After working four weeks without wide receiver Steve Smith, Eli Manning finally had his go-to receiver again.
For 45 minutes, until the first play of the fourth quarter in Monday’s victory over Minnesota.
Smith caught his only ball then, and left with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. But Smith is a Giants wide receiver, and bad things happen to those people in 2010. So it came as little surprise that the injury turned out to be cartilage damage that will require season-ending left knee surgery to fix.
And now the Giants’ passing game will go into Big Blue's Sunday showdown with NFC East co-leader Philadelphia shorthanded again, missing Eli Manning’s most reliable target at a most crucial time of the season. Manning, with a league-high 19 interceptions, faces an Eagles pass defense that has accumulated a league-leading 22 interceptions.
“Our team just has to march on,” coach Tom Coughlin said Wednesday. “Someone else has got to step up there and do the job we’d have asked Steve to do.”
That someone is Derek Hagan, who until a month ago was unemployed at home in California. Hagan has since caught 13 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. Seven of those, for 65 yards, came against Washington two weeks ago.
New receivers Michael Clayton and Devin Thomas also have progressed and could come into play alongside big-play receiver Hakeem Nicks if Mario Manningham remains sidelined with an injured hip flexor.
“One guy is never going to decide whether you win or lose a game,” Manning said. “We’re better prepared now since we’ve had some new receivers in the past month. We’re working with them and not scrambling to get guys in different places.”