Eli reminds Giants they're still in control
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Eli Manning usually addresses his teammates 10 at a time. It's called a huddle.
Monday, though, just a restless night's sleep removed from the biggest regular-season collapse in Giants history - a 21-point lead that went poof in 7 minutes, 28 seconds - Manning stood alone in front of the entire team and spoke.
He's done similar things before. He and fellow captain Justin Tuck called a meeting during troubled times earlier this season, and Manning has voiced concerns or thoughts during open meetings. But this time it was the quarterback, by himself, speaking to a players-only audience.
A one-Manning show.
"I just wanted to remind everyone of our situation, keep your head up, and that we're in a good position, a good spot," Manning said later in the day after his speech. "We're in charge of our own destiny. We're going to write the ending to this story, no one else."
The final chapter begins Sunday, when the Giants can clinch at least a wild-card playoff spot with a win over the Packers in Green Bay. There are other scenarios that could present themselves and allow the Giants entrance to the big party, but the quickest, surest way in is to beat the Packers. (A loss Sunday would not eliminate the Giants.)
Tom Coughlin was sure to remind the team of that in his 1 p.m. meeting, but Manning said it first. "I went up to Coach and just said, 'Can I beat you to the punch a little bit and address the team before you come in?' " Manning said.
That the message came from the quarterback and not the coach made a big difference to some players, even those who already have had their time in the spotlight after an impassioned oratory.
"He actually got some cheers and some hand claps because it was so out of character for him," said Tuck, whose halftime pleas during the Jaguars game changed the course of the game and, for a few weeks, the season. "You could tell - he wasn't loud and rah-rah - but you could tell by the look on his face he was definitely into what he was doing. He was serious, and everything he was saying was coming from the heart and meaningful to him."
Former captain Shaun O'Hara agreed. "He was probably as vocal as he's ever been, and I think everybody appreciated what he did, and we're looking forward to responding," O'Hara said. "I thought it was a great stand-up opportunity for him to take this team to the next level."
Manning, one of three captains on the Giants, did not confer with Tuck or special-teams captain Chase Blackburn before the speech. That was fine with Tuck.
"He is our captain," Tuck said. "We have three captains, but he's the top dog, and to hear him step in front of the group and bring us closer together, it really resonated."
Manning's talk was just one of the ways that the Giants spent Monday living in two different realities.
The first is the one of a team that allowed a 31-10 lead to evaporate by allowing 28 points in half a quarter and crumbled at the hands of a division foe when it had a chance to secure the lead in the standings.
The second, almost diametrical, reality is that the Giants, at 9-5, still are mathematically in very good position to make the playoffs. They've already spent time talking about how they plan to leave the Eagles game behind them and focus on the Packers.
"Go ahead and do what you have to do to get the poison out," O'Hara said. "Whatever it is. If you have to drink, fight, sleep, whatever you have to do, and when the sun comes up tomorrow, go to work and get ready to win a game."