Patriots

Patriots

FOXBORO – Eli Manning will be starring in the nightmares of Patriots fans until 2080.
 
He twice led Giants teams to Super Bowl wins over New England, both times against teams that had the game in their grasp. Rare is the quarterback over the past 15 seasons able to do that once, never mind twice. In the Super Bowl. In the fourth quarter.
 
Which is why these Giants – even as they go through their annual midseason scuffle – may make the Patriots fandom just a little restless.
 
This 8-0 start is the latest the Patriots have been perfect since 2007 when they got all the way to the end of the regular season without a loss, outdueling Eli and the Giants to go 16-0.
 
Now they are facing not the fourth-year Eli they saw in Glendale, Arizona in February of 2009 but 12th year Eli, a player who is flourishing statistically under offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
 
Over the last 25 games, Manning has 49 touchdowns and 20 picks. That’s a far cry from the guy who led the NFL with 27 picks in 2013.
 
“He’s a tremendous quarterback, obviously. He can do it all,” said Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich. “He does a great job getting the ball out of his hand quickly, doesn’t hold onto it and take sacks. He’s gonna give it to his playmakers.”
 
The playmaker he most routinely eyeballs is Odell Beckham Jr., who has 59 catches and has been targeted 92 times this season. Beckham is really the only outstanding player on the Giants offense other than Manning. Rueben Randle and Larry Donnell are pedestrian players. Shane Vereen is fine. The Giants have no running game to speak of. So it’s all on Manning offensively.  
 
How’s he doing?
 
“When you watch him over the last three weeks slinging the ball, he’s pretty good,” said Ninkovich. “I definitely think he has the ability to make every throw on the field.”
 
He’s also got the guts to do it. As he’s shown in big games, he’s just not a guy that gets mentally overwhelmed. He’s kind of a flatliner.
 
“He seems to cruise and keep going and not let anything from the outside affect him and continue to do his job,” he explained. “You gotta respect that.”
 
And the ability to compete?
 
“I’m sure his last name has a lot to do with it,” figured Ninkovich. “Just that family in general, its competitiveness and its wanting to be the best that just comes from the upbringing and the competitiveness they were raised with.”
 
One of the Mannings has been – for the most part – a dream for the Patriots to compete against. The one they’ll see Sunday? Not as much.