EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Eli Manning has dodged as many bullets throughout his long NFL career. So don’t expect him to run for cover because the Giants have started 0-2.
Manning has the scars from a 15-year pro football career. He’s seen both ends of the spectrum, from two Super Bowl parades down the Canyon of Heroes, to the recent disappointments of missing out on the playoffs.
But his answers to adversity rarely change. When the Giants lose, he practices longer and harder. He spends more time watching film and studying in the classroom. He isolates himself from the critics around him.
Now Manning has a lot of company as the Giants prepare to play the Houston Texans, another 0-2 team, Sunday in Houston’s home opener. The Giants have converted their Meadowlands headquarters into a sanctuary. Leave your doubts at the front door.
“Our season isn’t over,” rookie running back Saquon Barkley said. “It’s not college (where two losses usually disqualify you from national championship consideration). At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what other people are saying.”
Manning is at the head of the Giants' "We’re not that bad" crusade. As he mentions to the younger players, with a bigger smile than usual, “we’re one game behind in the (NFC East) division. It’s a long season. A lot could change.”
The Giants need to change a lot, beginning with the protection of their quarterback. Houston’s strength defensively is its pass rush.
J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney strike fear into offensive lines with more ability than Manning’s often-criticized protectors, and Texans coach Bill O’Brien can’t stop talking about the game rookie outside linebacker Duke Ejiofor had last week against Tennessee.
“This is one of the best defensive fronts in this league,” said John Greco, who’ll make his first start at center after Jon Halapio suffered season-ending injuries against Dallas on Sunday night. “But every team in this league has talent.”
The Giants need to harness their talent. By stressing harder work and patience, they hope to stage a turnaround.
“Thirty new players, whatever it is,” Manning said. “It certainly takes time. Everybody is getting used to each other.”
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