Eli Manning steady in midst of firestorm

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
5:30
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning has had a nightmarish start to his 2013 season, but the New York Giants quarterback said Wednesday that he's not making any changes to his approach, as the 0-4 Giants prepare to host the Philadelphia Eagles.

"No, because we have gone through little streaks where we haven’t played especially well, or we haven’t won games," Manning said. "I think you deal with it the same -- you keep working, and you have the faith that you can get out of it."

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports"I think a team that can deal with adversity and come out of it, I know there’s benefits to that," Eli Manning said.
It's true, Manning's Giants have lost four games in a row as recently as 2011, and they won the Super Bowl that season. But the quarterback's play has been far worse during this stretch.

To put things in perspective, Manning's current Total Quarterback Rating is 30.0, ranking him 29th in the NFL (and three spots behind New York Jets rookie Geno Smith).

Through four games, Manning has just six touchdown passes and a league-leading nine interceptions. He's completing 56.3 percent of his passes -- a far cry from his brother Peyton, who leads the NFL at 75 percent.

The question is, why does Eli suddenly look more like a rookie than a two-time Super Bowl MVP?

The easy scapegoat is the offensive line. The Giants are currently playing without two of their starters, Chris Snee and David Baas, due to injuries. They have a rookie, Justin Pugh, playing right tackle. And their veteran left tackle, Will Beatty, is struggling. After being sacked just 19 times in 16 games last season, Manning has already been sacked 14 times in four games this year.

That said, Manning is getting 2.78 seconds in the pocket per pass play, ninth-most among starting quarterbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information. So the protection could be far worse.

As usual, Manning deflected questions about the offensive line's struggles on Wednesday. "I've got to do my job," he said. "I've got to make my reads, and I expect the guys up front to compete and do their job and I expect that they will."

The running game, which obviously involves the O-line too, is more difficult to defend. The Giants are ranked 30th in the NFL, averaging just 57.8 yards per game on the ground. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the first time the Giants have played four consecutive games without rushing for at least 100 yards since 2001.

Manning declined to assign blame regarding the running game, too. "I don’t have the exact answer," he said. "I thought we had a pretty good average per run last week. Part of it is, we need more plays, we need more first downs, third-down conversions, to give you more plays, so you can get into a good mix of the run and pass."

The truth is, there's plenty of blame to go around. Other than wide receiver Victor Cruz, who's fourth in the NFL in receiving yards (425), everyone on the Giants' offense is playing poorly right now.

One thing that hasn't changed, however, is Manning's calm demeanor. That's been evident in front of the media, and teammates said the same on Wednesday.

"Nothing has changed," wide receiver Hakeem Nicks said. "He's still confident in himself and he's still confident in our team. He's handled it all like a pro. He's not happy, but none of us like being in this situation. He's handling it like we all would expect him to handle it. He's always the same guy."

"Still the same," said Cruz. "Still plugging forward. He’s still understanding that this team is gonna rally around him. He’s our leader, and we just gotta follow his lead. And I think he knows that if he gets off-kilter, if he gets flustered, that it’s gonna show through all of us. So he remains level-headed, and we follow his lead."

Eli Manning has never been the best quarterback in the NFL, or had the gaudiest statistics. But he's been rather unflappable in the face of adversity -- just look at all the fourth-quarter comebacks he has authored.

Teams in crisis need strong leaders. And in the middle of the toughest stretch since his rookie season, Manning appears to be providing just that.

"It's difficult, but you've got to stay strong," Manning said. "I think a team that can deal with adversity and come out of it, I know there’s benefits to that. If we can get out of it, I think it’ll make us a stronger team and better for it."
Kieran Darcy is an ESPNNewYork.com staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
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