Manning was so confused that early last week he went in to talk to Tom Coughlin. He explained that he was so often baffled by the plays called that he thought a scaled down plan would benefit him the best.
"We put in plays that I felt comfortable with," Manning said after posting a 103.9 rating, by far the best game of his very brief NFL career. "I told him we need to put in plays that I'm comfortable with."
That the Giants lost to Pittsburgh is of very little significance. Very little. That they might have found their offense and a quarterback capable of leading it is monumental. Absolutely monumental.
Go figure. Instead of scaling back the playbook to make things easier on the rookie, Coughlin and offensive coordinator John Hufnagel actually gave the kid more than he could handle. And it took him bringing it to Coughlin's attention for it to change.
Manning was more comfortable and as a result, a lot more confident.
"They started letting him do what he does and letting him throw the ball down the field," Amani Toomer said. "I think he played well. This whole offense was making plays and he was a big part of that. He's definitely growing up."
"He was confident," Tiki Barber said. "He understood the game plan."
Manning threw the ball with precision and authority, completing 16-of-23 passes for 182 yards – against the league's top-ranked defense, no less.
"It's encouraging that Eli played so well," Tiki Barber said. "The biggest thing we were looking for was for this game to slow down for Eli."
It showed. Both of his TD passes were beauties to tight ends down near the goal line and he also uncorked a deep ball to David Tyree that couldn't have possibly been thrown any better.
"He improved very well from one week to the next," Coughlin said. "I thought his ability to manage the game was better and I thought he made plays. That's the big difference; he made plays. He made a lot of plays and he made plays when we had to have them."
Manning's comfort level with the offense and his play obviously affected how he handled himself in the huddle – and it was obvious.
"That's the most vocal I've ever seen him in the huddle," Barber said. "He was giving tips and pointers in the huddle. He took on a leadership role, which is important."
"I thought he did a good job of directing people and being the general," Shaun O'Hara added. "I don't think Eli was confused at all out there."
Nobody was more excited to see Manning's coming out party than the Giants defense.
"He's even better than he played today," Will Peterson said. "Eli's going to be a great QB."
That's sure not how things looked during his first month on the job. Manning said he understood the poor perception everyone had of him after back-to-back abysmal starts, including being yanked from the Baltimore game.
"When you play four games and don't really play well in any of them, you don't expect much good to be said," Manning admitted.
Now that his coaches have figured out what to do with their franchise QB, perhaps things will come a little easier to number 10. It sure is nice to have your coaches working with you and not against you.
What was he thinking?
Lost among Manning's superb play and New York's loss was a very, very questionable/foolish decision by Tom Coughlin. With 8:15 to play in the game the Giants took a 30-26 lead when Barber capped a seven-play, 52-yard drive with a one-yard scoring run. Instead of taking the automatic point and extending the lead to five points, Coughlin decided to go for two. The two-point attempt failed miserably when Manning was sacked before he even came close to getting rid of the ball.
While the decision ultimately didn't affect the game, it sure could have. When the Steelers scored on the ensuring possession, it gave them a three-point lead. Had the Giants been able to get in scoring position down the stretch, all a field goal would do at that point was send the game into overtime. If they were trailing by two – as they should have been – a field goal would have won it.
"At that point in time I would have liked it to be a six-point lead instead of a five-point lead," Coughlin said. "Five wasn't going to do me any good."
The fact that Coughlin didn't even realize after the game how badly he could have hurt his club is troubling, to say the least.
Way to go
You have to give the Giants credit for coming to play against the Steelers. No one gave them the slightest chance and it would have been very easy for them to just show up and take their beating, as they had laid down in their two previous losses in Washington and Baltimore. However, they fought with all they had and certainly put a scare into a Pittsburgh club that's only lost once all season.
"Coach always says the team that wants it more will win, but we wanted it bad," Will Peterson said.
It showed. If nothing else, these Giants played hard and showed some pride. That should not be overlooked.
It takes a rookie for Coughlin to see the light
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