The last time Eli Manning touched a football in a game, he fired a quick pass to Odell Beckham Jr. for a 66-yard game-winning touchdown against the Ravens. Now the trick is to keep it going a week later.
“We have to,” Manning said when asked if the Giants can build on the second half of last week’s explosive victory in which he threw for over 400 yards and Beckham tallied 222 receiving yards. “We made some good plays, made some clutch plays in some moments of the game, so that’s good. A lot of guys stepped up and did some good things, so we have to continue to do that and just clean up a few things as well.”
The Giants will get that chance today against the Rams in London. While Manning and Beckham seemed to find their mojo a week ago – Beckham became the first NFL player with over 200 receiving yards and at least two touchdowns in the second half of a game since 1999 in that victory – the team is still waiting for the rest of the receivers to step up, at least statistically. Victor Crus and Sterling Shepard have made some key catches but neither has been able to string together any breakout performances.
That’s coming, Cruz said. And, like another trio of receivers – Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham – Cruz believes this one can take the Giants all the way.
“I was part of (a receiving group) that won a Super Bowl, but I think right now we definitely have the talent to do so,” he said. “On paper right now we definitely have all the intangibles to make it there. We just have to take it one week at a time. But I do believe that this receiving corps is a pretty good bunch.”
ELI STAT OF THE DAY: 37
Venues in which Eli Manning will have started an NFL game after Sunday’s event at Twickenham Stadium. It’s his second start in London; the Giants played at Wembley Stadium in 2007.
The Giants face the Rams in London today. Could they one day play a team based here across the pond?
It’s becoming a not-so-far-fetched idea in NFL circles as the league increases the number of international games played; there will be three in London and one in Mexico City this season.
There would be obstacles, of course, Giants LB Jonathan Casillas was in favor the possibility while noting the obvious travel concerns, including teams having to go from London to the West Coast of the United States, or vice versa. Still, he said: “That would be nice.”
The Rams, now based in Los Angeles, may be a test case for such logistics. They played in Detroit last week and came directly to London after that game rather than returning to California. The NFL has also had teams play in London this year without a bye the following week, perhaps as an experiment on how they will respond (the Giants will have their bye next week).
“I think obviously the league is definitely taking an approach to build a fan base here and figure out in the long run to put a team here at some point,” Victor Cruz said. “I think that was a stepping stone,” he said of those decisions.
Londoners seem to have the enthusiasm for football. What they sometimes lack is education in the sport. When Eli Manning last played here in 2007, he recalled some curious sounds. “The fans were sometimes cheering at odd times during the game,” he said. “So we’ll see if the understanding has grown over these past nine years.”
Cruz, who visited London in the summer as an NFL ambassador, said London’s football knowledge is “still up for debate.”
“Some of them understand the game, some of them understand what is happening and what is going on,” he said. “But you might hear a random cheer when Brad Wing kicks a punt or something like that. You look on the field wondering what is happening and it’s just a punt. It’ll be interesting.”
Interesting, but not necessarily a good idea for a franchise to be based in the city. Giants DT Damon Harrison, who played in London with the Jets last year and is making a second-straight visit here, seemed less enthusiastic about that prospect.
“I think it would be good for football,” he said, “but I’d rather stay in the States.”
BECKHAM VS. RAMS
Odell Beckham Jr. torched the Rams for 148 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie, but few people remember that. What they remember more from that game is that the Rams hit Beckham with a number of late shots, he retaliated, and the result was a brawl on the Giants’ sideline that saw two players – not Beckham, though – ejected for fighting.
Beckham is not expecting that kind of play this time, but he’s ready for it if it happens.
“You have to protect yourself at all times,” he said. “I think that comes down to not just you protecting yourself but everyone in the game of football. Refs, the NFL, everyone. Everyone has to understand what is at stake. You don’t need stuff like that to happen. What happened last time, it just shouldn’t be a big issue. Do expect it. If it’s not there, then it won’t be there. But always stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.”
Beckham noted that the Rams’ secondary has players who “can make big hits” and that they are “a very physical team.” He even called them “a very chippy team.” But the same has been said of Beckham, so it was far from an insult.
“I love the way they play,” he added quickly.
Some players have their reputations precede them. For Robbie Gould, it literally did so.
The Giants agreed to terms with the veteran kicker based solely on his career resume when they were in search of a replacement for Josh Brown this week. Then the team left for London and Gould came on a later flight, arriving the following day. There wasn’t even any time for a workout or physical before the two sides agreed to the contract, which was signed in Great Britain. Gould’s first interactions with the team came in a Saturday practice.
“I’ve seen him make a lot of kicks against me in the past,” Ben McAdoo said of the former Bear, a reference to McAdoo’s time as an assistant with the Packers. “He’s been successful. We’re hoping that continues.”
BY THE NUMBERS
2: Rookie wide receivers for the Giants who have a touchdown reception this season. Sterling Shepard caught one in the opener and Roger Lewis Jr. caught one last week against the Ravens. The Giants are the only team in the NFL with more than one rookie with a touchdown catch.
6: NFL teams that Eli Manning has never lost to in his career, including the Rams against whom he is 4-0. In those games he has 12 TD passes and just one interception and a combined passer rating of 124.1. Manning is also 4-0 against the Bucs and 3-0 against the Bills, Texans, Raiders and Dolphins.
6: Consecutive Giants wins over the Rams. The last Rams victory came in 2001.
90 for 90: Jason Pierre-Paul will play in his 90th regular-season game for the Giants.