In turbulent season, Manning returns to site of triumph
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — In his turbulent 14th NFL season, Eli Manning returns to the scene of one of his greatest triumphs.
Manning will lead the New York Giants (2-12) into University of Phoenix Stadium to face Arizona (6-8) on Sunday in the Cardinals’ final home game of a difficult season.
It was in the same building, in January 2008, that Manning was the MVP in the Giants’ dramatic 17-14 Super Bowl win over New England.
“I hope he doesn’t repeat it,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said.
That Giants team went 10-6 in the regular season. This one has gone through a miserable year that included the firing of coach Ben McAdoo on Dec. 4.
New York is 0-2 under interim coach Steve Spagnuolo, but Manning is coming off a strong performance two games after his unexpected one-game benching. He completed 37 of 57 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in last weekend’s 34-29 loss to Philadelphia.
But Manning said it’s tough to duplicate those kinds of numbers.
“You learn quick in football that nothing carries over from week to week,” he said. “It’s about we’re going against an uncommon opponent. We haven’t played Arizona in a while, so we got to have a great preparation and that’s starting with me. But, everybody just understanding their schemes, what they’re going to do and we just got to execute.
“Last week, guys made some great individual efforts. We got to continue to do that and then just find a lot of completions.”
The Cardinals’ defense features outside linebacker Chandler Jones, the NFL leader in sacks (15), and has mostly played well, especially lately.
But the offense has sputtered, producing nine field goals and no touchdowns in the past two games. In fact, it’s been 10 quarters since an Arizona player crossed the opponent’s goal line.
That led Arians to make a change at quarterback, benching Blaine Gabbert after five starts in favor of Drew Stanton, who still is recovering from a knee injury. Stanton is 7-4 as a starter for Arizona, 1-1 this season.
“Unless it’s a drastic change in the type of quarterback, we just defend the scheme,” Spagnuolo said. “I think both Blaine and Stanton are very similar in that regard. One might be a little more athletic or they might run a few more movement passes, but Bruce likes to throw the football.”
Here are some things to consider when the Giants visit the Cardinals.
AGELESS LARRY: Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald was selected to the Pro Bowl for the 11th time in his 14 NFL seasons. At 34, he needs eight receptions and 18 yards receiving to become the oldest person to top 100 catches and 1,000 yards receiving in a season.
Fitzgerald hasn’t said whether he will play next season, although he has a contract for one more year.
“I don’t know,” he said on Thursday. “I’m going to take some time to figure it out. I’ll let you know, though.”
So it’s possible this could be Fitzgerald’s final home game.
NOT PASS-HAPPY: The Giants are coming off their best offensive performance of the season, posting season highs in points (29), yards (504), third down conversions (10) and pass attempts (57).
The key was the quick passing game. Manning hit a lot of passes that resulted in yards after the catch. Look for that trend to continue.
The problem is the Giants want more balance. Last week was 26th time in their regular-season history in which the Giants threw at least 50 passes. Their record in those games is 2-24, including 2-22 when one quarterback throws all of the passes.
ARIZONA DEFENSE: The Cardinals’ defense has been greatly improved in recent weeks.
Since Week 10, Arizona ranks first in the NFL in fewest yards allowed per game, first in fewest passing yards per game, second in yards per play, third in rushing yards per game and second in third down conversions.
“Especially after the bye week,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “I believe that’s when the numbers really, really started to show the growth that we had as a defense.”
SAFETY WOES: New York has been battling injuries all season and the latest run has hit the safety position.
Pro Bowl selection Landon Collins, the team’s leading tackler, has been bothered by a nagging injury to his left ankle. He tweaked it again last week and lost a little more than a quarter.
Fellow starter Darian Thompson tweaked a knee last week. Backup Andrew Adams is healthy, but Nat Berhe missed the game with a hamstring injury, forcing the team to sign Ryan Murphy off the practice squad. He made his NFL debut last week.
INJURIES INSIDE: The Cardinals could be without inside linebackers Karlos Dansby (knee) and Josh Bynes (ankle) on Sunday.
That would be more time for rookie first-round pick Haason Reddick at inside backer. He’d been working out at both the inside and outside linebacker positions.