The New York Giants lost to the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday, prompting analysts to jokingly note that the Giants were just beginning their annual November slump. Though the insinuation here is that the Giants need to overcome adversity in the regular season in order to have success in the playoffs (as the team did in its 2007 Super Bowl season and again last year) and that a November slump might not be such a bad thing for the team, the reality is that there is plenty of reason to be worried in New York.
The Giants didn’t just lose to the Bengals yesterday, they were shellacked. They allowed the Bengals to end a four-game losing streak and ceded four touchdown passes to sophomore quarterback Andy Dalton, a career high for him.
The Giants defense looked inept at times, leaving Bengals receivers uncovered within a 10-yard radius and leading to walk-in touchdowns. The Giants offense looked weak and out of sync, turning the ball over four times and allowing a season-high four sacks.
Perhaps the most concerning aspect of the loss was the play of quarterback Eli Manning. A week after big brother Peyton handed the Bengals a loss, Eli looked overwhelmed in his attempts to drive the ball down the field. He threw two interceptions that led to Bengals touchdowns and generally looked like he couldn’t get the ball to go where he wanted it to.
In recent days, rumors have swirled that something is wrong with Manning’s arm. In his past three games, Manning has completed just over 54 percent of his passes with no touchdowns, four interceptions and a paltry yards-per-completion rate.
ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski suggests Manning has a “tired arm.” He says Manning is noticeably not driving his throws to the intermediate and deep levels.
Why an NFL quarterback’s arm would become tired is a matter that’s up for debate. Though he’s never been known for having a cannon of an arm, Manning has always delivered the ball with plenty of power. It makes little sense that he would lose velocity on his passes in the middle of a season for a reason other than a muscle or tendon injury in his elbow or shoulder, but there’s no evidence that he’s hurt (he certainly hasn’t appeared on the Giants’ injury report with a throwing arm issue).
After the game, Manning denied the rumors that there’s something wrong:
“I’m still making the throws and I don’t feel like it’s tired,” he told reporters. “If my arm were tired, I would tell the coaches and we would adjust. I don’t feel like we are overthrowing by any means, and the ball is still coming out fine, so I don’t see anything into it.”
Manning has overcome stretches of poor play previously in his career — as have the Giants — so it isn’t yet time for the team to hit the panic button. The NFL scheduling gods smiled on the Giants and gave them a bye this week, which might be just what Manning and his possibly-tired arm need.
The Giants need to start winning games soon if they plan to take a run at repeating as Super Bowl champions, though. If the Cowboys win this week, they will be just a game behind the Giants in the NFC East and they will be looking at a significantly easier schedule to end the season.