Hartman: Giants, Vikings QBs are a statistical mess

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 20, 2013 - 11:42 PM

Eli Manning has thrown an NFL-high 15 interceptions. Yet he’s ranked above Josh Freeman.

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New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning

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If you want to rank the Giants and Vikings quarterbacks this season, here it is: Giants quarterback Eli Manning has posted an awful 64.0 quarterback rating this season, which was the 33rd-worst mark in the NFL going into Sunday’s games. While only two quarterbacks rank lower than Manning, one of those QBs is newly signed Vikings starter Josh Freeman, who had a 59.3 rating during his time with the Buccaneers. Meanwhile, benched Vikings starter Christian Ponder is ranked ahead of Manning and Freeman with a 65.9 quarterback rating this season.

It’s amazing that 20 months ago, Manning was named MVP in the Super Bowl for the second time. Now he is quarterbacking an 0-6 team.

According to the New York Times, Manning is on pace to throw 40 interceptions, which would be the most in the NFL in 51 years (George Blanda threw 41 for the 1962 Houston Oilers).

Still, one of the only reason the Vikings might win tonight is that three of the Giants’ regular offensive linemen — guard Chris Snee (hip), center David Baas (neck) and guard/tackle David Diehl (thumb) — have missed extensive playing time or are out for the season, giving the Vikings defensive linemen an opportunity to do a better job rushing Manning than they have done against other quarterbacks this year.

Historically bad

The Vikings and the Giants will go into Monday night’s game with the same propensity to blow close games, though in different ways.

The Vikings gave up go-ahead touchdowns to the Bears with 10 seconds left and the Browns with 51 seconds remaining, and they led the Lions into the third quarter in that loss.

The Giants, who are 0-6, lost close game to the Cowboys (36-31) and the Bears (27-21) when Manning threw three interceptions in each game. Manning’s 15 interceptions are the most in the NFL.

The disadvantage of playing a large number of road games to start the season is similar with the Giants, who have played two of their six games at home. That’s the same number of true home games as the Vikings, who had a “home game” against Pittsburgh in London and road games at Detroit and Chicago. Now they face a third road contest at New York.

Yes, two teams with a total of a 1-10 record will play on the biggest stage in football on Monday night. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the .090 combined winning percentage of the two teams at this stage of the season is the worst in the 44-year history of “Monday Night Football.”

U goes with two QBs

Gophers interim head football coach Tracy Claeys played two quarterbacks, Mitch Leidner and Philip Nelson, in Minnesota’s 20-17 victory over Northwestern on Saturday. That, according to Claeys, was part of their Gophers’ game plan.

“We said all along all week that we were going to start Mitch Leidner,” he said Sunday. “But at the same time, we said we’d like to get Philip in the game at some time in the first half. Because if you need a quarterback to play in the second half, I don’t like to just throw a kid in there who has been sitting on the bench the whole time.

“We put Philip in there, and he had a nice little drive at the end of [the first half]. We said we were going to go back with Mitch, he started the ballgame, but I told the guys on offense again that I don’t think it hurts if we can get Philip a series there in the third quarter in case we need him.”

Claeys said when Nelson was in the game, the offense seemed to move the ball a bit better. They also kept him in near the end of the game because he had more experience protecting a late lead.

Claeys, who is expected to continue as coach this week while Jerry Kill continues focusing on his epilepsy treatment, said a decision hasn’t been made to play two quarterbacks this week against Nebraska.

But does Claeys want to play both QBs this week?

“I do like to play both quarterbacks in the game, I’m just not a big fan of alternating series,” he said. “Kind of like in basketball during timeouts. You draw the plays up with the guys with the hot hand, and whichever one is moving us the best is the guy we’ll go with.”

Nelson had the better statistics against Northwestern, completing eight of 11 passes for 112 yards and one touchdown and rushing nine times for 26 yards. Leidner had one completion for 11 yards and seven rushes for 27 yards.

When might Kill come back? “You know, I don’t know,” Claeys said. “We didn’t talk about it. … He’s not 100 percent, obviously. But [Kill and wife Rebecca] feel good about the process they’re going through to get him to that level. We’ll just have to see. It was sure good just having him around. As I said before, he’s our biggest friend and it was great to see him show up.”

Jottings

• Nebraska is the third of seven opponents the Gophers have played to have a bye before playing Minnesota. … The Gophers will be facing a talented Nebraska offense next Saturday. The Cornhuskers rank 21st in the nation in total offense with 490.2 yards per game, fourth-best in the Big Ten. But their defense is another story. They are allowing 407.2 yards per game and rank 72nd in the nation — compared to the Gophers, who are allowing 375.9 yards per game and are ranked 45th.

• Former Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray continues to get some playing time with the Cleveland Browns. Gray was targeted once in the team’s 31-13 loss to the Packers on Sunday and also took a snap as a quarterback in the Wildcat formation.

• The 2013 U.S. Junior Hockey Select Team was announced Thursday, and eight of the 22 players were from Minnesota. The team will compete at the World Junior A Challenge in Nova Scotia in November. The Minnesota natives to make it were defensemen Teemu Kivihalme (Savage), Neal Pionk (Hermantown), Steven Johnson (Excelsior) and Jordan Gross (Maple Grove) and forwards Connor Hurley (Eagan), Austin Poganski (St. Cloud), C.J. Franklin (Forest Lake) and Karson Kuhlman (Cloquet).

• Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague said half of the $450,000 needed to install lights at Siebert Field has been raised and he hopes the baseball team will be able to play night games there in the near future. … Teague also said he has a few commitments to get the new practice facility for men’s and women’s basketball built. … Meanwhile, on the plan to raise $190 million to upgrade a number of athletics facilities on the campus, Teague said, “We haven’t really announced anything yet [in terms of how much money we’ve raised], but we’ve had good progress and I’m looking forward to working on that throughout the next year.”

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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