At least Eli Manning was able to find some humor in the midst of the worst two-game interception stretch of his career. Just moments after throwing the last of his seven interceptions during the Giants' 0-2 start, Manning shared with reporters a particular goal he attempts to achieve each season.
"Keeping interceptions in the single digits," Manning said. "I kind of have to start over there."
Manning cracked a wry smile -- albeit a very small one -- as he stated the obvious now that he is only three interceptions away from cracking double digits for the season, which is only two games old. Safe to say Manning will fail to make good on that goal -- more than likely before the month is out. Manning has never gone a full season without fewer than 10 interceptions, and now it's a matter of seeing whether he will wind up at the opposite end of the spectrum and exceed his career high for picks of 25 in 2010. He's already on pace for 56, although it's hard to imagine he won't settle down at some point soon.
Manning is usually the constant amid the turmoil, and hasn't been part of the problem like this, maybe since his rookie season in 2004 or the middle of the 2007 season, when he bottomed out before turning things around and making the first of two Super Bowl runs.
"He's pressing," Justin Tuck said. "Our running game is struggling. Eli feels pressure to make the big play and he's forcing the ball a little bit."
Just a little.
Without even a semblance of a running game -- the Giants ran for 23 yards on 19 carries -- Manning has been forced to shoulder the burden of moving the ball virtually all by himself. And when you put that kind of pressure on a quarterback, no matter how reliable he normally is, mistakes will happen.
"I don't think I can just get worried about the number," Manning said. "I have to look at the plays and look at the decision-making on my part. The first one was a bad decision. The next two weren't bad decisions, weren't bad throws. Just kind of bad circumstances."
So while the numbers may look bad -- Manning has the highest interception total in the league so far -- the circumstances aren't always directly tied to the quarterback.
"I think we are close," Manning said. "It's not like everybody is just messing up and we're getting 'out-physicaled.' We are very close. We've just got to get it where everybody on every play is doing their job correctly and doing it at a high level. We'll get that corrected."
There's plenty of season left to get it corrected, but the Giants can't afford many more losses before a sense of panic sets in. It's up to Manning and the rest of the offense to start making plays on a consistent basis.
"Turnovers are going to lose you football games, so we have to eliminate the turnovers," Manning said. "Every interception has its own story, but I have to be smarter with the football and throw the ball more accurately and make some plays."
It would help if the Giants could produce even a semblance of a running game .
"When you run the ball, it slows the pass rush down and you get better down and distance," Manning said. "The downs weren't real good. We have four third downs where it was third-and-13-plus. You might get one of those a game. Those are hard to convert."
Manning will not adjust his game as far as aggressiveness is concerned. He'll still try to make plays and not simply avoid mistakes, a style that has been part and parcel of his two Super Bowl MVP runs.
"I'm gonna compete," he said. "I'm not gonna lay down. I think I just have to look at each play and kind of see, is it a bad throw? Is it a bad decision? Is it a misread? I'm not having many of those. Sometimes you get some bad breaks, some unfortunate circumstances, but I think I just have to keep working and eliminate the ones that are bad decisions."
Must-win this early?
"I think in this situation, you have to have a little sense of urgency," he said. "If you make it a must-win, sometimes you need to be put in those situations. It is a big game. We're 0-2 right now."
Make that 0-2 with a quarterback in a rare slump, one that threatens to undermine the season unless he turns it around in a hurry.