Little brother, Eli Manning, passed for more yards, but older brother, Peyton Manning, and his Denver Broncos (2-0) had the far better game in a 41-23 victory over the New York Giants (0-2), at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
The win gave the elder Manning three NFL wins in as many tries against his younger sibling (with the first two coming with Peyton running the Indianapolis Colts’ offense).
Of far greater concern for Eli, however, is that the Giants seem to be struggling in each facet of the game, and without a win in the season’s first two weeks, they already appear to be in a must-win mode, as they next face consecutive road contests (at Carolina, and then, in Kansas City).
History may suggest that it’s not time for New York to panic, as the Giants won the third of their four Super Bowls six years ago, after likewise starting 0-2, while allowing 80 points. In comparison, New York has surrendered an alarming 77 points in a pair of losses to start the current season.
But the Giants have several big problems to address before they might be able to turn things around again.
Eli (28-for-49, 362 yards, one touchdown) added a career-high-tying four more interceptions to the three he had last week, in Dallas, whereas Peyton (30-for-43, 307 yards) stayed turnover free while throwing a couple of touchdown passes — each in the second half — on the heels of his league record-tying seven scores he tossed in the NFL season opener.
And although New York continued its red zone struggles (from last year, the preseason and the previous week), with a lone touchdown in three trips inside the Denver 20-yard line; converted just once in 11 third-down attempts; and rushed for a pathetic 23 yards on 19 carries, the Giants’ defense and special teams struggled as well.
Trailing 31-16, New York allowed an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown by Trindon Holliday (off of a 50-yard boot by from punter Steve Weatherford) that put the game out of reach, with 10:13 remaining.
Prior to that, the Giants’ defense, which did a good job in slowing down the Broncos’ up-tempo, high-powered offense in the first half, failed to answer the call during a key, game-deciding sequence in the third quarter.
After New York opened the second half with a three-and-out, the Giants allowed a 22-yard return for Holliday off of another 50-yard punt by Weatherford, and then Peyton picked New York’s defense apart on a nine-play, 53-yard drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown pass from Peyton to wide receiver Wes Welker (three catches, 39 yards, one touchdown) and a 17-9 Denver lead.
Taking advantage of four Broncos penalties, the Giants immediately responded with a nine-play, 81-yard touchdown drive, to pull within 17-16 on a one-yard plunge by running back Brandon Jacobs, who managed a putrid three yards on six other carries while replacing his old No. 27 with No. 34 in his first game back in a Giants uniform.
Denver took the next possession though, and marched 80 yards in seven plays, to go up 24-16 on a 25-yard touchdown run by running back Knowshon Moreno, who torched New York’s run defense for an earlier 20-yard score and 93 rushing yards on just 13 carries.
Two plays later, a fluke interception that bounced off of the foot of cornerback Tony Carter (three tackles, four of the Broncos’ 12 pass deflections) and into the hands of fellow cornerback Chris Harris (six tackles, two pass deflections, one interception).
Unable to force a punt or at least a field goal, the Giants yielded a 36-yard scoring drive in five plays, as Denver grabbed a 31-16 lead on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Peyton to tight end Julius Thomas (six catches, 47 yards, one touchdown), less than three minutes into the final period.
While the Manning brothers combined for 380 first-half passing yards (200 from Peyton), the 10-9 halftime lead held by the Broncos was far from the shootout many expected, while ironically matching the halftime score in Super Bowl XXI, when New York rallied from the same deficit to beat Denver, 39-20, and capture its first Super Bowl title.
Bill Parcells, the Giants head coach back then, coincidentally received his Hall Of Fame ring at halftime on Sunday, during a game called on CBS television by color analyst Phil Simms, who still holds the Super Bowl record for passing accuracy, having completed 88 percent of his passes while going 22 of 25 against the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI.
Unless they meet in the Super Bowl, Eli may not get another shot at finally being able to beat Peyton, who would be over the age of 40 by the time the two brothers would likely meet again in the regular season.
Eli will worry about that later on, though. Right now, he and the Giants just need a win, period, and with the prospect of an 0-3 start looming, they really need to get that victory next week.