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Giants' all-around strong play saves Manning from criticism

11/3/2008 - NFL

Eli Manning's performance on Sunday was absolutely freaky.

Not freaky good or freaky bad, mind you -- it's just strange that a quarterback could manage to have so many mitigating issues or excuses for both the good things and bad things he did.

If you start by mentioning the result, it's an inane argument. The Giants won 35-14 against the Cowboys, but it was at home, against an injury-riddled shell of a team, and if you break the game up into the four quadrants (offensive and defensive passing and rushing), the Giants' passing attack was by far the worst aspect of their game. They ran the ball down the Cowboys' throats at will, made Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger look like high school quarterbacks, and held Marion Barber to 2.8 yards per carry. Implying that Manning "led" the team to victory is a classic case of confusing correlation and causation. He was along for the ride.

And yet, Manning's numbers weren't really bad by any means. He was 16-of-27, and although he threw for only 147 yards, he threw for three touchdowns and only one interception.

It's a decent stat line, but if you watched the game, you know there was more to be had. It seemed like two-thirds of Manning's incompletions were overthrows to wide-open receivers, and as good as the offensive line was in the running game, Manning still ate the turf four times. Two of those sacks resulted in fumbles, meaning that he turned the ball over three times when you include that ugly pick-six he threw.

Of course, not all of that is Manning's fault. The interception was almost certainly a misread by Plaxico Burress, who ran the wrong route and followed that miscue with a series of late-game drops. For all the talk of how great the Giants' line was during the broadcast, it was up against a defense with one real pass-rusher (DeMarcus Ware) and had an average game, at best, in keeping the pocket comfortable for Manning.

This is the sort of discussion that makes many a bar argument, which is why it's something best analyzed by the most impartial observer possible -- a computer. And even the computer can't know that Burress read the wrong route or how, exactly, the effects of injury dramatically affect the Cowboys' defense. Manning ended up in our system with -54 DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement), which feels right -- a performance that was good enough to win, but only with the rest of the team playing really well -- and a performance that would've been looked upon entirely differently had the Giants not come through.

Here are the rest of the best and worst players of Week 9, according to the Football Outsiders DYAR statistics. Note that with seven weeks played, opponent adjustments are currently at 90 percent strength.





Bill Barnwell is an analyst for FootballOutsiders.com.