Awful Eli Costs Giants Big

To say Eli Manning played poorly against Minnesota would be an understatement. He was awful, terrible, dreadful, appalling, poor… we could go on-and-on. Actually the most succinct way to describe how damaging the former top overall pick was to New York's fortunes would be to say that he was record-breaking, in all the wrong ways.

The Vikings returned three of Manning's interceptions for touchdowns (by Darren Sharper, Dwight Smith and Chad Greenway). It was the first time in Giants history that an opponent returned three interceptions for touchdowns in a game. It had not happened in the NFL since Nov. 4, 1984, when Seattle did it four times against Kansas City.

"They just had a good plan," Manning said. "They made plays when we didn't. I didn't play real well; I kept turning the ball over. They just outperformed us and they made a lot of good plays."

As Manning made crucial mistake after crucial mistake, it almost defied logic that he would continue to throw the ball to Minnesota defenders. In addition to the 20-, 93- and 37-yard interceptions the Vikings retuned for touchdowns, Manning's fourth INT was a thing of beauty as well. His pass intended for Plaxico Burress was instead plucked out of the air by Dwight Smith, who later scored on the 93-yarder. Give credit to Chris Snee for actually preventing Smith from scoring. He pushed him out of bounds at the Giants eight-yard line after a 19-yard return. No worry for Minnesota though. Chester Taylor took it in on the next play and Manning had officially presented the visiting Vikings with 28 points. My, what a gracious host.

To the Giants' credit, no one bashed their quarterback. They all said the right things. But, in all honestly, what else could they say? In the 82-year history of the New York Football Giants, never before had a quarterback been so generous to the opposition.

"He's a tough kid, he's going to bounce back," Jeremy Shockey said. "It's not fair just because of the position he plays. We're all in this together."

"It's important that you tell him that it doesn't rest only on his shoulders," Kawika Mitchell added. "I still believe in him."

But it has to be getting more and more difficult.

Minnesota black magic

Antonio Pierce is in no hurry to play the Vikings again. The last time Minnesota visited Giants Stadium to face off with Big Blue, they managed to score three touchdowns via returns. On Nov. 13, 2005, a 6-2 Giants team hosted the 3-5 Vikings. That afternoon, the Vikes gained just 137 yards, including just 12 on the ground. But they became the first team in NFL history to score on a kickoff return, punt return and interception return in the same game and left Giants Stadium with an improbable 24-21 victory after Paul Edinger kicked a 48-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining.

"It's something about the Minnesota Vikings," Antonio Pierce said. "I don't know what it is."

"I did not, in my worst moment, ever think I would be standing here talking about history repeating itself, but it did," Coughlin added. "We talked about this during the course of the week with regard to the last time Minnesota came here."

Playmaking Vikings safety Darren Sharper must like playing in East Rutherford.

"We didn't imagine that we would win by this amount but that is the nature of the NFL," he said. "You never know what is going to happen and we just kept pouring it on.

"The last time we were here, two years ago, something weird happened. It was another record with three returns, special teams, defense and punt. Now this with the three interceptions returned for a touchdown. A lot of weird stuff happens when we come to New York."

But Sharper said it wasn't just dumb luck. He credited the Vikings aggressive defensive philosophy for the results.

"We knew if we were able to make (Manning) throw off his back foot and make some throws we would have a chance to make some plays," Sharper said.

Why, oh, why?

The Giants were getting blown out yet Coughlin still had his starting quarterback and hobbled receiver in the game.

"I thought about it at one point, but I didn't see the purpose in that either," Coughlin said. "I wasn't going to say that… I just don't like that feeling. I wasn't going to do that, I wasn't going to do that to him and I wasn't going to do that to me, and us. I just don't like that."

Obviously neither player stated, publicly at least, that they would have rather come out of the game.

"I didn't want him to pull me," Manning said. "I wanted to finish the game. I wanted to be in there and try and get something going. I am going to keep playing until the end, and our guys are going to fight. We did a good job staying in there and just competing. Nothing was going right, but we hung in there and fought hard."

"We're still out there fighting," Burress said.

Sound advice

It was surprising to say the least that Coughlin did not insert backup QB Anthony Wright into the game. After the game Wright said he told Manning to keep his chin up.

"I've seen it happen to the best of them," Wright said. "Troy Aikman threw five picks in this stadium."

Wright said the best course of action would be to move on and leave this one behind. If not, he said, Manning would be doomed to repeat his mistakes Sunday in Chicago.

"You can't learn anything from this game," he said. "You might as well just throw away the tapes."

Game quotes

We'll turn this section over to Jeremy Shockey, who basically said it all in front of his locker after the embarrassing defeat. Here's a sampling:

"We play like that and we're not going to win against a high school team."…

"We always make it hard on ourselves and you guys have something to write about."…

"December is the most important part of the NFL, and we're excited for it."

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