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Eli Manning in Giant need of help

DETROIT -- Eli Manning is officially on pace to throw 32 interceptions this season, and it is worth noting after one game because, you know, he did throw 27 last year.

But here are a few more things worth noting about the two-time Super Bowl MVP who showed up at the postgame news conference in Ford Field looking weary, unshaven and unsure of what this dreadful opening-night showing means:

He will turn 34 in January, he's thrown more than 5,000 NFL passes in his career, and he's coming off ankle surgery. In other words, he needs help.

And more alarming to a New York Giants fan than Manning's two picks in a 35-14 loss to the Detroit Lions was the strong suggestion by his teammates that they might not be good enough to give the quarterback the help he'll need at this stage of his career.

"It was a nightmare performance," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said.

It's no question Manning was among the bogeymen in Coughlin's nightmare, too. When the Lions took a 27-7 lead and sealed the deal in the third quarter, Manning was 11-for-23 with 70 yards, one touchdown pass and those two interceptions.

His counterpart, Matthew Stafford, was 18-for-27 with 291 yards, two touchdown passes, one touchdown run and no interceptions.

Of course, Stafford had no shortage of playmakers to work with, most notably Calvin Johnson, who wasn't in the same zip code as the two Giants defensive backs who crashed into each other in an amateur-hour way and allowed Megatron enough time to perform a few cartwheels, if he so desired, before walking into the end zone.

The Giants don't have a Megatron on offense, and they don't have a Ndamukong Suh on defense. They lack the kind of explosive athleticism they thought they drafted in the first round with Odell Beckham Jr., whose absence is going to be a real problem.

"We have skill players," Manning maintained. "I've got to do a better job getting Victor [Cruz] the ball, getting him more involved and finding completions and catches for him, because he's a playmaker. Overall, I could probably do a better job getting my receivers some catches."

Overall, his receivers need to do a better job getting open and holding on to the ball. Rashad Jennings is an interesting option out of the backfield, but Jerrel Jernigan (a third-down drop on the Giants' first drive) and Rueben Randle aren't prime-time players, and Cruz, the receiver who is, sure didn't perform like one.

Cruz signed for $43 million before the past season, and as an undrafted player who made himself a star -- not to mention a dignified ambassador of the franchise brand -- he remains among the league's best stories.

But Cruz dropped two passes on Manning, including one in the deep middle of the field with the threat of imminent contact looming. He needs to be better than that, especially with limited alternatives for Manning to turn to, and that could be an issue.

Cruz isn't Calvin Johnson, after all; he doesn't have that kind of game-breaking size and speed. He looked like a better football player when a healthy Hakeem Nicks was commanding attention in another corner of the field.

"We've had our backs against the wall on numerous occasions since I've been here, and we've come back from them," Cruz said. On opening night, it was a strange point to make in any context.

Hey, the Giants knew this wasn't going to be easy. They knew they had pieced together the least impressive 5-0 preseason in sports history, that Manning and the rest would need more time adjusting to Ben McAdoo's West Coast system, that the offensive line was something of a mystery and that Stafford and Johnson would put their secondary (a strength) to the test.

Only this opener exposed more flaws than Coughlin expected to see. The two championship rings he won with Manning were also won with a pass rush that got up in Tom Brady's dimpled face, and Monday night Stafford was more or less free to do as he pleased.

Manning wasn't getting any assistance on either side of the ball. Antrel Rolle suggested some Giants might've been nervous or trying too hard to make a play.

Yet in the next breath, he conceded something no Giant would want to read in the morning.

"There wasn't enough fight out there," Rolle said. "We didn't lay down, but there definitely wasn't enough fight."

There wasn't enough talent, either. Manning blamed himself for the interceptions, but the second one -- thrown against his body and under pressure on a scramble to his left -- could've been avoided had Cruz honored a receiver's chief responsibility and come back to the ball.

"That first game," Manning said, "it's where you'll learn the most."

What did the Giants learn here? They learned the touchdown maker on the winning side, Johnson, might be the NFL's most spectacular player. They also learned the quarterback on the losing side -- the guy who has now made 163 consecutive starts, playoffs and Super Bowls included -- could really use a hand.

"There's no one individual," Coughlin said. "It's a team game, and it's a team concept ... [Manning] is no more to blame than anybody else. Blame me."

The fans always get around to blaming the head coach, even those as accomplished as Coughlin. For now, with two parades in the bank, Tom and Eli deserve the fan base's full faith.

The rest of the Giants? Not so much.