EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — After a miserable start to the season, Eli Manning still hasn’t had one of those break-out games for the New York Giants.
The two-time Super Bowl MVP has thrown for more than 300 yards only three times in 10 games and he has thrown multiple touchdowns in a game just twice. His totals for the season are a disappointing 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
While it’s not what many expected from him, Manning thinks the offense has made strides in the current four-game winning streak that has given the Giants (4-6) a chance to make a run at the playoffs after an 0-6 start.
The Giants haven’t changed their playbook to get Manning back on track. The options just have changed in recent weeks to make Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys (5-5) meaningful.
It involves both sides of the ball.
Perry Fewell has his defense playing lights out and keeping games close.
The offensive line has stabilized. The running game is finally making strides, and Manning and his receivers are using quick, short passes to take what defenses offer instead of forcing plays over the top.
“I don’t think I’ve changed,” Manning said Wednesday. “I think I still go through my same progressions and I’m still going through our reads. We’ve probably thrown a little bit more three-step passing game than in the past, it seems like, but we’ve been successful with it and still hitting some good plays. I think we’ve done a good job … doing some new things, some new concepts that we looked at in the offseason and they’ve worked well for us.”
This past week against the Packers, Manning hit 25 of 35 passes for 279 yards, a touchdown and an interception, a pick that resulted because backup receiver Louis Murphy Jr. ran the wrong route.
It was his fourth-highest yardage total of the season and it included 10 passes of 12 yards or more, including four between 25 and 35 yards. The second-longest play was a 30-yarder on a short slant that Victor Cruz caught on the run.
Not only did the Giants get yards on the play, it slowed down the Packers’ pass rush.
“Those defensive linemen sometimes get annoyed when they’re rushing hard and the ball is getting out before they can get back there,” Manning said. “So you’ve got to mix in that with the play-action, with the five- and seven-step drops just to have a great mix to throw off the defense.”
Having a running game in recent weeks with Andre Brown in the lineup for the first time this season also makes the safeties respect the run. Instead of playing two-high, a running game many times brings one of them into the box.
Cruz said that Manning, who has only thrown two interceptions in the winning streak, has looked a little more comfortable in the pocket. He also has shown flashes of the “old Eli,” particularly on a 25-yard sideline route to Cruz when he floated a pass between two defenders.
“It’s definitely something that has been a progression throughout the season, trying to get that ball to us,” Cruz said. “It’s just a matter of trust that he is beginning to grow more and more with us through the season. He trusts that we are going to be there when we need to be, and do the rights things and make the right adjustments.’
The offensive line, beset by injuries to center David Baas and right guard Chris Snee, has settled down. It forced a lot of shuffling early. The line has had the same starters for five of the last six games, with Jim Cordle taking over at center and David Diehl playing right guard.
Left tackle Will Beatty said the game plan has not changed. Things are just coming together, which has given Manning more options, particularly in third-and-makeable situations.
“The ingredients were there,” Beatty said. “We weren’t putting it together. I don’t know what was going on. But we found out. It’s still not that perfect game. We’re not watching the film and thinking: ‘We have it all.’ We’re not saying that, but we are improving each day and taking what they are giving us and building on it.”
In the last four games, the Giants have had nine drives of 56 yards or longer, including three of more than 75 yards.
“He’s solid, yeah,” coach Tom Coughlin said of Manning. “Someone asked me to describe Eli last week. “I think I finally said that just flat-out determination was the impression that I got as I watched him practice and prepare … I hope it doubles this week.”
After hosting the Cowboys on Sunday, the G-Men will head to FedExField to take on the struggling Redskins.
NOTES: FB John Conner (hip), CB Trumaine McBride (hip) and WR Hakeem Nicks (groin) did not practice Wednesday. ….DE Jason Pierre-Paul was the NFC defensive player of the week for his leaping, game-clinching interception return against the Packers.
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