Eli Manning and completion percentage: Beyond the raw numbers

Rob Carr

Is Eli Manning simply not as accurate as many other top quarterbacks? The numbers would suggest that. There could also be other factors at play.

Eli Manning completed 22-of-28 passes Sunday against the Washington Redskins, a single-game career-best 78.6 completion rate. If you have followed Manning's career, however, you know that completion percentage has never been his thing.

For his career, Manning has a 58.6 percent completion rate. This season he is at 58.3 percent, right at the career mark. Four times Manning has completed more than 60 percent of his passes, with his best being 62.9 percent in 2010.

Is Manning an inaccurate thrower? Maybe early in his career you could make that claim, but not now. The low completion percentage likely goes beyond simple accuracy.

Philip Rivers, the man the Giants traded to get him back in 2004, has completed 70 percent of his passes this season and 64.3 percent for his career. Does that make Rivers a more accurate passer? By the numbers, sure. There are, however, other factors.

The first one anyone will point to is weather, with Rivers playing in sunny California most of the time and Manning playing so many fall and winter game in cold, blustery New Jersey. Weather, though, isn't what this is about.

' The Giants need to give Manning better targets at the tight end and running back positions.'

Look at Rivers' 304 completions this season. In San Diego's quick-throw West Coast offense Rivers has completed 168 passes to running back or tight ends (55.3 percent). The Chargers' passing attack is ranked fourth in the NFL. Manning has 248 completions in 2013, only 91 to running backs or tight ends (36.9 percent).

Point is that Manning, in terms of completion percentage, is hurt by two things: 1) The Giants' desire to throw the ball down the field for big chunks of yards and 2) The fact that for most of his career Manning has not had either a big-time pass-catching tight end or a running back who was a dangerous receiver coming out of the backfield.

The Giants certainly have had neither of those things in 2013.

The Chargers are led in receptions by tight end Antonio Gates (64) and running back Danny Woodhead (61). Giants' tight end Brandon Myers has 34 catches. Da'Rel Scott, who is no longer with the team, and Andre Brown lead Giants' running backs with 11 receptions. In total, Giants' running backs have caught 40 passes on the season.

As mentioned earlier, the Chargers are fourth in the league in passing yardage per game. Let's look at the rest of the top five teams.

No. 1 Denver Broncos -- 329 completions, 126 to tight ends or running backs (38.3 percent).

No. 2 Detroit Lions -- 296 completions, 127 to tight ends or running backs (42.3 percent).

No. 3 New Orleans Saints -- 323 completions, 216 to tight ends or running backs (66.9 percent).

No. 5 Atlanta Falcons -- 331 completions, 126 to tight ends or running backs (38.1 percent).

Pass protection (a career-high 31 sacks of Manning this season) has been an issue for the Giants, of course. The Giants must address that in the offseason. To be a complete, efficient offense, however, the data also suggests that the Giants need to give Manning better targets at the tight end and running back positions.

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