CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The New York Giants host the winless Cleveland Browns Sunday afternoon in New York.
But don’t tell the Giants the Browns come in at 0-4.
Much like their disappointing 19-17 loss Sunday night in Philadelphia, the Giants don’t believe it.
“I know what I read and I know what I see,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “Do not be mislead by an 0-4 record. 15 rookies and 11 second year players contributing the way they are and building. To have a rookie quarterback, although he’s 28, but to have the confidence to allow him to throw the football 40 times. Then to play the kind of defense that they’ve played, so sound and able to compete at the highest level.
“They have not played an easy schedule but have played very well.”
It’s not like Cleveland is getting run off the field either. The Browns have lost the 4 games by a combined 25 points and have gone toe to toe with all 4 opponents deep into the fourth quarter.
They are young and competitive – those two things worry Coughlin.
“They’re young and will play together for quite some time,” Coughlin said. “They have an outstanding runner. They have a quarterback who has the ability to handle whatever is thrown at him and certainly their return game is exceptional.
“They provide outstanding balance – offense, defense and special teams.”
The Giants also remember what happened the last time they won a Super Bowl, then faced the underdog Browns the next season – a 35-14 thrashing at Cleveland Browns Stadium in 2008.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning continues to defy logic and thrive when his team’s back is up against the wall.
At 2-2 the Giants would love to get back on track and quickly dispose of the Browns but Manning is not taking them lightly – namely the defense which has forced 8 turnovers and come up with 13 sacks.
“A lot of times when I’m watching film I don’t realize what their record is,” Manning said. “I see a good defense, a defense that has caused a lot of turnovers, have gotten to the quarterback and gotten a lot of sacks or cause pressure that have led to turnovers.”
Manning’s calling card has become the same one that every great quarterback has – coming from behind. Manning hopes that he won’t have to do it again Sunday but if he does, well he’s had plenty of practice.
“Last year we had a lot of games where we fought back in the fourth quarter and were able to pull out some victories,” Manning said. “We also had some where we came up short and weren’t able to pull it out so that’s why I always tell the guys you don’t want to be down in the fourth quarter and have to fight your way back.
“If we get in those situations we’re positive we can move the ball and we can go win the game.”
Manning is in his eighth season and has led 21 game winning drives in his career. He is inching closer to rewriting most of the Giants’ record books in the process.
“When we do have the ball at the end of the game and we put ourselves in position, we expect to win,” Coughlin said. “Eli is a product of his great desire to be the best that he can be. His work ethic is as good if not better than anybody I’ve been around.
“His coolness under fire is what separates him.”
Manning, who is constantly compared to his big brother Peyton and criticized, is 1,101 yards for 30,000, 183 completions and 8 touchdown passes away from shattering records held by Phil Simms.
2 Super Bowl rings later, the critics remain.
“I always thought being compared and mentioned in the same sentence as Peyton was a great compliment and still is,” Manning said. “We had different offenses and different schemes and I just had to work on becoming a better player and getting to that level. It wasn’t going to be overnight or in year 1 or 2. It was just going to take time.
“Each year I’m just trying to get better and better. I’m not trying to be better than Peyton or anything. I’m trying to be the best quarterback that I can be and to win games for the Giants.”
Like his brother Peyton, Manning has the benefit of a strong receiving corps led by second year receiver Victor Cruz.
Containing Cruz will be a challenge for the Browns’ secondary.
Cruz, who racked up over 1,500 yards and 9 TDs as a rookie, caught 9 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles and is Manning’s favorite target. He has 32 catches for 388 yards and 2 TDs this season.
“Obviously it makes a huge difference,” Manning said. “Your offe4nsive lineman have to do their job and the receivers have to get open and our receivers are doing a good job of getting open. That makes my life easier if I have time to sit back there and find the open receiver and they’re doing their job then I have the easy part.”
2 of Manning’s receivers won’t be available – Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden have been ruled out.