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Thank the heavens that the Giants have Eli Manning.
Manning played the role of the Federal Reserve and bailed the Giants out in a 20-17 victory over the winless and woeful Dolphins at the Meadowlands Sunday. His fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Victor Cruz with five minutes to play gave the Giants their fifth victory of the season.
Despite all that, Manning might not be the face of this Giants team. Brandon Jacobs might not get as much playing time as he'd like, but it is hard to think of a Giants player who better illustrates the current state of the Giants.
Jacobs complained loudly in each of the last two weeks about his role on the team -- and then fell flat on his face when he got a chance to make plays Sunday afternoon. He fumbled his first handoff, dropped a pass and generally looked too slow to be an NFL player.
Similarly, the Giants, who want us to believe that they are a serious championship contender, spent most of the day chasing a terrible team around Meadowlands. Words mean nothing when the performance keeps telling a different story.
There were reasons beyond Jacobs for the team finding itself in another deep hole. They dropped several passes and committed seven penalties, including three that helped set the Dolphins up for their two first half touchdowns.
The defense missed more tackles than you could count while making Reggie Bush look like something other than the monumental bust he's been since being the second overall pick of the 2006 Draft. And the offensive line was ineffectual in blocking for both the run and the pass.
It would be easy to explain the sloppiness as a hangover from the bye week, except that this is just the kind of sloppiness that the Giants have flashed time and again during Tom Coughlin's tenure as head coach. People shake their heads and say that they can't figure out this Giants team all the time, but it is as easy as looking at the fact that they simply play undisciplined football.
Despite the drops, the penalties and the mediocre blocking, Manning completed 31 of 45 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns in the kind of virtuoso performance it looks like the Giants are going to need every single week if they are going to wind up in the playoffs. It is also the kind of performance that makes columnists and pundits weak in the knees when they talk about resiliency and heart.
Don't buy it about anyone other than Manning. He's the only member of the Giants that can really hold his head up high in the wake of this game.
Everyone else was either guilty of taking the Dolphins too lightly or of taking their own game too lightly because it was a sloppy, ugly performance in every phase that wasn't Manning's. The stats don't look terrible, especially with the Giants defense teeing off on Matt Moore once the Dolphins were desperate, but numbers aren't everything.
The Giants need to be honest with themselves when they look in the mirror. They were mediocre, at best, for most of the day, and they got a win because their opponent was lousy and because Manning rose above his teammates.
Credit the Dolphins for playing hard all you like, but the simple fact of the matter is that they have nothing close to the talent that the Giants have on their roster, and they outplayed the Giants for a healthy chunk of the game. Seven weeks into the season, the Giants haven't played a 60-minute game once and have let bad teams hang around and win games almost every week.
That's not going to cut it going forward, not against this schedule and not in the playoffs.