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Giants at Panthers 1 p.m. Sunday (WJZY)

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Panthers hope to capitalize on Eli Manning miscues

Eli Manning has two more interceptions than touchdowns this season, and has three more picks than the next closest quarterbacks in the league.

His passer rating is at 75.9, the lowest it’s been in six years.

Of course, in those past six years, Manning has gone to three Pro Bowls and has been named Super Bowl MVP twice. The odds are against this mistake-laden play to continue for much longer.

“Well he’s a two time Super Bowl champion. Everyone knows how streaky he can be so he’s looking to come out of that streak of throwing interceptions,” Carolina Panthers free safety Mike Mitchell said. “I respect him. He’s a great, great quarterback in this league. We just have to come out and do our job and be physical and firm with their receivers and just try to frustrate them early in the game.

“We definitely got our hands full but I think we’re definitely going to be ready.”

Manning has passed for 812 yards this season, which was just 1 yard off the NFL lead after Week 2, but he’s also tossed five touchdowns to seven interceptions to aid in the Giants’ 0-2 start.

New York has had to play from behind in both games this season. The Giants were down 27-10 to the Cowboys in the third quarter of the season opener and 38-16 early in the fourth quarter against the Broncos last week.

That’s forced the Giants to put the ball in the air more late in games. Manning is 26-for-43 for 325 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions in the fourth quarter this season.

“Offensively we’ve got to be better with the football, just make sure after each play, no matter what happens, we have to make sure we have the ball in our hands,” Manning said this week on a teleconference. “There have been some good plays and some good things but we’re soured by our mistakes. We’ve got to make sure we’re playing more consistent, smarter football these next few weeks.”

Giants coach Tom Coughlin was very matter-of-fact when discussing the struggles of both his quarterback and team. Along with Manning’s seven picks, the team has also lost two fumbles and has converted just 31.8 percent of its first downs, which is 28th in the league.

“Eli’s been doing this a long time, and doing it very well and we certainly do have to move forward and to put ourselves in the position where we’re never making the same mistake twice and I think we’ll get to that,” Coughlin said. “I think we are close to being a good football team, we’re not quite there.

“Eli is a young man who is a tremendous competitor who feels worse about bad plays than anything I can heap on his shoulders so he knows and he’s working hard to control the situation and to stay within himself and realize that sometimes some of the plays that you think you have to make the percentages are just not with you.”

Mitchell said the Panthers’ game plan is to stop the run early and force Manning to throw the ball, hoping that his streak of miscues continues. That will mean the Panthers secondary, which has been in flux all week with injuries and newcomers, will have to play better than it has early this season.

With the Giants and the Panthers sharing unenviable 0-2 records, both Manning and Mitchell feel a sense of desperation this week.

“We got to win. Every week is like that. But especially going into this game, we got to get the ship righted,” Mitchell said. “Not saying anyone’s going into a sense of panic mode but there’s a sense of urgency to get things done the right way.”

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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