Once it took hold - there was no stopping it. Following last night's
34-28 Giants' victory, Cindy Brunson and Qadry Ismail were analyzing
the game. (I almost put analyzing in quotes, but figured that was too
cheap a shot). And, in discussing Eli Manning's performance, they
described it as efficient, though Ismail uttered the word with what
almost seemed to be an apologetic smile on his face. But, then,
subsequent renderings of the game over the next hour or so on ESPNews
dropped the trepidation about the word, and simply embraced it. By the
time the game was an hour old, Manning's performance had become "very
efficient." Throw in a few smatterings of football's new favorite
phrase to describe quarterback play - "he did a good job managing the
game" - and you get the picture: with his team's season on the line,
Eli did a nice job directing his offense to a 34-point output.
To be sure, the story of the night was Tiki, and that was rightly the headline. Tiki may not be a Hall-of-Famer, though he's damn close, but he's now put together one of the most impressive three-season runs in NFL history for a running back and it's remarkable how little attention has been paid to the magnitude of what he's accomplished since the start of the Tom Coughlin era in 2004. But, let's just take a moment to dissect Eli's "efficient" performance.
Manning went 12-for-26. Obviously, that's bad. He threw for 101 yards. That's pathetic. His 3.9 yards per attempt is worse than pathetic. The Giants did convert 8 of 14 third down opportunities, so props to Eli for his performance there, as several came on short passes. He had an interception-free game. But, efficient? Please. His QB rating for the game was under 70. Eli managed very little other than handing the ball off to his star running back had the game of his life, setting a franchise record for rushing yards in a game in the process. This had nothing to do with Eli. Furthermore, I was listening to the game on WFAN's stream, and Giant announcers Bob Papa, Dick Lynch and Dave Jennings called at least three Eli passes that should have been intercepted but were simply dropped by Redskins defenders. That's just luck. At least twice, Manning pulled an Eli special, whereby he responds to a blitz by simply chucking the ball downfield in the general vicinity of Plaxico Burress and praying the ball doesn't get picked off.
Finally, did I mention the Redskins defense? It sucks. They're 30th in the NFL in total yards allowed and, even better, they're dead last in terms of opponents QB efficiency. The QB rating of all of Washington's opponents this year is 97.8. In other words, Joe Gibbs' defense turns every opposing QB into Peyton Manning. Except, apparently, his brother.
To his credit, and since I never give him any, Sean Salisbury had it right last night on ESPN following the game. He said that Eli is, right now, incapable of carrying his team and that, absent Tiki doing so, the Giants will be eliminated quickly from the playoffs. Crediting pitchers with team wins is a flawed way of assessing their performance. Crediting QBs with team wins is even more flawed. The Giants won in spite of their QB last night, not because of him.
And, Happy New Year everyone.