EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - On the Giants' first drive of the second quarter, on a 2nd-and-19 from their own 28, Eli Manning checked down - again - to a short pass to Cody Latimer. It was a terrible decision, a useless play, and it gained only five meaningless yards.
And that's when FOX's cameras caught an exasperated Pat Shurmur mouthing the words, "Throw the ball!"
If it wasn't clear before, it was clear then that Shurmur is growing a little frustrated with his embattled quarterback - and he certainly had reason in this game. Manning was atrocious, giving nothing but fuel to his critics, completing 24 of 43 passes for a very deceptive 281 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.
He was underthrowing players who were getting open deep, and overthrowing others. Even his interception on the second play of the game was a terrible decision, throwing to a tightly covered tight end Scott Simonson. He checked down to often (again). And most of his better plays and series came in garbage time in the second half when the game was out of reach.
Mostly, he was a mess - especially in the first half. Manning was unusually animated too, really letting running back Wayne Gallman have it when he apparently ran the wrong route on a first-half pass.
Manning has been under heavy fire from a lot of places in recent weeks - including his top receiver, who famously told ESPN last weekend that he doesn't know if the Giants have a quarterback problem. Not all of the criticism has been deserved considering how bad the Giants' offensive line has been, the terrible state of the running game, and the drop problems of his receiver.
But that wasn't an excuse here. The Giants' line wasn't good. Saquon Barkley ran well the few times that he ran it and was brilliant overall - coming within one yard of being the first Giants player ever to have 100 yards receiving and rushing in the same game. And while Manning's receivers weren't doing a great job of getting open, they weren't dropping a lot of passes either.
This one was very clearly Manning's mess, even if it wasn't his fault alone. And that's a huge problem because the Giants are now 1-5 and need a miracle to make any kind of run at the playoffs. And now the rest of this season is suddenly going to be all about what the Giants plan to do at quarterback, and whether these are the last few games of Manning's Giants career.
Meanwhile, here are some other takeaways:
- Nate Solder, the Giants' $62 million left tackle, had a lot of problems with Eagles DE Michael Bennett, especially early in the game. He has been average at best for most of this season, which is terrible for the Giants since he was supposed to be the anchor of their rebuilt line. It could've been worse, though. On a first quarter sack, when Bennett blew right by him and hammered Manning at the goal line, Manning fumbled … but Solder at least recovered to pounce on the ball at the 1.
- Don't let the play-calling off the hook completely in this game. Manning's interception on the second play of the game was a check-down to TE Scott Simonson. … Really? With all the Giants' weapons, and with their top two tight ends injured, why have a play with Simonson as an option. Manning's throw into tight coverage was inadvisable, but not awful. Perhaps a better receiver makes a stronger move on the ball.
- The red-zone play calling was even worse. The Giants had a 3rd-and-goal from the 3 in the second quarter and Manning threw to Simonson again. It's hard to understand why he'd be a viable option there. Also, why not run Saquon Barkley? He ran for a yard on first down, and then they don't go back to him on second or third?
- If the rest of the Giants hadn't been so horrible, the story of this game would've been Saquon Barkley. He had 130 rushing yards and 99 receiving yards, with just some incredible runs and runs after the catch. He caught a screen pass and took it 55 yards and made at least seven Eagles miss along the way. And his 50-yard touchdown run started with him running inside, then bouncing outside and accelerating so fast no one on the Philly defense had a chance to touch him. The kid is amazing. Imagine if he had more holes to run through.
- Looking for another bright side? The return of LB Olivier Vernon certainly put a jolt in the Giants' pass rush - at least early in the game. For some brief moments, he had his way with Eagles LT Jason Peters, and Vernon and Kareem Martin were the twin edge rushers that defensive coordinator James Bettcher envisioned. It wasn't like that the whole game, but it was a better rush than this team has gotten all season long. Martin even had two early pass deflections.
- And now back to the bad. Another big problem in this game: The Giants' special teams. Never mind that Jawill Davis very nearly fumbled the opening kickoff. Their coverage was also awful in this game. The Eagles had three drives in the first half that started near midfield.