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The Tale Of Two Elis
Randolph Charlotin. 16th November, 2007 - 7:23 pm

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It?s that time of year again. Daylight savings time is over so there is less daylight. The leaves have changed color and now are falling to the ground. The temperature dropped and Eli Manning?s game has gone cold.

It never fails. The younger Manning can?t maintain his high level of play for a full season. The first eight games for the New York Giants? quarterback are great. But his game wilts in the second half.

There isn?t a good explanation for why Manning loses his edge. At least Manning is consistent, but it?s a trend that is in need of a change for the better.

Ever since he became the New York starter, Eli?s steady play plunged after eight games played. Explanations ranged from he wasn?t used to the longer NFL schedule, questionable coaching, lack of protection in the pocket, or injuries to his receivers. But two seasons in a row?

First Half/Second Half
Year Comp pct?TDs?Int?Record
2005 51.6/53.9?14/10?5/12?6-2/5-3
2006 61.3/54.0?15/9?9/9?6-2/2-6

This year was supposed to be different. After he stood up for himself following an attack on his leadership from former teammate turned television analyst Tiki Barber, it meant he matured as a player. With Barber retired, it cleared the path for Manning to be a leader. The locker room was harmonious now that the cancerous Barber wasn?t around to criticize head coach Tom Coughlin. And Manning had his best targets, tight end Jeremy Schockey and receivers Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress, healthy and playing.

It might be quick to make a rush to judgement, it?s hard to ignore Manning?s play for the last two games in comparison to his first seven. The first half Manning was off to a career start. Manning to Burress was unstoppable as they connected for eight touchdowns. Toomer reliably kept the chains moving while breaking two Giants career receiving records for receptions and yards. And Shockey worked the field as the coaching staff split him out wide to further diversify the attack. Add a punishing ground game and it looked like the Giants offense could only be stopped by itself.

Well the clich? caught up to them, or at least to Manning. The first obvious sign was the abysmal performance against the Miami Dolphins. Some may reason that playing the game in London threw Manning?s biological clock way off. But a five-hour time zone change won?t make someone horrible against one of the league?s worst defenses. It?s like playing in Oakland or San Francisco. Teams play cross-continent games every year so there?s no excuse for the Manning Kid. Eli finished 8-22 for 59 yards and no touchdowns.

He had a chance to bounce back a week later, playing Dallas in a key divisional match for a tie atop the NFC East. Once again Manning didn?t rise to the occasion. He threw a touchdown, but two interceptions as well, the first killing a first half drive that would had put the Giants ahead.

Do those two games mean the trend repeats itself for 2007 or will Manning finally be the same quarterback at the end of the season as he was in the first half? Injuries can?t be an excuse as Toomer, Burress and Shockey are on the active roster. New York is Manning?s team now. It is up to him to lead the Giants to a strong finish or drag them down with him.

Randolph Charlotin can be contacted at lordrc@netzero.net