New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has been in the league for 14 seasons, so he’s seen just about everything there is to see when it comes to how each annual campaign unfolds.
That’s probably why despite a lackluster showing by the Giants offense last week on opening night against the Dallas Cowboys, Manning isn’t too concerned just yet.
“it’s not how you start. It’s how you finish in the NFL and I think that’s an important lesson,” he said Wednesday. “We can hopefully only get better from that first game and that’s the mindset. Just have a great week of practice, preparation, go out there, play confident in what we’re doing.”
If that sounds familiar, that’s because Manning seems to always preach that message after the team has a loss. However, his bigger point about not necessarily pushing the panic button after just one game is well taken if one looks at NFL history.
Since realignment in 2002, 108 of the 180 playoff teams (60 percent) began the year at either 1-1 or 0-2, including eight teams last season and five division champions – Atlanta (NFC South), Dallas (NFC East), Green Bay (NFC North), Kansas City (AFC West) and Seattle (NFC West).
The Giants themselves are included in that statistic. Their 2007 Super Bowl championship team, which will be honored at halftime Monday night began that year 0-2 before turning things around and capping an amazing season that no one outside of the organization likely saw coming.
Of course, Manning isn’t naïve regarding the offense’s poor play well last week and that it needs to play better.
“First game. Guys were playing fast, got some good guys out there, some new bodies,” he said. “I have to play better. I think there were some opportunities to make some plays, to get some things going, get into a rhythm and I can make some better decisions on some things.
“So, I can do my part to help us out, get things going. When the guys get off to a slow start, that’s when the leader has to step up and do their part.”
What the leader can’t do, however, is block for himself. Against the Cowboys, Manning’s offensive line struggled to provide him with a clean pocket, especially in the first half. Thanks to those struggles, the Giants were grossly outgained by the Cowboys, who were also successful in tiring out the Giants defense by halftime.
“Not a great game, not a way you want to start the season, not how we drew it up, but it’s the cards we are dealt right now,” said left guard Justin Pugh. “So, we are going to go out and get better from it.”
Pugh, who remains confident in the line’s character and determination to turn things around, has heard the outside chatter about the offensive line, but said he tried not to pay attention to it.
“At the end of the day, the people that are making the decisions are the people that are paid to know football,” he said. “They are the ones that are putting us out there, right? So, the people that are just going to watch on TV and want to make assumptions, that’s a whole other story.
“So, we got to go out there and keep handling our business and keep our nose to the grindstone. We can’t worry about the outside noise because we have games to win and we have to get ready for Detroit.”
Manning is also confident that things will click for the men up front.
“They’re going to do their job, so everybody just needs to step up their game a little bit and, again, we don’t have to go recreate anything. We just have to execute, play better football,” he said.
“We’ll bounce back. We’ll be fine. We just have to slow down. Everybody take a breath, and just run the plays the way we’ve been running them all spring and all summer,” he added.