EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It is already another lost season late in his career, undone by a startling lack of talent around him, and no one would blame Eli Manning if he finally let his frustrations boil over. Yes, he could play better, but it still might not matter when so much around him is going so unbelievably wrong.
It has to be agonizing, frustrating, infuriating. Yet there Manning was Sunday night, after one of the worst offensive performances of his career, the same picture of calmness as he's always been. He didn't lament the fact that he's lost four of his top five receivers, that his team can't run the ball consistently, or that his offensive line might get him killed.
He didn't even offer a single woe-is-me over the Giants' 1-6 record -- the second time they've hit that mark in the last five seasons. Sure, it wouldn't be very Manning like if he let his emotions show.
But at this point, even he has to realize there's just not a lot he can do.
"We've got a job," Manning said after the Giants' 24-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. "We've got some young guys, we've got some new guys and we've got to get them up to speed. It's going to be a challenge. It's going to be a good challenge each and every week. You've got to accept that and embrace it."
It is a challenge, all right, and as far as the offense goes, Manning and the Giants are failing at it in spectacular fashion. Even if he was graded on a curve, due to the loss of Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard, Manning wouldn't get a passing grade. He was a terrible 19-of-39 for 134 yards and a touchdown in this game, fresh off an 11-of-19, 128 yard, one touchdown performance in the big win in Denver last week.
That's 30-of-58 for 262 yards in a two-week span. The Giants, in those two games, totaled 443 yards of offense.
That's not just horrible; it's barely functional.
But what else would anyone expect given the deteriorated state of the roster? Three of the four active receivers weren't on the active roster three weeks ago. The Giants' top weapon is a tight end who just played in his seventh NFL game.
"It's a different situation," Manning said. "Just the game plan … I don't know what I threw for in the first half. I didn't have many passing attempts. It's a different type of game offensively that we're playing than we had the mindset going in, with the amount of explosive players that we thought we had."
Those explosive players are gone now, of course, which has forced the Giants to -- at least theoretically -- embrace smashmouth football. The problem with that, though, is the rushing attack that revived the offense (a little bit) in Denver reverted to its usual form against the Seahawks (just 46 yards). That put the Giants back in their usual pass-heavy mode, only without the personnel to run it.
Even head coach Ben McAdoo seemed to realize that, and he's never been one to shy away from criticizing his quarterback. Asked if he needed more out of what is now his only experienced offensive weapon, McAdoo instead took the burden completely off of Manning's shoulders.
"It's the ultimate team game," McAdoo said. "It's not one guy. It's not one position. It's not injuries. We need to go put it all together."
Sure, but how? Manning's go-to target is rookie Evan Engram, and he had a decent game with six catches for 60 yards and a touchdown (not to mention a 72-yard catch that was called back because he stepped out of bounds before he got to the ball). He has been Manning's only reliable weapon this week, though it's hardly reliable when he catches only six of 12 passes thrown his way.
Manning's receivers? They combined for five catches for 45 yards, even though they were targeted 15 times. Roger Lewis, the only receiver left with any experience, was targeted six times and caught just one 12-yard pass. Their best moment, really, was a long incompletion down the sidelines to Tavarres King -- who was out of work three weeks ago -- only because it took a spectacular play by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman to knock a touchdown away.
"A couple plays like that, we can maybe hit and it's a different ballgame," Manning said.
Right. But how many of those are they going to hit without their top three receivers, a running game that isn't working and an offensive line that's crumbling from injuries? This is Manning's burden. He can absolutely play better. He was off target far too much in this game. His missed a few open receivers.
He has to know that even if he was on top of his game, there's only so much at this point that he can do.
Not that he'll ever say that.
"I thought (the receivers) had a couple opportunities," he said. "I've got to do a better job hitting them with some things."
He's trying desperately to look on the bright side, to give his teammates a reason to keep working hard, to set the kind of example a leader is supposed to set. But it doesn't matter. Thanks to injuries this is the worst supporting cast Manning has ever been surrounded with in his 14 NFL seasons and it's not going to get any better.
And that's the reality of this latest lost season. There's very little Manning -- or anyone -- can do.