From Super Bowls to three-win seasons, Eli Manning has seen the highs and lows throughout his 15-year NFL career. He has also seen plenty of them in 2018. After losing seven of their first eight games, the Giants have won four of their past five to keep a glimmer of postseason hope alive. They look to extend that at least one more week then they host the Tennessee Titans (7-6) on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
"I think it helps knowing you still have a chance," the two-time Super Bowl MVP said. "It's the mindset that we just have to keep. We have to keep doing our part, and that's winning football games, and just knowing that there's still hope if we do our part and get a little help. It keeps everything lively in the locker room. Everyone wants to go out there and keep winning football games, and keep feeling good in the locker room after games."
Here are three ways the Giants can hold onto that feeling:
1. Maintain gap integrity. Jim Schwartz and Todd Wash were not happy when they walked into their film rooms the past two weeks, but James Bettcher has been ecstatic. And not just because his Giants defense is forcing turnovers and generating sacks. It's because the defensive coordinator once again has the perfect coaching tool. He can command his players' full attention by showing them a long run by the upcoming opponent and say, "You don't want to be on the wrong end of one of these highlights." Last Sunday, the Giants faced Redskins running back Adrian Peterson a week after the future Hall of Famer broke a 90-yard touchdown run against Schwartz's Eagles defense. The Giants limited him to 16 yards on 10 carries. This Sunday, they face Derrick Henry a week after he stiff-armed his way to a 99-yard touchdown in the Titans' lopsided victory over the Jaguars and Wash's unit.
"I don't know if you luck out when you say you get to see that the week before, but we've been fortunate two weeks in a row," Bettcher said. "Adrian had one of those runs the week before we played him in Washington, and had one against us the first time we played, so when that stuff's on tape, it's certainly a great example about maintaining gap integrity, playing with great leverage, and finding a way to get someone on the ground when you've got to tackle him in space."
2. Plaster receivers. When Henry isn't running over people, another Heisman Trophy winner is extending plays with his legs for the Titans. That player is quarterback Marcus Mariota, who won the award the year after Henry. Since he was drafted second overall in 2015, Mariota is fifth among quarterbacks in rushing yards (1,252) and rushing touchdowns (11), and has an 87-yarder on his NFL resume.
"Really, the second thing is those off-schedule downs, you've got to cover a few more seconds longer," Bettcher said. "It might be -- we use the word 'plaster' like a lot of people do -- we've got to plaster in coverages, downs, extend themselves, and understand how and where different receivers are going to break. Everybody has a scramble thought process to them, where they want to break and how receivers want to break, and we've got to be aware of where those guys are going to break."
3. Have Saquon on your team. Way back in the draft process, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman talked about the impact Saquon Barkley could have on an entire team. A running back of his caliber, he said, would help the offensive line, the quarterbacks, the wide receivers, the tight ends, and even the defense by keeping it off the field. The Giants didn't just rediscover that idea over the bye week, but they are running the offense more through the presumptive Offensive Rookie of the Year. Since Week 10, they are second only to the Saints in points scored.
"Just our identity and being able to run the ball, I think that's been the biggest difference since the bye," said Manning, who has 10 touchdowns to two interceptions since the bye week. "Just an emphasis on running the ball, the play-action. A lot more under center. Not as much shotgun. Not as much seven-step drop. Just having everything build off the run game."