Sunday might have been another loss, the Giants dropping to 2-12 in a 34-29 result against the Philadelphia Eagles, but Manning looked like his old self for perhaps the first time all season.
He hit the underneath routes and took shots down the field, finishing the game 37-for-57 for 434 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Since being benched three weeks ago, Manning has looked sharp and efficient over the past two games, a real chore given the injuries that have smacked the Giants receiving corps this year.
That Manning is doing so under Steve Spagnuolo, who was the team’s defensive coordinator before being appointed as interim head coach, is what really stands out. Former head coach Ben McAdoo was the Giants offensive coordinator before assuming the job two years ago.
And yet it is Spagnuolo who seems to be coaxing the best out of his veteran quarterback over the past two games.
“I think we had a good plan for how they were going to play and guys did a good job getting open. They covered us up a few times, but we had a good plan of getting the ball out quickly, which we did,” Manning said after the loss. “Playing fast, some up-tempo stuff, I think that confused them a little bit.
Hit some guys in stride, hit some guys running, so I think we just had a good plan. Guys were winning and that’s fun when that happens.”
Spagnuolo said the Giants weren’t doing things “differently” than in previous weeks since he has taken over. Instead, he praised the work done by Manning and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.
As an example of that, Spagnuolo said that during the week when the offense was installed, Manning would come over and suggest plays to Sullivan later that evening. Perhaps it is the comfort level with Sullivan, and without McAdoo, that should be noted.
Manning and Sullivan are now free to game plan and prep without McAdoo’s fingerprint firmly all over the offense.
In which case, Spagnuolo might simply be letting Manning be himself – four times selected to the Pro Bowl and twice a Super Bowl MVP – and the Giants interim head coach isn’t tying his quarterback’s hands when running the offense. That, coupled with the recently improved play of the offensive line, has a team with a bad record now competitive in two weeks under Spagnuolo.
“I’m not sure what the difference is other than I know that’s him. We know what he’s capable of and that showed today. I’ll tell you what – I would say this just without watching the film – that was a really good front we just played, the defensive front from Philadelphia,” Spagnuolo said.
“I mean, I’m sure there was a little bit of pressure here and there, but obviously Eli was getting enough time to function effectively as a quarterback to get us that many points. So, I credit the o-line without seeing it on tape right now.”