coverage. We're still able to find our spots where I can get the ball and be effective. But I've just got to work through a lot more traffic."

Cruz hopes the one-on-one drills Coughlin installed in Wednesday's's practice can help. "It was a period just to get some more timing down," Cruz said. "So it felt like a productive day.''

To Manning, getting the offense back in gear "all comes down to how we practice. Have great practices and, hopefully, that turns into game-day production. We've got to keep working. That's all you can do."

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