Eli Manning will never admit the Giants’ offense is in crisis mode. Ever. It’s simply not in his DNA to do anything after a loss other than shrug and move on to the next game — even with the Giants’ continuing inability to score enough points, this time in Sunday’s 24-14 loss to the Steelers. They essentially scored only one touchdown when it really mattered, but Manning was typically stoic in defeat.
“We just have to keep working and trying to improve,” he said moments after the Giants’ six-game winning streak against mostly inferior opponents was ended by a playoff-worthy Steelers team. “We are doing some good things. You never know when we can break out. We are going to have great preparation and expect to go out there and score a lot of points.”
Ever the optimist, Manning won’t succumb to any temptation to read more into a loss. But after yet another disturbingly inefficient performance on offense, no amount of Manning equanimity can hide the depth of the issues on his side of the ball.
In a battle featuring the two marquee quarterbacks of the 2004 draft, Ben Roethlisberger easily outdueled Manning, helping the Steelers improve to 7-5. Roethlisberger threw for 289 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Manning was limited to 195 yards, two touchdown passes — one when the game was out of reach — and two costly interceptions.
The Giants will bring an 8-4 record into Sunday night’s game against the 11-1 Cowboys, who own a three-game lead in the NFC East with four games to play. Of more pressing concern is the Giants’ inability to score. Even last year, when the Giants were 6-10 in Tom Coughlin’s final season, they had 420 points and were one of only eight teams to score more than 400. But with largely the same cast, they have scored only 245 points this year and are on pace to finish with 326, or nearly 100 fewer than last year’s team.
That’s no snapshot, folks. That’s a trend.
And no amount of Manning hopefulness can mask the obvious: If this team can’t get untracked offensively — and with four games to play, time is running out — they run the risk of flaming out down the stretch.
Ben McAdoo, who got the head-coaching gig in large measure because of the fine work he’d done the previous two seasons with Manning, said he remains undaunted about the team’s issues on offense.
“It’s just consistency,” he said. “We need to take care of the ball better. That showed up again today. We had two turnovers. We need to take care of the ball and play with consistency.”
Any theories? “We are who we are right now,” he said. “You can’t just flip a switch and have things change. You have to put work into it. It has to pay dividends for you.”
It starts with the quarterback. Manning has alternately flashed his old form with a disturbing mix of inopportune turnovers.
His first pick Sunday came on second-and-4 from the Steelers’ 9 in the second quarter. Manning tried to hit Larry Donnell on a seam route, but linebacker Lawrence Timmons drifted back, picked off the ball near the goal line and returned it 58 yards. The Steelers converted the turnover into a Roethlisberger-to-Antonio Brown touchdown pass for an 11-0 lead.
Manning’s second interception came in the fourth quarter, when he scrambled to his right and threw across his body on a deep ball to Sterling Shepard. It didn’t have enough on it, and safety Sean Davis easily picked it off to essentially seal the win.
Manning remains unflinching in the face of adversity, something he has done throughout his career. “We are good enough to compete,” he said. “People say it’s a game of inches, and it’s true here. We just have to get better at some things.”
Star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. expects “everything will jell and it will all click at some point. It just needs to be soon.”
It needs to be now. Unfortunately for the Giants, there are no signs that’s about to happen.