Of all the ugly numbers the Giants’ No. 10 must ponder during the bye week, perhaps the ugliest is this: nine.
That is how many games the Giants are obligated to play between now and New Year’s Eve, and Eli Manning must find a way to keep himself sane and his teammates functional during the last two months.
It will be a daunting task based on Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium, in which the Giants’ offense flopped against the Seahawks en route to a 24-7 loss and a 1-6 record.
The formula that worked in an upset of the Broncos — run early and often, pass to tight end Evan Engram and ignore the inexperienced wide receiving corps — this time was a dud.
The worst part is that although one experienced receiver, Sterling Shepard, is due back after the break, the Giants appear destined to remain a shell of their pre-Odell Beckham-injury selves.
“It’s going to be a real challenge each and every week,” Manning said, speaking both of the strategic puzzle and the need to mentor young players. “You have to accept that and embrace it.”
Getting Manning to reveal his emotions in a news conference is impossible. But it was evident in his body language on the field that his frustration is mounting.
The Giants rushed 17 times for 46 yards. Manning was 19-for-39 for 134 yards and a touchdown. He completed only five passes to wideouts. At halftime, the Giants led 7-3 but had only four first downs, 42 total yards and 9:22 of possession time.
They still were in it, trailing 10-7, when early in the fourth quarter, Jarran Reed stripped the ball from Manning and Frank Clark recovered it at the Giants’ 38-yard line. On the next play, Russell Wilson hit Paul Richardson for a touchdown.
Two things about Eli here:
First, he certainly is not without blame. Great players find ways to elevate the mortals around them. Manning looked out of sorts in several key spots.
“He’s working hard,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “He’s preparing during the week. He had a tremendous week of practice last week. We have to get it to translate to the field on Sunday.”
Difficult to argue with that. But when pressed on whether the Giants need more from Manning, the coach said: “It’s the ultimate team game. It’s not one guy. It’s not one position. It’s not injuries. We need to put it all together.”
Said Manning: “I can definitely play better, make some plays. We were close on a couple of plays.”
Second, the way this thing is going, McAdoo and / or management might face a tricky decision a few weeks down the road.
If the Giants are, say, 2-10, how can they not sit Manning and see what rookie Davis Webb can do before deciding whether to use a high draft pick on a quarterback come spring?
Out of respect to Manning, there is no reason to consider that at least until he starts three more games to pass his brother Peyton with his 209th straight start — which would move him into second all-time among quarterbacks behind Brett Favre.
After that, the Giants must do what is best for the organization, which could mean benching Manning. In the meantime, he said he will try to keep his teammates and himself positive.
How, though? “Just keep finding ways,” he said. “We have to keep being creative in the meeting rooms and finding out how we’re going to be able to get completions, move the ball and get first downs.”
By early evening, what initially sounded like boos from Giants fans turned out to be some of the many Seahawks fans in the building saying “Luuuuuke” after a reception by tight end Luke Willson. That was even more embarrassing.
Nine games to go, including three division home games in December. Ugly.
Eli Manning has been forced to go the conservative route since his wide receiver corps was depleted by injuries in Week 5. His combined numbers the last two weeks:
QB RATING 75.5