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How bad was Giants QB Eli Manning on Monday? Not bad at all, really

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Despite compiling stats on Monday that did not look good, Pro Football Focus gave Eli Manning a solid grade -- one of the week's best for quarterbacks. Why?

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Eli Manning gets sacked by the Lions on Monday
Eli Manning gets sacked by the Lions on Monday
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

An alleged New York Giants fan burned his No. 10 jersey in protest after Monday's season-opening loss to the Detroit Lions. Other fans are also apparently done with him. There is scrutiny of his revamped foot work. There are questions about whether or not the new style of offense the Giants are running suits him.

So, just how bad was Eli Manning on Monday night? The reality, at least from this vantage point, is that Manning wasn't bad at all. The players around him -- offensive linemen, receivers and running backs included -- didn't give the quarterback any real opportunity to succeed.

The raw numbers for Manning are, indeed, unbecoming:

  • 18-of-33 for 163 yards, a 54.5 percent completion rate.
  • Two interceptions
  • A passer rating of 53.0

So then, how did Pro Football Focus give Manning a grade of +1.2, including +1.1 in the passing game? That grade, incidentally, was tied with for the fifth-best grade given out by PFF for a quarterback in Week 1. Let's look deeper and find out the reason for the solid grade. PFF has helped us out here with an 'Outside The Box' piece on Manning's play, in which PFF's Steve Palazzolo writes "his performance wasn't as bad as his 4.9 yards per attempt and 53.0 passer rating would indicate."

The Giants dropped four passes Monday night. Only Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers (seven) and Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens (nine) saw more passes dropped. Flacco, incidentally, threw 62 times. Manning, per PFF, lost 40 yards in completions thanks to those drops, third-most of any QB in Week 1.

Thanks to the pressure he was constantly under, and the struggles of receivers to get open, Manning threw away two passes. Only Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins (four) and Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders (three) were forced to throw the ball away more often.

'I try to never judge a quarterback in a new offense until Week 8.' - Arizona coach Bruce Arians

Speaking of that pressure, Manning was under duress on 11 of his 35 drop backs, 31.4 percent of the time. Distressingly, all of that pressure came despite the Lions blitzing only four times on passing plays.

After the game, Manning took the high road, blaming himself for both interceptions. That is what a leader and the face of the franchise is supposed to do. Manning, though, certainly did not get any help from his intended targets on either play.

The first interception, a brilliant juggling grab by Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy, was intended for tight end Larry Donnell. Manning did his best to absolve the young tight end of blame, but it was plain to see that Donnell a) didn't stop where Manning expected him to be -- right at the first-down marker) and b) never got his head around to locate the quarterback or the football.

Since the topic of not getting your head around came up, how is a quarterback supposed to complete a pass when this happens?

That is Manning standing in the pocket, clearly ready to throw the football, and clearly needing to as Ndamukong Suh has gotten away from John Jerry. There are four visible receivers in the frame. None are open. Only one of the four is actually looking for the football. What choice does Manning have here but to start running for his life and hoping one of his receivers happens to notice his distress?

Victor Cruz is certainly welcome to his opinion that he and Rueben Randle need to be targeted more often. Who is getting targeted isn't the issue. The issue is that the other 10 players on the field need to give Manning more help -- a lot more help -- than they did on Monday.

Manning certainly wasn't perfect. He should not have thrown the ball to Cruz that was intercepted -- but a better effort from Cruz to go get the ball and at worst that play should have been an incompletion. Manning also missed a couple of open receivers and didn't always look comfortable.

The Giants play the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Wednesday Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who installed a completely new system in Arizona with veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, talked about that process.

"I try to never judge a quarterback in a new offense until Week 8," Arians said. "It is very hard for somebody to change after you have been in a system. I did this with Carson Palmer last year. He had been in the same system pretty much nine years and he has ideas, then you are trying to re-program. It is much easier getting a rookie and brainwashing him than it is to take a veteran and change him totally into a new system."

Giants coach Tom Coughlin has often called the adjustment to the new offense a "work in progress." If you use the Week 8 standard, the problem for the Giants is that if the players around Manning -- on offense, defense and special teams -- don't give the quarterback more help than they did on Monday the Giants 2014 season will already be dead and buried before the transition is complete.

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