Easy Eli

Eli Manning can sense the increased pressure now that New York has reached the postseason.. "Now we have a whole new season ahead of us, and this is what really counts," said Manning, who compiled an 11-5 mark in his first full season as the Giants starting QB.

Manning finished the season completing 294-of-557 passes for 3,762 yards, 24 TDs and 18 INTs. He said that it's a totally different game once you reach the NFL's second season.

"Yeah, I think so," he said. "These games are ‘do or die' and that is the situation. I believe that every game you play you try and do your best. But, obviously, it is easy to get up for these games and everybody is going to be going full speed every play. As you know, if you don't, you don't know what plays are going to make a difference in the game. So you have to take advantage of every opportunity, play good football, play smart football and just execute what we want to do."

Manning also eschewed the thought that he's too young to possess the necessary urgency required for postseason play.

"I think, as a young quarterback, you still have to take advantage of the situation that you are in and understand that you don't know if this situation is going to happen again," he said. "You have to understand that and I think from just watching my brother and hearing about my dad, you have to understand that you might not have this chance again, this opportunity. So we have to go and take every advantage and opportunity that we have and go out there and play well."

He also admitted that he thinks he's been playing better of late, regardless of what his critics might say.

"I think I am playing more consistent probably than I was earlier in the season," Manning stated. "We made some big plays but I still was making some bad decisions. I still make some poor decisions but I feel like I am managing the game well, seeing things well."

Manning was banged up in Oakland for one of the very few times this season. However, he said early last week that his knee felt fine.

"It feels good, no problems," he said. "I got up pretty quick and tried to get off the field. I know I looked funny running off. Everybody has been giving me hell about my running. They make fun of my running anyway and then you add a limp to it. They were giving me some heat about it. But I just kind of fell on it a little funny. But I kind of walked it off and it doesn't bother me at all anymore."

Manning said he's been plenty lucky this season, suffering only one serious injury – against these same Panthers way back in the preseason.

"There have been a few little things here and there but nothing major," he said. "I have been lucky so far this season. The only thing – in the preseason I had the elbow deal. But besides that, that is the only thing that has bothered me."

Total confidence

All week long, Manning's teammates were asked about their confidence level in their young QB. All were unanimous in support of last year's top overall pick.

"I think he is," Tiki Barber responded when asked if Manning was ready. "He's very confident and that's the one thing that you can't take for granted. You can't discount it because he doesn't get flustered because of the size and nature of the game or the opponent or the environment he's going into. So, we know that he's going to bring the same leadership that he's brought all season and we should be fine with him."

Barber said Manning's maturity level is higher than you'd expect from a second-year player.

"We've expected and thrown a lot on him this season and I think he's handled it as good as anyone could have for a young guy to be able, despite the criticisms that he's gotten, have 11 wins," Barber said. "The intangibles of leadership that I've always talked about with him have never faltered. But, I think he's eager. I think he knows what's at stake. For a young guy, he kind of gets it and that's a good thing."

Fellow team leader Michael Strahan also expressed supreme confidence in number 10.

"I know Eli gets a lot of flak, but for some reason when he is in the game, I just feel like we always have a shot," Strahan said. "Eli is always going to give us a chance to win. And that is what you need. Eli is no different than any other quarterback in this league – everybody has highs and lows. I am look forward to watching Eli play in his first playoff (game) and it is a good testament to how he has matured to be doing it in his second year."

For Strahan, he said Manning's even temperament is his key to success.

"You can't get anybody that just basically sits there and is more relaxed than Eli," Strahan said. "If you do, you had better check their pulse – they should be in the morgue. Eli is relaxed. I don't think this pressure bothers him. I think he has definitely been under more pressure before. He is smart enough to realize that in the long run it is just a game, anyway.

"I think Eli studies, he prepares to the point of where we all feel like we have a chance when he is in there; we always feel confident in him when he is in there. But I can't think of anybody else in the league, a second-year player, who could handle it. And I think coming from where he is coming from with his background and family has just prepared him for this."

Coach-speak

Tom Coughlin always gets the final word. Here's what he has to say about his precocious signal-caller.

"I think that Eli will understand the importance and the intensity and the way these games are played," Coughlin said. "These games are played very hard and they're played very fast. The games can be won or lost on one or two plays. So, he'll understand that.

"Yeah, he's ready. Sure, he's ready."


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