Eli Manning figures the bye week came at just the right time for the Giants. But unless the quarterback somehow found the answers to the problems ailing his offense, a few days off likely won’t be enough to get things pointed in the right direction.
Especially with the Eagles’ sack-happy defense up next on Sunday in a critical NFC East game at MetLife Stadium.
“It’s the second half of the season; the bye week comes right in the middle of the season when you’ve been going for a long time,” Manning said Monday upon returning from nearly a week off after a win over the Rams in London on Oct. 23. “Rest the body, rest the mind, but know that we’re coming back and being fully recharged and ready to make a run.”
He got a chance to see his Ole Miss team Saturday, but his thoughts invariably drifted to what the Giants need to do to produce a more vibrant offense. They are near the bottom of several relevant statistical categories — 26th overall with 19.0 points per game, 19th with 345.3 yards and dead last with 70.3 rushing yards. About the only area in which they’ve excelled is passing yardage (sixth with 275.0), but they’re scoring less than 20 points a game, so that’s a hollow stat.
The one stat Manning can hang his hat on: a 4-3 record and a tie for second in the NFC East.
“Obviously, we don’t feel like we’ve played our best football yet, but we’re still finding ways to win football games,” he said. “That’s what you have to do in this league. Sometimes it’s not always going to be pretty and perfect. But as a team, finding ways to make plays throughout the course of the game to put yourself in position to win is important.”
But for the Giants to be considered serious contenders for the NFC East title, an offense featuring a franchise quarterback and elite receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz needs to score more than 19 points per game.
“I think you have to be pleased with the last two games to get wins and understand that we need to play better,” Manning said. “I know we definitely haven’t played to our potential. Teams are playing us a different style and we’re adjusting to that. We’re getting better at it, we have to stay patient, and also have to make plays. There are plays there to be made. We’ve just got to start making them.”
Opposing teams have used a variety of tactics to defend the Giants, often using a conservative cover-2 defense, which prevents the deep ball but allows plays to be made underneath. Double-teams often have prevented Manning from passing to Beckham, clearly the team’s top playmaker.
“It’s not surprising,” Manning said of the coverages. “It’s not something we haven’t faced before. We have plays to beat it. We just have to win those one-on-one matchups [when other receivers are double-covered].”
Coach Ben McAdoo spent much of his bye week self-scouting the Giants’ offense, trying to figure out which tendencies might work better after analyzing what did and didn’t work during the first seven games. He wasn’t giving away any strategic secrets but acknowledged that everything was on the table — including whether he should continue to call the plays.
It will be a shock if McAdoo doesn’t continue to do that, but he knows the results have to be better, regardless of who makes the calls.
“We’re not hoping that things take shape, we’re working to make things take shape,” he said. “Mistakes and things in this league, you don’t fix them overnight. It takes time. In all three phases, we have things that we need to work on and improve. We feel that we have the players in the building to make that happen, the coaches in the building to make that happen, and we’re going to make it happen.”
A huge emphasis will be placed on the running game. “The first thing we need is more plays,” McAdoo said. “So if we have more plays, we can run the ball more. The better we run the ball, the more runs that we’ll call, the more plays we’ll get. Everything is tied together. You could use the short passing game as your run game, but that’s not how we want to play. We want to be a physical, heavy-handed football team, so we need to run the ball better, run the ball more. I need to call more. We need to execute them better.”
The coach and the quarterback are hopeful of improved play in the weeks ahead. It’s essential for the Giants to make a playoff run.
“That’s what our plan is, to get on a run,” Manning said. “We have to keep that going, we’ve got to put back-to-back [wins together], keep doing it.”
The Giants haven’t been able to do it like that since 2011, the last season they won the Super Bowl — and also the last time they got into the playoffs. This team is a long way from that, but nearly halfway through the season, at least they’re in the mix.