"This just in: the Giants are in first place in the NFC East.
It was a challenge to focus on that salient point Monday at the Timex Performance Center, with players and coaches answering questions about their two-game losing streak, their second-half record in recent seasons and the condition of Eli Minning’s throwing arm. But despite losing the last two weeks to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, the Giants are 6-4 and lead Dallas by 1.5 games in the division race.
The Cowboys play twice before the Giants will next take the field on Nov. 25 in a prime time home game vs. Green Bay. Even if Dallas defeats Cleveland and Washington, the Giants will still be in the lead when they take the field against the Packers.
Today, the Giants gathered before beginning their bye week break. The Giants will convene next Monday. When they do, they will be a rested and confident team looking forward to completing their mission of winning the NFC East title.
“We’re still in a good position,” Manning said. “If you said after 10 games, we’d be winning our division, you take that every time. So that’s where we stand and we’ve been through stretches before where we haven’t been playing our best, but we’ve been able to bounce out of them. We have time to rest up this week, get back healthy, get refreshed and come back. We have a six-game season. It’s all going to come down to what happens in those six games. We’re in control of our own destiny. We have a tough schedule. We have good teams to play, but it should be exciting and we’re looking forward to that opportunity.”
“I don’t think our confidence can be shaken,” guard Kevin Boothe said. “As bad as things are, allegedly, we’re still in first place in the division. A lot of teams would like to be in first place in the division. We will take this time off to relax and exhale and come back stronger. We’re in first place right now, but we’d like to stay there. So we have to continue to play our best football and don’t rely on others to help us out. We still have everything that we need in our hands.”
For all their tough talk, the Giants were still smarting from yesterday’s 31-13 loss in Cincinnati, a lopsided defeat that came on the heels of their come-from-ahead defeat to Pittsburgh. The Giants know they must play better if they’re going to stay perched atop the division.
“We have a lot of people that aren’t playing as well as they’re capable of playing,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “That’s got to change, obviously.”
All fingers point toward Manning because he’s the quarterback. He has not thrown a touchdown pass in three games for the first time since his rookie season eight years ago. Against the Bengals, he threw interceptions on consecutive third-quarter series that even Coughlin couldn’t defend.
“That was terrible,” Coughlin said. “He’d be the first one to tell you that. That was so foolish to try to make a play there (on the first pick). The one guy has got his shirt - just go down and take care of the ball and let us have another snap. Just take care of the football. I know he’s always trying to make a play and he has done things under those circumstances in the past that have worked out, but the percentages are just not with you when that happens.”
Rumors have been rampant in some media circles that Manning has a tired throwing arm, which he has consistently denied.
“No one is watching me practice,” said Manning, who is going out of town and will not throw a football until he returns next week. “I thought I had good velocity. I threw the ball well yesterday.”
“I thought he threw the ball better and many times yesterday, he zinged it in there,” Coughlin said. “Had the ball down the seam to Victor (Cruz) that should have been a touchdown (but was dropped).”
Manning’s teammates have great faith in him and remain confident he will play great down the stretch.
“I think Eli is kind of like rice - he’s just good with everything,” tight end Martellus Bennett said. “No matter what you put on top of it, it’s always going to be good. So he’s our rice to this team, so I just look forward to him continuing to be good with everything they give him.
“He’s always played well whenever we needed him to, so sometimes we have to make plays for him. It’s not just on him, it’s on everybody on this offense. If he makes a throw, we can’t drop them. Someone has to make a play for him and get him going sometimes, too. So it’s on everybody, it’s not just Eli. I’ve got to make more plays for him and do different things for him to make things easier for him and that’s all I can control is what I do. I’ve just got to get better for him.”
He’s not alone. The Giants have scored only one offensive touchdown in each of their last three games. That’s not the fault of one player; everyone on the unit has to perform better. And everyone is positive they will.
“We can fix it,” Manning said. “I thought there were some good things that we did the other day, some things that can be cleaned up, but I thought we made some improvements. Obviously, we just had too many mistakes. We haven’t been making many, many mistakes in games and this game, four turnovers in the second half, that’s the game right there.”
The Giants are accustomed to battling back from adversity. Last season, they lost four in a row and five of six games during one stretch.
“My standard answer for last year was, ‘It didn’t come out too bad,’” Coughlin said. “Regardless of what it was at what time, it didn’t turn out too badly. So I’ll stick with that one.”
They pulled themselves out of that bleak stretch to ignite a surge that carried them all the way to victory in Super Bowl XLVI. No one is predicting they’re going to soar that high again. But that experience is one reason this team has faith that their troubles are only a temporary condition.
“If you can’t get excited about playing this six-game schedule, wow,” Coughlin said.
“I think it definitely helps,” Manning said. “I think it reminds guys that we can’t get down on ourselves. We’ve lost two in a row and there are a lot of teams in the NFL this year that have lost two games in a row. That’s nothing we have to worry about. We’re not going down. We’re not sliding. That’s just football and just as easily, we can bounce out of that and we know we have talented players, we’ve got good schemes, we’ve got good coaches. It’s just a matter of everybody putting it all together and start playing the way we know we can.”