After being chosen by San Diego with the top overall draft pick in 2004, only to be traded to the Giants on the same day, Manning is likely to receive a rough reception from Chargers fans when he leads New York into Qualcomm Stadium.
Despite a warning from Manning’s agent and his father prior to the draft that he wouldn’t play for the Chargers, San Diego still used the top pick on him. Later that day, though, Manning was sent to the Giants for quarterback Philip Rivers and several draft picks.
Manning signed an incentive-laden six-year contract with New York, which included a rookie- record $20 million signing bonus, and started New York’s final seven games of 2004. He went 1-6 but had passer ratings of 100 or more in two of his final three games of the season, providing hope for the Giants that their investment might pay off.
“I have nothing against San Diego or the people of San Diego or the players on the team or anything like that,” Manning said Tuesday. “Before I made the decision, I had never even been to San Diego. So, it had nothing to do with location. Everything I have heard about San Diego is that it is beautiful and its great weather the whole time and as I was going through this decision, that’s what everybody kept saying. You know I said I believe you, I have heard all these great things. So, it was just a matter of it didn’t feel like the right place for me.”
Rivers had little chance to make an impact in San Diego thanks to Brees, who won the starting job last year and led the Chargers to the AFC West title. He also earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors.
This season, however, Brees has been unable to lead San Diego to a win in its first two games, while Manning has helped his team get off to its first 2-0 start since 2000.
Manning hasn’t yet achieved the status of his older brother Peyton, but he’s gotten plenty of help during the Giants’ fast start. The special teams has been outstanding, the defense has given up one touchdown and the ground game has accounted for four of the team’s seven TDs. New York scored 69 points in the first two contests.
“We’re headed in the right direction, but we’re not where we want to be,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “We need the ball more, and we need to get the defense off the field.”
Manning was 13-of-24 for 165 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions Monday night in New York’s 27-10 “road” victory over New Orleans at Giants Stadium.
The Saints, without a home stadium since Hurricane Katrina caused major damage to the Superdome, were forced to play the first game on their home schedule in front of 68,031 fans at the Meadowlands.
“It was supposedly their home game, but we just played like it was our home game,” said defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who had two of the Giants’ four sacks.
Tiki Barber ran for 83 yards, becoming the first player in franchise history with 7,000 rushing yards, and scored two touchdowns. Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey each had five receptions for 64 yards.
The Giants defense allowed 375 passing yards by the Saints’ Aaron Brooks, but stopped New Orleans on two of three possessions inside their own 20-yard line.
Brees was unremarkable in a 20-17 loss at Denver on Sunday, throwing for just 175 yards with a key interception, and didn’t get much protection from his offensive line. He was sacked four times.
San Diego led 14-3 at halftime but managed only a field goal in the second half after Brees’ interception was returned 25 yards for a touchdown, sparking the Broncos’ comeback.
LaDainian Tomlinson ran for two touchdowns to set an NFL record with a rushing score in 14 consecutive games. But he finished with just 52 yards on 19 carries, and will be facing a Giants defense that has allowed only 103 rushing yards.
“We can’t afford to drop any more,” said Tomlinson, the NFL’s highest-paid running back who has gained just 124 yards on 38 carries. “Oh-and-2 is pretty much the max.”
Even more puzzling, Tomlinson has zero catches this year. He was San Diego’s leading receiver with 100 catches in 2003, when the Chargers were an NFL-worst 4-12, and his 53 receptions last year ranked him second behind All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates, who had 81.
Coach Marty Schottenheimer said the offensive line needs to do a better job, as Brees has been sacked six times.
“None of us are doing as much as we need to do. That’s why we’re at 0-2,” Schottenheimer said.