Eli Manning had a tough time against two of the NFL’s most ferocious blitzing defenses in his first two starts.
The Giants can only hope that a matchup with the struggling Washington Redskins allows the rookie quarterback to stay on his feet long enough to help New York end a four-game losing streak.
Manning and the Giants, still in the wild-card hunt, travel to FedEx Field to take on a Redskins team that’s looking to avoid a fourth straight loss.
New York beat Washington in Week 2 to give new coach Tom Coughlin his first victory as Giants coach, a win that sparked a surprising 5-2 start and talk of contending for the NFC East title.
The Giants’ expectations changed in the ensuing month, however, as the offense started to sputter and New York dropped four consecutive games, including three at home. The skid started with losses to lowly Chicago and Arizona, prompting Coughlin to make the switch from veteran Kurt Warner to Manning, the top overall pick in this year’s draft.
The rookie didn’t perform badly in a 14-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 21, going 17-of-37 for 162 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, numbers that would have been better if his receivers hadn’t dropped several passes.
Manning was battered by the first-place Philadelphia Eagles last week, however, getting sacked five times and managing just 14 yards passing in the second half. He went 6-of-21 with two interceptions and recorded a woeful 16.9 quarterback rating as New York lost 27-6 at home.
Despite that performance, Coughlin says he’ll stick with Manning through his growing pains, even with the team still very much in contention for a playoff berth. New York is tied with St. Louis for the second wild-card spot.
“I still feel we needed to make the change just to get a spark going,” Coughlin said Monday. “So far we haven’t seen the production, but I still think it is the right move.”
Manning has shown flashes of promise in his first two starts. He rallied the Giants in the second half against Atlanta, and he moved the offense in the first half against the Eagles, completing two 50-plus yard passes to rookie receiver Jamaar Taylor.
“I didn’t play well, and I know I didn’t,” Manning said after the loss to Philadelphia. “I have to get better. I wish I had a reason why I didn’t play well and why I missed certain throws. It’s just a matter of getting a feel for everything and learning to play in this league.”
While Manning should be glad not see the relentless Eagles defenders again this week, he’ll still be facing a top defense. Washington is ranked second in total defense, allowing 267.6 yards per game.
The biggest problem for Joe Gibbs’ team during its three-game slide has been offense, as the Redskins managed only 23 points in the defeats to Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Against the Steelers last week, the NFL’s top two defenses combined to allow only 363 yards, but Pittsburgh had just enough of everything for a 16-7 victory — its ninth in a row.
“They played tough but we’ve got to come up with some big plays; we haven’t done that all season,” Washington running back Chris Cooley said. “Pittsburgh made four or five big plays against us and we didn’t have one.”
Patrick Ramsey, who replaced struggling veteran Mark Brunell in the second quarter of the 17-10 loss to the Bengals on Nov. 14, was 19-of-34 for 138 yards, a TD and an interception Sunday. The change, however, apparently has only made things worse.
Washington’s offense, which hasn’t scored more than 18 points all season, has managed just 13 points in the two games since.
The Giants have won four of the past five meetings with the Redskins.