Photos of the Bucs vs. the Giants over the years.
Last Sunday, Eli Manning and the New York Giants scored enough points to win 98% of all of the regular-season games played in NFL history. Unfortunately for Manning's crew, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints scored three more points than they did on a day of epic offensive proportions in the Superdome.
READ: GIANTS SCOUTING REPORT
That 52-49 loss to the Saints was the fourth-highest scoring game in league annals and it included a record 13 combined touchdown passes from Brees and Manning. The Giants' defense helped a bit with the scoring on a Trumaine McBride fumble return for a touchdown, but it was still a prolific day all around for Manning and company. The Giants fell to 4-4 with the loss but they remain in first place in the NFC East and they have a better idea of what their offensive ceiling might be.
"Guys up front did a great job giving me time," said Manning. "We did a good job just hitting some big plays, getting the ball down the field. We didn't have many third downs – we were able to get production on first and second down and move the ball. We were just clicking. I think we had everybody practicing last week for the first time in a few weeks, so I think that helped just the timing of everything. So that was good. We just have to keep finding ways to move the ball and have positive plays, eliminate the turnovers and score in the red zone."
One of the players rejoining Manning on the practice field last week was star wide receiver Odell Beckham, who had played through a hamstring injury for several weeks but had been rested between games. That midweek work may be the reason that Manning and Beckham clicked particularly well on Sunday; eight of the nine times the former targeted the letter resulted in completions, for a total of 130 yards and three touchdowns.
Projected starters for the Giants as listed on team depth chart.
"What happened was that last week, when he was able to practice, it really did lift our passing game, because then our quarterback was also able to practice at that level," said Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin. "So it was a good thing."
Since drawing heavy criticism for a 27-interception season for a 7-9 Giants team in 2013, Manning has enjoyed one of the best stretches of his career. In the 24 games since the start of 2014 he has completed 577 of 901 passes (64.0%) for 6,536 yards, 47 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and a 94.7 passer rating. This year he has a TD-INT ratio of better than four to one and a passer rating of 99.9, both of which would be the best single-season totals of his career, if maintained. That time period coincides with the arrival of Beckham, New York's 2014 first-round pick, and it's clear that he and Manning have helped each other reach new heights. Beckham's big game after a full week of practice last Sunday is an indication of what they can do together.
"It's good to have Odell back on the practice field," said Manning. "Guys realize that practice is important and it helps everybody get on the same page. It helps the timing of things. You take a few weeks off from running a certain route or doing something a certain way and you can quickly lose it. So it's good to have guys practicing at full speed and having them out there and that carries over to the games. When you have good practices, you can make corrections. You might not do everything perfect in practice, but you can fix it, you can make corrections, so that on gameday you're going to do it the right way."
In the two games prior to their 416-yard, 49-point explosion against the Saints, the Giants have averaged just 268 yards of offense, including 161.5 per game through the air. Manning threw for just five yards per attempt in a 27-7 loss at Philadelphia and completed just 13 of 24 passes in a 27-20 win over Dallas. However, New York's offensive ledger in 2015 also includes a 525-yard outing against San Francisco and four games with 27 points scored or more.
Manning has reason to believe – including the incredible evidence from the Superdome – that the offense's potential is closer to those latter games.
"That's just football," said Manning. "Sometimes things go well, sometimes the other team has some good calls at times or they're just winning the individual battles. I feel like, for the most part, we've been sharp this season in moving the ball, being able to score some points. We just have to hopefully get the ball out quickly and [hopefully] receivers can win their one-on-one matchups and offensive line can hold up and have a good mix of the run and pass."