Eli Manning knows what Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are slogging their way through right now
Manning’s lived it. Twice.
“Well, I think the team faces challenges because you’re always going to get everyone’s best,” the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback of the Giants said before New York (3-5) arrived in Seattle for Sunday’s game against the defending-champion Seahawks (5-3).
“Everyone wants to go up against the most recent Super Bowl champion,” Manning said Wednesday from Giants’ headquarters. “So you can lose a few guys, have high expectations, and a lot of things can be asked of you -- your schedule kind of gets thrown off.”
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Manning won it all in the 2007. He led the Giants to a 12-4 record and an NFC East title in 2008, but lost in the first round of that season’s playoffs to Philadelphia.
Manning and the Giants won the Super Bowl again at the end of the 2011 season. In 2012, New York went 9-7 and missed the playoffs. It’s among four times in the last five years the Giants have failed to qualify for the postseason.
The Seahawks vow they will avoid that post-Super Bowl pratfall. And despite distractions, injuries, a franchise-rattling trade and three losses in their first six games, the Seahawks are on a two-game winning streak. They still control their NFC West destiny with five of their six division games still to play. Today’s test against the reeling Giants, who got trampled Monday night at home by Indianapolis, is the last before Seattle begins a six-game gauntlet: at Kansas City, home-and-aways versus NFC West-leading Arizona and rival San Francisco, and a trip to Philadelphia.
“But Seattle is still playing good football, they have good players. And football is hard,” Manning said. “Each year is different. Just because you did well the year before doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically do the exact same thing, and vice versa. … So each year is its own deal.”
This season has definitely been the Seahawks’ own deal, distinctly separate from the last, championship one.
The Percy Harvin trade. The unsubstantiated national reports of a locker-room divide for and against Wilson. Another one saying the team is tired of Marshawn Lynch’s act, even as they feed him the ball more on pass-rush-slowing screen passes on top of his usual runs. And all the injuries – eight starters missed last week’s win over Oakland.
Seattle will get a reprieve from that last issue Sunday. Though strong safety Kam Chancellor is likely to miss his second straight game and second game since 2011 with a groin strain – Jeron Johnson is poised to make his first career start for him -- center Max Unger is playing for the first time since he sprained his foot Oct. 6 in the win at Washington. Left tackle Russell Okung is expected to join him after missing the Raiders game with a strained calf. That mean’s 40 percent of what’s been a porous offensive line is back.
Unger’s experienced protection calls one week after the Seahawks were forced to start fourth-string center Patrick Lewis against the Raiders should be an advantage against New York’s active rush ends, Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers. They have 6½ sacks between them.
“We definitely have to slow down their ends Pierre-Paul and Ayers. They show up on film and they’re electric coming off the football,” Wilson said. “So we’re going to have to do a great job of slowing them down.”
Or going for their heart. On Thursday, three days after the Giants lost at home 40-24 to the Colts in a game that was 40-10 in the fourth quarter, Pierre-Paul questioned whether enough of the Giants had passion.
“That’s what it comes down to,’’ Pierre-Paul told New York reporters. “A lot of talking going on, but at the end of the day it’s all about heart, all about that individual and what he’s got. It’s definitely missing from a lot of guys.
“You’ve just got to have it, man. Like, in this game of football, you can tell when you look at film who’s more passionate about the game. To play this game and you’ve got to have heart, and a lot of guys don’t have it. I can sit here and say we all do, but we all don’t.
“We know what we’ve got to do to win the game. … They have lost some games, too. At the end of the day, it’s going to come down who’s got the heart.”
The Giants are in danger of missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons – with one of Manning’s two Super Bowl titles the exception – because they have this game at Seattle followed by San Francisco and Dallas.
But Seahawks coach Pete Carroll issues a warning.
“You make a terrible mistake underestimating Coach (Tom) Coughlin and what he’s able to do with his teams. He’s been a world champ for obvious reasons,” Carroll said. “They’ve been a terrific factor in their division for years. Eli has been a great quarterback.
“We’re not going to miss this in preparation in any way. We know that they can be a really good football team, we’re counting on that.”
The Seahawks are also counting on better offense and defense on third downs and inside the opponents’ and their own 20-yard line.
They are 21st in the league converting 39.4 percent of third downs into first downs, and are tied for 15th in allowing opponents to convert 42.6 percent of third downs.
Seattle is 25th in the league scoring touchdowns on 51.6 percent of their trips into the “red zone.” It is 26th in allowing touchdowns on 65.2 percent of foes’ drives inside its 20.
LANE RETURNS; SCHILLING TO IR
As expected, the Seahawks activated nickel back Jeremy Lane off the injured-reserve list with a designation to return. He will play in his first game tomorrow since he strained his groin in the opening win over Green Bay Sept. 4.
Carroll said this week Lane will "blend in" with Marcus Burley at nickel back, not necessarily replace him completely against New York. Burley has been a revelation playing aggressively on the ball while filling-in for Lane, since Seattle traded a sixth-round draft choice to Indianapolis for him Aug. 30.
To make room for Lane on the active roster, Seattle put reserve center Stephen Schilling on injured reserve, ending his season. Schilling started his first four NFL games at center for Max Unger before hurting his knee. Unger is returning tomorrow from the sprained foot that's had the two-time Pro Bowl selection since Oct. 6.