Updated: 12/21/10 8:36 a.m.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Less than 24 hours after one of the greatest collapses in New York Giants’ history, Eli Manning decided it was time to talk to his teammates.
Manning was typically unemotional. His words were concise. His speech Monday was relatively short, lasting just a couple of minutes.
His bottom line: Despite allowing the Philadelphia Eagles (10-4) to score 28 points in the final 7 1/2 minutes to win 38-31 on DeSean Jackson’s 65-yard punt return on the final play of their NFC East showdown, the Giants (9-5) have the playoffs within their grasp.
All they have to do is win in Green Bay (8-5) on Sunday, and they are in.
It’s that simple, Manning said. Don’t lose sight of it.
LISTEN: Boomer & Carton on Eli Mann-ing up
“I just wanted to have a little team meeting,” said Manning, who matched his career-high with four touchdown passes in the loss that left Giants players sitting on their bench afterward wondering what happened. “I didn’t know if anybody else was going to talk, but I wanted to say a few words. I went up to Coach and asked if I could beat (him) to the punch a little bit and address the team.”
Coach Tom Coughlin, who went home and sat in a room without lights for 2 1/2 hours after probably the most bitter loss of his career, had no problem giving Manning the floor. He didn’t stay to listen.
“It was very concise from what I understand and was very positive,” Coughlin said. “It was about how we all win, we all lose, we’re in it together. We’ve got an awful lot at stake. There are many, many teams in this league that would like to be in the position that we’re in.”
Manning also wanted to remind his teammates that the Giants have been in this position a couple of times this season. A lot of people wrote them off after a 1-2 start, and again after consecutives losses to Dallas and Philadelphia in November dropped them to 6-4.
They won three straight until Philadelphia beat them for the sixth straight time.
“I like the way we’ve responded when our backs have been up against the wall this year,” Manning said. “We had two cases earlier in the season where we lost a few and responded well with win streaks. That’s what you like to see, a team that can get hot. We know we’re capable of that and we just have to go do it.”
Two-time Pro Bowl center Shaun O’Hara said there was some anger among the players on Monday. They had the division title in their hands with eight minutes and play and they let the Eagles steal it.
O’Hara said the veterans know what remains — road games at Green Bay and Washington (5-9).
“The one thing we don’t do is get down on ourselves,” said O’Hara, who returned to the lineup Sunday after missing six games with a sprained foot. “You can’t do that in this business. There are too many people willing to do that for you. We’re a very optimistic team and we have optimistic coaches.”
O’Hara said that during his speech, Manning might have been as vocal as he as been in his seven seasons with the Giants.
“It was just reality,” O’Hara said. “We have two games left and all that matters is getting in the playoffs. We have it right in front of us. This is not a time to be negative, not a time to be down on ourselves because we lost a game. Now is the time to rise up and get excited and go win a football game.”
Safety Antrel Rolle said if there was anyone blame on Sunday, it was the defense. Manning and company scored 31 points. He downplayed rookie punter Matt Dodge’s mistake of failing to get the final punt out of bounds, as Coughlin ordered.
“We’re in this hole and it’s not quite a hole because we still control ourselves,” Rolle said. “All we have to do is go out and win. We win and we’re in. He just told us to put it behind us. We know what went wrong, and let’s just keep fighting.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
- Giants Blog: Giant Collapse (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Tom Coughlin ‘Empty’ After Giants’ Stunning Loss (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Jackson TD caps Eagles’ rally, Giants’ collapse (cbssports.com)