Monday, December 20, 2010
Updated: December 21, 4:26 PM ET
Eli Manning gives Giants pep talk
By Ohm Youngmisuk
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Hours after the Philadelphia debacle, soft-spoken Eli Manning decided to do something he never does.
The quarterback addressed the New York Giants and delivered a talk to make sure his teammates' heads were in the right place after a 38-31 collapse to the Eagles that still had much of the country buzzing and the Giants' stomachs churning on Monday.
Manning is a captain along with Justin Tuck and Chase Blackburn and has talked to the team before with others. But this time, Manning was the only Giant to talk which made it unique.
Tuck said some players clapped because it was so out of character for Manning to stand up and talk before the team by himself.
"It was good and was needed," cornerback Terrell Thomas said. "It was honest, it was the truth, it was a captain speaking when the time was needed."
Center Shaun O'Hara said, "He was probably as vocal as he has ever been."
Manning's message to his team was simple. Get this out of your system and get ready for the biggest game of the season against the Green Bay Packers (8-6). If the Giants (9-5) win in Green Bay on the day after Christmas, they will clinch a playoff spot.
"I just wanted to have a little team meeting," Manning said. "I didn't know if anybody else was going to talk but I wanted to say a few words."
So the man of few words told his teammates not to panic.
"It is not the time right now to start going into the tank or slacking off or being in a bad mood," Manning said. "Now is the time when we got to be excited and look at the bright side of things and be optimistic and say we got a great opportunity to make the playoffs.
"We're the one who is going to decide whether we make the playoffs and what happens. It is only us."
Teammates said Manning's talk was exactly what they needed to hear to rebound from a disastrous game in which the Giants played some of their best football for 52 minutes only to pretty much let the NFC East title slip out of their hands in the final eight minutes.
The Giants know they can erase their epic failure by winning in Green Bay, the place where they won the NFC Championship to advance to the Super Bowl during the 2007 season.
Safety Antrel Rolle said the Giants are going to make the playoffs.
"I don't think, I know it," the confident Rolle said. "I know it is going to happen this weekend. I have no doubt."
While Rolle was full of swagger, head coach Tom Coughlin sounded like he was in confession at the start of his Monday press conference.
"There are plenty of sins to be distributed," Coughlin said.
Coughlin later said he sat in a room with the lights out for "about two-and-a-half hours" to try to get over the fiasco.
"It's not funny," Coughlin said when reporters chuckled. "It's not the way it's supposed to be."
The Giants dominated the Eagles and led 31-10 with 8:17 remaining. But then the Eagles scored 28 unanswered points as the Giants missed tackles and blew containment to let quarterback Michael Vick run wild. Coughlin's team allowed the Eagles to recover an onside kick without the slightest resistance right after they scored to cut the deficit to 31-17 with 7:28 left.
Coughlin explained he didn't want to put his hands team out there because he didn't want to "sacrifice the field position." Coughlin also thought that since the Eagles still had three timeouts remaining, they weren't going to execute an onside kick with that much time remaining.
Prior to the onside kick, the Eagles ran a player off the field and only had 10 men on the field and that distracted the Giants from being alerted for an onside kick.
In hindsight, Coughlin wished he had called a timeout to regroup.
"That is the call that I made," Coughlin said.
Coughlin reiterated that the blame should be placed on him. On Sunday night, he took the blame for Matt Dodge punting the ball to DeSean Jackson, who muffed it before returning it 65 yards for the game-winning touchdown with no time left. Coughlin said the rookie punter knew he was told to punt it out of bounds.
Several players came to Dodge's defense.
"That blame does not go on [Dodge]," Rolle said. "That blame goes on the defense. Coach Coughlin can sit here and say put the blame on him. I don't buy that [stuff]. Coach Coughlin does not play the game for us."
The head coach has displayed incredible patience this season with Dodge, who has had a roller coaster-type of season.
Even though Dodge's punt and the shoddy coverage completed the Eagles' miraculous comeback, Coughlin said he is committed to his punter. Dodge said his confidence remains "good" after he came to the practice facility and saw his locker was still there.
When asked if there was any talk of bringing in a veteran punter, Coughlin replied, "Not really. We didn't have much discussion about that."
It wasn't all Dodge's fault, of course. He wasn't responsible for allowing the Eagles to score three straight touchdowns in just over six minutes.
During that stretch, Vick rushed for 94 of his 130 yards on four rushes.
"You could tell we were playing a little bit back on our heels like don't lose it instead of going to win it," Tuck said. "And that is not how we play. [Then] there were a lot of plays we rushed exactly how you are supposed to rush and he just outran our contain."
After reviewing the tape, Rolle said it was almost as if the Giants were meant to lose that game.
"I just felt like at that point in time the way things are happening, there are some things bigger than football out there," Rolle said. "And when I say that, I definitely mean a higher power."
"Maybe there are six or seven things that probably went wrong on the defensive side of the ball," Rolle continued. "And that is something that happens every game but never have I ever seen where those six or seven things turn into huge plays or touchdowns. That is all we had, maybe six or seven things that didn't go our way and it happened that way in seven and a half minutes."
Manning's talk probably lasted longer than that and the Giants needed to hear every second of it. The quarterback will find out on Sunday if his talk actually worked.
"Go ahead and do what you go to do to get the poison out today, whatever it is," O'Hara said of Manning's talk. "If you got to drink, fight, sleep, whatever you got to do, when the sun comes up tomorrow, go to work and get ready to win a game."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.