Unshakable: Eli Shreds Bucs Despite Rough Start
Added by Ken R. on September 16, 2012.
Victor Cruz makes a reception against Tampa Bay on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Photo Credit: Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE
In typical fashion, Eli Manning had Giants fans wondering whether they were watching the same quarterback that had just brought a second Lombardi Trophy to New York. Manning threw three interceptions in the first half versus Bill Sheridan’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, one of which was returned for a score by Eric Wright with only seconds remaining in the half.
At halftime, Manning had fans wondering if he had failed to “build the bridge” from the final six games of last season. How a two-time Super Bowl MVP could look so terrible was borderline inconceivable.
And in vintage Easy E fashion, Manning did what he is famous for. He did not get rattled, mad or inpatient. Just as he had done throughout his career, Manning remained calm, cerebral and a pillar of leadership and strength. When all was said and done, he had led his team to a dazzling come-from-behind victory over the hapless Buccaneers, throwing for a career-high 510 yards, 378 of which went to his top two receivers, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz – career days for each.
Eli proved once again today that the Giants can never be counted out as long as he is commanding the offense. Giant fans have to feel good after such an outstanding performance
Many experts and analysts had mentioned this week and even before the season began that Victor Cruz would not be the same receiver he was last season – that he would “come back down to earth” now that defenses were aware of him (I guess the Patriots, 49ers and Packers hadn’t heard of him during last season’s playoff run).
Cruz, who had just lost his beloved Grandmother during the week, destroyed the Buccaneers secondary, catching passes at will, and salsa-dancing his way into a career performance. Cruz was perpetually open, and made huge play after huge play as Manning’s security blanket. There may not be a better receiver in the league right now – except for Hakeem Nicks. Nicks put up 199 yards and a touchdown, and did so despite limping on more than one occasion. Aquib Talib was torched over and over by Nicks, who easily got the better of the matchup from start to finish. Overall, it was a very rough day for the Buccaneers secondary.
When one door closes, another opens, and as the door closed on Ahmad Bradshaw’s day after a neck injury, the door opened for Andre Brown. Brown had overtaken David Wilson on the depth chart, and seized the day by running very tough. Brown finished with 71 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown and a two-point conversion, which may not sound like an amazing day, but was.
Brown provided a spark every time he touched the ball. He ran straight ahead, without dancing, plowing through tacklers and always gaining positive yards. He did the little things too, like picking up a David Baas snap that fell from Manning’s hands, and turning it into positive yardage. Brown also caught the football effectively out of the backfield. Coughlin and Gilbride will need to have a discussion this week on who will start versus Carolina. With Bradshaw injured, Brown should get the nod, and deservedly so.
Primetime Thursday Night Football at the Carolina Panthers comes next for the defending champs. On a short week, it will be interesting to see whether Keith Rivers and Prince Amukamara make it onto the field. Adding them would certainly strengthen the defense. Who knows, maybe we will even get a Marvin Austin sighting? Shutting down Cam Newton is no easy task, so the Giants will need all the extra help and depth they can muster.