New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was not included in this week's list of "Kudos & Wet Willies" recipients. That isn't to make an apology for the quarterback's performance on Sunday because, like most of his teammates, it wasn't nearly good enough. It is because what to blame on Manning and what not to blame on Manning from the richly-deserved 20-14 spanking the Giants got Sunday from the Washington Redskins is difficult to assess.
Manning's stat line -- 26-of-51, 321 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions, three sacks and a 59.4 quarterback rating -- is atrocious. Like his teammates, Manning slept through the first half with a pair of interceptions and a 19.3 passer rating.
The three interceptions
Let's talk about those interceptions for a second. The first one clearly was not Manning's doing. His pass hit Shane Vereen right in the breadbasket, and Vereen turned it into an interception by trying to run before he secured the ball. Of course, he wouldn't have had to run without the inexcusable, and completely clueless, delay of game Manning took right before the pass. That's a ridiculous five delay of game penalties on Manning this season. Tom Brady has one. Cam Newton has two, both on Sunday.
The second interception is entirely on Manning. Rolling to his right under duress, he tries an ill-advised pass to Dwayne Harris. The ball in underthrown, tipped to Harris, who is blasted to the turf and loses the ball. Will Blackmon picks it off. That ball has got to simply be thrown away, or at least not thrown into double coverage while on the run.
Ahh, the third interception. You know I put the blame for this one on Rueben Randle, and I won't back off my criticism of the lackadaisical route and so-so effort the wide receiver made on the play. I will acknowledge that the ball is thrown probably a split second late and a hair behind Randle. Not Eli's finest moment, but that ball can't be any worse than an incompletion.
The pass protection
Again and again over the years we have talked about how Manning needs solid pass protection. He didn't have it for most of the game on Sunday. It's unfair to be too critical of the offensive line, down three starters after Geoff Schwartz was hurt, but it's a fact that Manning was under duress much of the game. And Manning a) under duress and b) trailing AND under duress from the pass rush is never a good thing.
Odell Beckham and ...?
Throwing the ball to Odell Beckham works, even when it shouldn't, like his ridiculous touchdown catch on Sunday. Problem is, Beckham and Manning aren't getting consistent help from anyone else. Randle had a rough day with one catch in six targets. Harris had just two catches. Tight end Will Tye is fast becoming a Manning favorite, and he caught six passes on Sunday. Even Vereen let Manning and the Giants down Sunday.
When he isn't throwing the ball toward Beckham, Manning just doesn't have a consistent second or third option he knows he can rely on. That's a problem.
Grade Manning however you want. Give him "Kudos" for his toughness in hanging in with a ravaged offensive line, and for leading a comeback. Give him a "Wet Willie" for helping the Giants get into the 20-0 hole they couldn't climb out of. He probably deserves both.
Manning is a terrific quarterback. Give him time, a running attack that is at least functional, and receivers who make plays when Manning offers them the opportunity, and he looks great.
I have always maintained that the thing that separates Manning from Brady, Peyton Manning in his prime and other truly top-tier quarterbacks is that those truly upper-echelon Hall of Fame caliber guys have an ability to rise above the chaos. To lift their teams and win in spite of it. Brady currently is the best example of that. Manning is good, very good, but he needs things around him to be functioning well. Sunday they weren't and, as you probably could have predicted if you have watched his entire career unfold, he really didn't rise above it.