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Young Giants have to take Eli Manning's word for it: Better days are ahead

Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants

Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants runs the ball in the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015 in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: Jim McIsaac

It's easy for Eli Manning to move past this.

"My confidence comes from, hey, I've made plays, I've made comebacks, and I know I can do it," he said on a conference call Monday after a second straight loss in which he played a major role in letting a 10-point fourth-quarter lead slip away.

That's true. He's come back from 0-2 to win a Super Bowl. He's led game-winning drives at important times. He's played some of his best games on the biggest stages.

But he's just one player among 53 on the Giants' roster, and so far his resume has not been buoyant enough to lift his fellow Giants as they head out to sea. Manning knows how to win, even if he hasn't shown it in the first two weeks of this season. The rest of the team needs to figure it out.

"You just have to believe you are going to get it done," Manning said. "Learn how to finish games."

That's a lesson that needs to be absorbed quickly. The Giants are 0-2 and in danger of becoming one of the NFL's irrelevant teams for the third straight season.

For many years, during times like these, Giants players always would rely on their recent history. They would point to 2007's turnaround. They would point to 2011's late run. They would say they always performed their best when "their backs were against the wall," even if that wasn't necessarily true and there were far more walls than wins.

Those Giants are mostly gone now, along with their mentality. Manning is one of the few left. Of the 11 offensive starters on Sunday against the Falcons, he was the only one who has played in a playoff game. Not just with the Giants, but ever. There just aren't enough winners right now.

"I think we have a young team right now," Manning said. "We've just got to make sure guys stay strong. I think we have a good group, and guys are going to keep fighting and keep working to get better . . . It's going to be a challenge, but it's something we've got to be able to accomplish."

Linebacker Devon Kennard, a second-year standout, is one of the many who have never tasted team success in the NFL.

"It just comes down to finishing games toward the end and making plays in critical moments," he said. "Every game is going to be a tight game. We feel like we can play with anybody, but when those moments come in the games, we've got to make more plays than the other team."

That's a learned reaction, it seems. It comes from experience. Good experiences, of which the Giants have had few to draw from in the last several seasons.

Perhaps the conundrum of which comes first -- success or confidence -- is best summed up in the response from veteran linebacker J.T. Thomas, who was asked why the defense can't hold on to leads late in games.

"I won't say we can't," he said. "We just haven't yet."

There's no easy formula to changing the tense of that statement.

"Sooner or later," Tom Coughlin said, "we just have to settle down and play the way we're capable of when the game is on the line."

Manning has done that before. The rest of the Giants? Sooner would be better.

New York Sports