Manning looking forwrd to Saints game

Published 6:03 am Tuesday, October 13, 2009


AP Sports Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Off to their best start in almost two decades, the New York Giants are facing a week of distractions.

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There is going to be more talk about Eli Manning’s heel, his first NFL game in his hometown of New Orleans and the Giants’ first game against former teammate Jeremy Shockey since the disgruntled tight end was dealt to the Saints last year.

And if that isn’t enough, well, the Giants (5-0) are facing the Saints (4-0) in a battle of two of the NFC’s three unbeaten teams.

“It is going to be a real big test for us,” middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said Monday. “Obviously we took care of business with the first five games. Going there, the Saints are coming off a bye week — I know they are going to be well prepared. They are a well-coached team. They are playing very well on offense and on defense. So I think for our whole team, offense, defense, especially, is going to be one of obviously our biggest challenge so far.”

There is no doubt about that. The Giants’ five wins have come against Washington, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Oakland, teams with a combined 6-19 record. The last three opponents — the Bucs, Chiefs and Raiders — are a combined 1-14.

The Saints are off to a tremendous start with quarterback Drew Brees leading the league’s highest-scoring offense. Their 144 points have been scored in just four games.

Manning, who did not aggravate the injury to his right heel in the Giants 44-7 win over Oakland on Sunday, refused to label this weekend’s game as a measuring stick.

“It is an important game and an NFC team,” he said. “…We know they are very talented. Their defense is playing outstanding. Gregg Williams, the defensive coordinator, we faced when he was at Washington a few years ago. Their offense is very explosive, they score a lot of points. It is a big game and they are playing very well this year.”

Manning didn’t want to debate the merits of beating a couple of cupcakes early in the season.

“We don’t really have to worry about where we stand against other people,” he said. “We have to worry about going out there and playing the game each week and trying to find a way to get wins. We have to look at ourselves and see where we can improve from day to day and every week from the games. I think that is something we take a lot of pride in.”

Manning said he hopes to practice every day this week, saying he felt good 24 hours after playing less than a half and throwing two touchdowns.

“I am able to move around and I didn’t have a setback by any means,” Manning said. “It felt like it is getting better every day and getting to feel better by the end of this week.”

The MVP of the 2008 Super Bowl also is excited about going to back New Orleans, where his father, Archie, played quarterback for the Saints.

Manning was supposed to play in the Superdome in 2005 but the game was moved to Giants Stadium after the city flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“It is always fun to go to your hometown and play a game, especially since I was a Saints fan growing up,” Manning said. “I’ve seen many games in the Superdome. So, I am excited about the opportunity to go in there and get to play in the Superdome and expect a big game going against the Saints. They are playing extremely well this year, two undefeated teams, it should be a great atmosphere.”

The other issue will be the Giants’ first game against Shockey, who was shipped to the Saints after pretty much requesting a change of scenery. The trade was made days before training camp opened last year.

Pierce and Manning both said they enjoyed playing with Shockey, though the tight end frequently upset the quarterback by not working out with him in the offseason and then complaining on the field when passes didn’t come his way.

“I love the way he plays football,” Pierce said. “He plays with the passion that I think you should play football with. They are playing against us. He is going to be riled up. He is going to want to obviously prove a point that they made a mistake. But like I said, it is not Shockey versus the Giants, it is the Saints versus the Giants.”

• In other Manning news, Peyton Manning’s left knee may be sore, but it doesn’t appear to be a serious problem for the undefeated Colts.

One day after Manning led Indianapolis to a 31-9 victory at Tennessee, coach Jim Caldwell said he had not received a doctor’s report regarding the knee, something he would have expected had there been concerns.

“We have doctors that are there all the time. They certainly have taken a look at it,” Caldwell said Monday.

Manning said he hurt the knee when Titans defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch hit him late in the first half. Vanden Bosch was called for roughing the passer, a penalty that helped Indy (5-0) get out from its own 7-yard line as the Colts marched 93 yards for a touchdown to score with 17 seconds left in the half.

It’s the same knee Manning needed two surgeries on last summer to remove infections. He has since acknowledged that missing all of training camp and the preseason led to a slower-than-usual start in 2008.

The pain didn’t appear to inhibit Manning’s performance at Tennessee. He returned in the second half, finished 36 of 44 for 309 yards with three touchdowns, one interception and extended his streak of consecutive 300-yard games to five.

The NFL record, shared by Steve Young, Kurt Warner and Rich Gannon, is six.