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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Eli Manning and Giants can breathe easier after first win

Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants

Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants waves to the crowd as he runs off the field after defeating the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015 in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Welcome inside the mind of Eli Manning. The Giants quarterback offered a snippet of how he dealt with the crushing disappointment of losing the first two games and turned it into the kind of resolve that led to one of his most meaningful bounce-back efforts.

It is a few minutes after Manning led the Giants to a 32-21 win over Washington, their first victory of the season. After openly admitting to feeling awful about losses to Dallas and Atlanta, both of which were caused in large part by his own mistakes, Manning provided a meaningful glimpse into the psychology of his approach.

"I felt bad for the first two games," he said after going 23-for-32 for 279 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 119.1 rating. "We were right there, games we could have easily won, and we had leads in the fourth quarter and couldn't be at our best in the final minutes of the game."

You know what happened. Losing track of how many timeouts the Cowboys had in the final minutes of the fourth quarter in the opener. Telling Rashad Jennings -- twice -- not to score so the Giants could bleed the clock. Not taking the sack on third down. And then watching in disbelief as the Giants frittered away the lead and lost, 27-26.

Against Atlanta, the Giants had a chance to go up by three scores in the third quarter and Manning lost a fumble inside the Falcons' 10. Another bewildering loss, this time by 24-20.

"It's frustrating," he said. "We had opportunities and we didn't take advantage of them."

So how do you put that behind you and prepare for a Washington team coming off an impressive win against the Rams? On a short week, no less? You do it by wanting to put yourself in the same position you were in when the bottom fell out the two previous games.

"Be excited about those opportunities," Manning said. "You can't dread them just because you have some down [moments], you have some bad plays. You have some games where you don't have success in those situations, but you can't start dreading them because then it's going to be worse. You want to get back in that moment, get back in that situation, have success and feel good about yourself."

And that is precisely the scenario that materialized for Manning. The Giants had enjoyed a lead the entire way, starting with Rashad Jennings' blocked punt for a safety on Washington's first series and Manning's short touchdown drive off Prince Amukamara's interception on the next series.

But Washington still was within striking distance heading into the fourth quarter, trailing 18-6. Manning had the scenario he wanted. This time he vanquished the demons that had been his undoing the previous two games.

He put together an eight-play, 73-yard drive and finished it off with a terrific 30-yard touchdown pass to Odell Beckham Jr. On second-and-10 from the Washington 30, Beckham lined up to the right of the formation and drew single coverage from cornerback Bashaud Breeland. Beckham raced upfield, faked a move to the outside and then ran a post pattern toward the middle of the end zone. Manning hit him in stride for the score, giving the Giants a 25-6 lead.

Washington would not go quietly, scoring a touchdown and two-point conversion to make it 25-14 with 3:40 to play. But Manning again had an answer, hitting Rueben Randle for a 41-yard touchdown on a deep pass down the right sideline.

"Coach [Tom Coughlin] challenged us to win the fourth quarter and elevate our play, and I thought we did that," Manning said. "Made some plays there in that last quarter to win the game."

Coughlin credited Manning with a superb effort. "Very steady, did an outstanding job on the post route to Beckham when we needed a big play there," he said. "I thought Eli was very much in control the entire game tonight."

It provided a major sigh of relief for the quarterback and his team as the Giants head into a Week 4 game in Buffalo at 1-2 with a 1-1 record in the NFC East.

"There's a lot of football to be played," Manning said. "In our division, it's too early [for any team] to run away with it right now, but get one win and just keep going. Let's try and get another and string some [wins] together."

Finally, after two of the most dispiriting and demoralizing games of his otherwise long and distinguished career, Manning can exhale.

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