TAMPA, Fla. — Eli Manning is as disbelieving as any Giants fan when it comes to their stunning 0-4 start.
“I mean, it’s surprising,” the Giants’ quarterback said a few minutes after the Giants lost to the Buccaneers, 25-23, on Nick Folk’s 34-yard field goal with no time left on the clock. “We still have a good team, doing some good things, just not quite making enough plays to win the game, and in this league, you’ve got to earn every win. We are doing some good things, but just not playing well enough to win the games.”
Manning and the Giants’ offense overcame a sluggish start to rally back from a 13-0 deficit and take leads of 17-16 and 23-22. In the end, it wasn’t enough. The ending was just as crushing as the week before, when Eagles rookie kicker Jake Elliott hit a 61-yard field goal to win, 27-24.
“It’s tough to lose two games in a row on walk-off field goals,” said Manning, who was 30-forf-49 for 288 yards, two touchdown passes and no interceptions. He wasn’t sacked for the second week in a row, the first time he has gone back-to-back games without being sacked since late in the 2015 season.
Manning drove the Giants for the go-ahead score thanks in part to a 42-yard bomb to Odell Beckham Jr. midway through the fourth quarter.
“A double move off the safety, and he ran a great route,” Manning said of Beckham.
After the touchdown put the Giants ahead, Manning completed a pass in the back of the end zone to Beckham on the two-point conversion. But the officials ruled Beckham stepped over the end line and didn’t re-establish himself in the field of play before making the catch. The Bucs then drove for the winning field goal on their next possession.
How does Manning keep the faith after such a poor start?
“You just keep fighting,” he said. “You keep fighting for a win, and that is all you do every week. You just want that feeling [of winning]. You want that feeling after the game that you did something, that you earned the win, that your preparation was good and that you came together as a team and found a way to get that feeling. So, we need it, we want it, but nothing is going to be given to us. You’re not going to just go out there and get wins, you have to go out there and play good football.”
Manning scrambled for a 14-yard touchdown with 3:17 left in the second quarter, the longest touchdown run of his career.
“Play-action, tried to hit Brandon [Marshall] back of the end zone,” Manning said. “They played it well, I kind of looked at Roger Lewis for a possible check-down, and then was kind of working Brandon on a scramble drill. I saw a window and we got the touchdown right there, so it was a big play at the moment.”
In the end, Manning couldn’t do enough to stave off the team’s fourth straight loss.
“We just got to stick together,” he said. “We have to keep working, we have to be paying attention to the details and find ways to play better football. That’s what it comes down to. We have to play better and we have to find ways to get a win.”
What makes things even more frustrating is the difficulty in coming up with reasons for the losing.
“Frustrated, in the sense that I feel like we are doing some good things, just not playing our best football,” he said. “We are leaving some plays out there. It’s not one person, it’s not one thing. It’s not one group, everybody kind of has their part in that. Good teams find ways to overcome those and make plays in critical moments to win games.”