Giants quarterback Eli Manning reacts after throwing an incomplete past...

Giants quarterback Eli Manning reacts after throwing an incomplete past during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles. (Oct. 6, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

The difference between the Giants getting their first win of the season or extending this unfathomable losing streak to five and counting: two split-second decisions by Eli Manning inside the pocket that went spectacularly wrong, and two more interceptions for a quarterback in the midst of a mind-numbing, season-long meltdown.

The thought process for an NFL quarterback is complicated, with reams of information churning through his mind at any given moment. Especially when dropping back and preparing to throw.

How's my protection? Are my receivers running the proper routes? If there's a blitz, is the designated receiver making the correct hot read? Is the secondary using the coverage I'm expecting, or is there a change, even a subtle one?

It is an extraordinary amount of information to deal with simultaneously, all in a matter of seconds. And the decision reached often is the difference between winning or losing, as was the case in Sunday's 36-21 loss to the Eagles at MetLife Stadium.

Here's the situation for Manning: With the Eagles leading 22-21, he has a first-and-20 from his own 41.

He fakes a handoff to Brandon Jacobs, who flares out into the left flat. With the protection starting to break down, he makes as if he's going to throw to Jacobs but pump-fakes once to try to give him more time to get open. Eagles end Trent Cole barrels in and gets a hand on Manning's helmet.

The smart move there is to take the sack and move on, but Manning thinks he can make the play. So he throws, and the ball caroms off the helmet of center Jim Cordle and goes high in the air. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks steps in front of Jacobs and intercepts. Philly scores a touchdown on the next play to make it 29-21.

Next series, Manning is under pressure again on third-and-10 from his 20. He sees Victor Cruz open for a moment down the middle but can't get enough zip on the ball because he's being chased out of the pocket. Another interception, this time by Brandon Boykin, and another TD by the Eagles on the ensuing drive puts the game away.

"Sometimes you have to play to the circumstances of the game,'' Manning said when I asked if it is difficult to dial it back and avoid those kinds of turnovers in pressure situations.

"As a competitor, though, you know that's how you're making plays. Sometimes you're scrambling around and you make plays, and sometimes it hurts you.

"You're going to get into situations where you can't quite step into the throw. Sometimes you get away with it, and you have to make some of those throws to be in the NFL. You're not going to have a clean pocket, and you just have to be sure that you can put it in a spot where it's not going to be trouble.''

Two split-second decisions and two more game-deciding plays for Manning, who has been a turnover machine with 12 interceptions in five games. In a season filled with stunning disappointments for a team that appeared to be a legitimate playoff contender, Manning's play is at the top of the list.

But with defenders bearing down on him and the game on the line, the decisions aren't so easy. Too often this season, his decisions have been wrong. Manning's coach thinks he knows why.

"I honestly believe that he's trying so hard, he's almost putting too much on himself,'' Tom Coughlin said. "Sometimes he's trying to make a play without both feet underneath him to throw a ball that you regret you even threw. It all comes down to the interceptions. Two of them were just almost unbelievable. He's way too good a player to have these things happen.''

Manning has won two Super Bowls with brilliant passing and terrific decisions, making throws that sometimes looked arrogant because of how dangerous they seemed. But now those high-risk passes too often are going into opponents' hands, and Manning is in trouble like never before. And so is his team.

He's usually the one getting the Giants out of danger. Now he's the one getting them into it. And at 0-5, there's no way out.