EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Eli Manning had a goal this NFL season. Beat big brother? Sure. Win the Super Bowl? Of course. How sweet would it be to win a third Super Bowl in your home stadium?
We're talking something a little less sweeping and a little less fraternal here.
"Before the season you like to set goals of keeping interceptions to single digits," Manning said after he threw a career-tying four Sunday in the Giants' 41-23 loss to the Denver Broncos Sunday at MetLife Stadium. "I might have to start over from here on that aspect."
Seven picks in two games? "That's never the goal," Eli said.
There was a nervous chuckle in the interview room after that little slice of Manning deadpan. At his current rate, Eli is on pace to throw 56 picks. OK, that's not going to happen. George Blanda's record 42 interceptions should be safe.
Still, when the final whistle on the Manning Bowl sounded, Peyton led the NFL with nine touchdown passes in two games while Eli led the NFL in interceptions.
There is a lot wrong with the Giants through a 0-2 start and it starts with a running game that produced a measly 23 yards on 19 carries. New York's line play on both sides of the ball was not assertive. The punting game wasn't up to standards. The Giants were 1-for-11 combined on third- and fourth-down conversations
Yet it is the five-alarm sound of those 10 turnovers that could be heard after this one. The blunders continually put the defense in a bind.
"I think Eli would be the first to tell you he's not the way we want him to be," coach Tom Coughlin said. "Somehow, someway, we've got to stop the interceptions. You're looking at a two-edged sword. We've got to tighten up, but we're going to have to have some run game."
Yes, the sweetness of 2007 when their team started 0-2 and won the Super Bowl in the most dramatic of fashions can be revisited any time a Giants fan begins to feel melancholy. The greater truth is that since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, teams that have lost their first two games have made the playoffs just 11.6 percent of the time [22 for 190]. In the past four seasons, not one of the 30 teams has.
"I'm not trying to make comparisons to any year," Eli said when asked if he could draw off 2007. "We've just got to play better.
"Everybody in our lost division lost today. That's one way we can look at it. We're one game back in the division."
That is one way of looking at it. The NFC East did go 0-for-4 Sunday. Another way of looking at is that no team has needed 11 wins to win the division since 2009. Still there's a reason why Coughlin, surprisingly subdued, said: "I can stand up here and be fiery, if that's what everybody wants. There's a little bit of a hole in my stomach right now. What can I tell you?"
Eli and Peyton had a chance to meet for 10 minutes before the game. Nice chat, Eli said, nothing specific, just brotherly talk. After that there wasn't much interaction, save a hug after the final whistle as a gaggle of TV cameramen blitzed the two quarterbacks.
It was kind of crazy. Just think if those two met in the Super Bowl at MetLife this February. It would be lunacy. Everyone from halftime performer Bruno Mars to little green men from Mars — hey, don't underestimate the lunacy of Super Bowl media day — will be chasing the brothers.
"It's still neat because it doesn't happen very often, seeing your big brother on the sideline or before the game," Eli said leading up to the game. "Those moments are the things you remember and we'll remember for a long time. Hopefully when I think back on these games that we played against my brother, I can think back and remember at least one win."
Eli has proven he can beat Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. He has done it twice and because of that, he has twice as many Super Bowl rings as Peyton. Yet he's also 0-3 against a big brother who Sunday became the third player in NFL history to throw for 60,000 career yards.
"Football is something Peyton and I are both passionate about," Eli said. "My concern is this team and getting better right now.
So it didn't hurt more losing to him?
"No, it's all team related," Eli said. "I'm frustrated we lost another game."