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Giants vs. Cowboys: Time for Eli Manning to step forward

Big Blue needs the good Eli for this season to turn out right

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants
Which Eli Manning will take the field Sunday night?
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

What is wrong with the New York Giants’ offense? It is a question we have been looking at all season, as far back in fact as their Week 2 16-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints when they failed to score an offensive touchdown.

There has been moaning and groaning about the play-calling and the overzealous use of “11” personnel, the three-wide receiver set. There has been complaining about the offensive line, about the fact that the Giants don’t run the ball consistently, and about the Giants turning the ball over too often and committing untimely penalties.

What we haven’t done, at least not directly, is put blame on the shoulders of quarterback Eli Manning. Sure, I gave Manning a “Wet Willie” after a sub-par performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers that included a back-breaking goal line interception. Even then, though, my criticism of Manning wasn’t harsh or direct, as I wrote “this is Manning’s offense and it didn’t perform well — and hasn’t performed well all season. He has to take a chunk of the blame for that.”

All of the things we have talked about over and over have been problematic for the Giants. They would, however, all look a lot less mortifying if one simple thing had happened more often this season, particularly in recent weeks. That thing? Manning connecting rather than misfiring on plays that are there to be made.

The veteran quarterback missed a bunch of those two weeks ago against the Cleveland Browns. He missed several open receivers last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as being guilty of forcing the ball to a covered Odell Beckham Jr. too often when other receivers were open.

Searching through the archives of the 2016 season, missed opportunities in the passing game have been a theme. Some have been drops. Some, too many in fact, have been occasions where Manning couldn’t step into throws or couldn’t make them at all due to pressure. Too often, though, opportunities have been lost because Manning, with a chance to set his feet and deliver a strike, was off the mark.

Manning’s completion percentage looks fine. At 63.1 percent, it matches the career-best he established in 2014. This, however, has not been the 13-year veteran’s best year.

Throwing out the abominable 2013 season, when Manning was sacked 39 times and had absolutely nothing around him to work with, his non-completion percentage numbers are all at their worst since 2010. I won’t recite them all. Look them up if you need confirmation.

The Giants are currently the fifth seed, but with a daunting schedule to end the season and several teams within striking distance a playoff berth is not guaranteed.

For the Giants, all of the money they spent on defense — in fact, pretty much everything they do at this point — is geared toward attempting to maximize the years the 35-year-old Manning has left.

If that is going to happen, the Giants need Manning to step up and do his part. The Giants need the Manning we have often seen in big games, the assassin who throws perfectly-placed lasers just when the Giants need them most. Not the guy who misses wide open receivers who could have scored, or at least made big plays that could lead to scores.

That needs to begin Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys.