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Giants trying to figure out why Manning is slumping

The SportsXchange

After starting out on fire by throwing 12 touchdowns to just seven interceptions in the first seven games of the season, quarterback Eli Manning has found himself in a major slump -- perhaps the worst one of his career since his rookie season -- that is now three weeks old.

Over the last three games, Manning has not only failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in his career since his rookie season in 2004 when he went three straight games without a passing touchdown, he's also seen his passer rating fall under 60.0 over that same stretch and he's thrown four interceptions.

What's been the problem with the Giants' franchise player? One popular theory is that after a grueling 10-game stretch in which he's thrown 364 pass attempts (an average of 36.4 attempts per game), completing 223 for 2,641 yards, Manning has a tired arm.

Manning, however, disagreed with that theory.

"No, I don't think so. I am still making the throws and I don't feel like it is tired," he said.

Head coach Tom Coughlin backed Manning's sentiment, saying, "I certainly would ask him about that, but I've asked him about that over the last couple of weeks. I've asked him how he feels, and he responds he feels good."

If it's not arm fatigue, then what's behind Manning's dry spell?

One thing that comes to mind is that his offensive line protection hasn't been as sharp over the last three weeks. During that stretch, Manning has been sacked seven times and has had virtually no time to set up and make his reads or sight adjustments with his receivers that worked so well earlier in the season.

Then there is the matter of the receivers' performance. His top two targets, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, have struggled against the physical play opponents have thrown their way, a style in which teams are getting their hands on Nicks and Cruz within the first five yards while having a safety up top to prevent the deep stuff.

That strategy has created a struggle for the receivers to get off the line of scrimmage to set up for the timing patterns that Manning seems to do so well with.

There is also the issue of dropped passes. Against the Bengals, for instance, Manning had two likely touchdown passes go incomplete, including one that went right through Cruz's hands and another in which tight end Martellus Bennett failed to keep his feet in bounds at the back of the end zone.

Despite all of these issues, Coughlin expressed optimism that Manning and the passing game would snap out of its struggles.

"I still believe that Eli will bounce back and will play the way that he has played (before) at a championship level," he said.

He also noted that Manning showed signs of emerging from his struggles despite the losing effort against the Bengals.

"I thought he threw the ball better," Coughlin said. "Many times yesterday, he zinged it in there, (and) had the ball down the seam to (receiver) Victor (Cruz) -- should have had a touchdown."
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