With age, Eli must eliminate turnovers

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning turned 30 on Monday and is in the prime of his career.

Yet he finished this season leading the NFL with 25 interceptions.

While Manning passed for 4,002 yards and 31 touchdowns, the former Super Bowl MVP quarterbacked an offense that led the NFL with 42 turnovers. And in part due to the team's carelessness with the football, Manning will miss the playoffs for the second straight year.

"I put a lot on my shoulders and I have to get better," Manning said. "I'm not a 25-interception quarterback. We have to fix that. That's on me, the receivers and everybody doing that, but most of it's on me."

Manning had a good portion of those interceptions go off the hands of his own receivers and into the hands of defenders, such as he did on Sunday against Washington when his only pick of the game went off Mario Manningham's hands.

The turnovers drove Tom Coughlin crazy all season. Ball security is among his most sacred team commandments, yet the Giants had butterfingers or suffered from brain lock most of the season.

The Giants fumbled away the ball 17 times, including Manning's fumble during a 27-17 loss at Philadelphia as the Giants were trying to make a comeback in the fourth quarter.

The turnovers marred a season in which Manning threw for more than 4,000 yards for a second straight season while posting a career-high in touchdowns.

He finished in the top 10 in completions, completion percentage (62.9) and yards. He was fourth among NFL quarterbacks in touchdown passes.

Manning admitted he pressed a bit late in games, such as he did in the loss at Green Bay in which he threw four interceptions. There were eight games this season in which Manning threw two or more picks.

Manning did have to play behind an offensive line that was consistently in flux due to injuries. And he had five wide receivers land on injured reserve since training camp. His top two receivers -- Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks -- also missed games due to injuries as the Giants were forced to add Derek Hagan, Michael Clayton and Devin Thomas late in the season.

"I think he did try to do too much. I think some of the bad decisions that he made he was trying to do too much," general manager Jerry Reese said. "Again, it's the combination of having a different offensive line in front of you and a combination of different receivers most of the season, so I think it's a combination of all of those things, but this is a business about making decisions and making adjustments and he has to make the adjustments and we expect him to do that."

"I don't care who is in there, we could put you in there and we expect him to make the adjustments," Reese added.

Manning hopes to have a healthier offensive line in front of him and healthy wide receivers at his disposal next season. Manning could be without Smith, who not only is facing a long rehab after undergoing microfracture knee surgery but will be looking for a new contract. Tight end Kevin Boss' contract is also up.

Nicks, who will not have to undergo surgery to fix a broken toe that sidelined him for the final game of the regular season, will be back.

He and Manningham will have to improve on their timing with Manning to avoid the tipped-ball interceptions.

Otherwise, the offense showed exciting potential. Nicks finished with 1,052 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. Manningham finished with 944 yards and nine touchdowns.

"We had a lot of big plays in the pass game," Manning said. "We were explosive and led the league in touchdowns over 20 yards. Those things are good things to do. As a receiving corps, hopefully we can get things going. We have some guys injured right now, get them back and get back to working out and having a great offseason. How do we improve? A lot of my interceptions came on third down."

One thing is certain and that is Manning will spend the offseason diligently working to make sure he gets better with age now that he is 30.

"Stat-wise most people would be pretty happy with 31 touchdowns and 4,000 yards," Reese said. "But you judge quarterbacks on wins and losses, and we only got 10 wins and that didn't qualify us for the tournament, so that wasn't good enough."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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