The Giants joined the NFL's passing party in the first half of the 2011 season.
With talented quarterbacks and fleet, sure-handed receivers on almost every roster, the league has become more of an aerial show in recent years. This season, the forward pass is more popular than it's ever been. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, passing yards per game have increased from 443.1 in 2010 to 468.3 this year, a jump of more than 24 yards a game. Rushing yards are up slightly, from 228.9 last year to 230.5 in 2011.
Here's another indicator of the league's love affair with the forward pass: There have been 69 300-yard passing performances this season, the most through nine weeks in NFL history. Last season at this juncture, there were only 44 300-yard passing performances, so the league has seen an increase of almost three a week.
Eli Manning and the Giants are not following this trend, they're on its cutting edge. In leading the Giants to a 6-2 first-half record and a two-game lead in the NFC East, Manning is enjoying the finest statistical season of his career. And the Giants are throwing the ball for more yards than they ever have in their 87-year history.
The Giants are averaging 282.9 passing yards a game, an increase of 33.8 yards over their 2010 midseason average of 249.1 – which was the previous midseason high of the Tom Coughlin-era, now in its eighth season. If the Giants continue at their current pace, they will obliterate the previous franchise record of 251.2 yards per game, set in 2009.
The Giants are ranked sixth in the NFL in passing yards. They last finished a season ranked that high in 2002, when they were sixth with 246.9 passing yards a game. The Giants haven't been ranked higher than sixth at the end of a season since 1984, when they were fourth.
Fourteen quarterbacks are on pace to throw for 4,000 yards this season – and three more are within close striking distance. The record is 10 4,000-yard passers, set in 2009.
Manning, of course, is one of those 14. With 2,377 yards at midseason, Manning projects to finish with 4,754 passing yards. That is 733 more than his career high, set two years ago, and 681 yards higher than the team record of 4,073, set by Kerry Collins in 2002.
Manning's passer rating of 98.8 is 18.6 points higher than his career rating entering the season. He is on pace to throw 30 touchdown passes, one shy of the career high number he threw last year. His completion percentage is 62.9, which is identical to the career-high percentage he had at the conclusion of the 2010 season. Manning's 8.49 yards per attempt is second in the NFL to Aaron Rodgers' 9.88. He is on pace to throw 12 interceptions, less than half his 2010 total of 25.
More than ever, the NFL is a passing league. Thanks to Manning, the Giants can throw the ball as well as anyone.
Here are some other notable numbers from our annual midseason statistical review:
*The Giants are 6-2 for the fifth time in Coughlin's eight seasons. They were 5-3 twice and 7-1 in 2008 at midseason. The Giants are a combined 47-17 (.734) in the first eight games since Coughlin arrived in 2004.
*The Giants are ranked 11th in the NFL on offense and 19th on defense. Last year at this time, they were second and first, respectively. Despite the drop in rankings, the record is the same.
*Coughlin's concern about the Giants' rushing offense and defense is well-founded. The Giants are averaging 88.8 yards a game and 3.3 yards per carry, which leave them 29th and 30th in the NFL in those categories. Last year after eight games, those numbers were 151.9 yards game and 4.7 yards a carry, so the drop in numbers is significant.
Defensively, the Giants are allowing 127.1 yards a game and 4.6 yards per rushing attempt. Last year at this point in time, those figures were 80.9 and 3.5.
*Several other offensive numbers have dipped. The Giants' averaged 27.0 points per game at midseason last year and are averaging 24.6 now. First downs a game (20.5 from 22.9), time of possession (29:42 from 34:32, a product of the struggling rushing attack) and third-down conversion percentage (34.0 from 37.3) are all down. Total yards per game are 371.6, a drop from a Coughlin-era high of 401.0 at this time in 2010.
*Some defensive numbers are also not as good as they were at this time a year ago. The Giants are allowing 23.0 points a game, three more than last year. Opponent first downs a game have jumped from 13.8 to 20.3, third down conversion percentage from 29.1 to 34.5, passing yards per game from 169.8 to 238.5 and opposing completion percentage from 54.6 to 59.8.
The higher numbers haven't hurt the Giants, because a) Manning and the passing game have been so good, b) their turnover differential is plus-seven, a 10-point improvement from the minus-three they had at midseason a year ago, c) sacks have increased from 24 to an NFL-leading 28 with a corresponding rise in consistent pressure and d) the Giants have played superbly in the fourth quarter with games on the line.
*2011: The Giants have committed 51 accepted penalties for 421 yards. 2010: The Giants had committed 51 accepted penalties for 435 yards.
*Several special teams statistics have improved. The team's net punting average is 39.3 yards, up from 35.4 yards a year ago. The Giants' kickoff return average of 22.3 yards is better than the 17.5-yard average from a year ago. The punt return average of 8.2 yards is an improvement over the 6.4-yard average from last year.
A look at the Giants' midseason statistics under Coughlin:
*The Giants have won their last three games by three, three and four points. This is the first time they have won three consecutive games by four or fewer points since Nov. 21-Dec. 4, 1994, when they defeated the Houston Oilers (13-10), Washington (21-19) and Cleveland (16-13), all on the road. They then beat Cincinnati by seven before defeating Philadelphia by three.
*The Giants' last four victories have been by four points or less. That last happened in the final two games in 1990 and their first two victories in 1991, when they won four games by a three-point margin and another by two points. The Giants had not strung together four consecutive victories by four points or less in a single season since 1986, when their nine-game season-ending winning streak included five in a row by three, three, two, three and four points.
*In their current three-game winning streak, the Giants were tied or trailed in the fourth quarter in all three games. The last time the Giants won three straight games in a season in which they were tied or trailed at some point in fourth quarter was Dec. 4-18, 1994 against Cleveland, Cincinnati and Philadelphia. According to Elias, the Giants are the first NFL team to put together such a streak this season. Three teams did it last year.
*The Giants defeated the Patriots in New England Sunday, 24-20, when Manning threw two touchdown passes in the final 3:03. It was the first time the Giants scored two touchdowns in the final 3:03 of the fourth quarter since Oct. 23, 1988, when Ottis Anderson's one-yard touchdown run and Carl Banks' 15-yard interception return (33 seconds apart) enabled the Giants to win in Atlanta, 23-16.
*New England scored 17 points in the fourth quarter. It was the first time the Giants won when allowing at least that many points in the final quarter since Dec. 22, 2002, when they defeated the Colts in Indianapolis, 44-27. The Colts scored 21 points in the final 15 minutes. The Giants led at the start of the fourth quarter, 30-6.
*Manning's 250 passing yards in New England increased his career total to 25,023. He is the 61st quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 25,000 yards.
*Manning had the Giants' longest run against the Patriots, a 12-yarder. He last had the team's longest run on Oct. 28, 2007 against the Miami Dolphins in London, where he ran for 18 yards.Join other diehard Giants Fans! Follow @Giants
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