Eli Manning discusses the Giants' postseason berth and the team's mindset heading into Sunday:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Celebrating a birthday always prompts introspection and reflection. With the Giants about to play their first postseason game, Eli Manning today marked his 36th and admitted he thinks about how many more chances at a postseason run he'll have.
"Yeah, definitely," said Manning, who will lead the Giants into Lambeau Field Sunday for their first postseason contest in five years, an NFC Wild Card Game against the Green Bay Packers. "You know, these last couple years have been a great reminder of how difficult it is to make the playoffs. You want to take advantage of every opportunity that you get to make them because you don't know if or when you get another chance. I guess early on in your career you think you kind of know that, but until you get into your later years and you just don't know if you will get that opportunity again. So you want to give it your all, give it your best like you always do. But just understand that it is special to get here, and you want to try and make a run when you can."
Manning, of course, quarterbacked the Giants during two of the greatest postseason surges in franchise history, four victories in both 2007 and 2011 that culminated in Super Bowl victories against the New England Patriots. In each of those seasons, the Giants lost to the Packers in the regular season but upset them in Lambeau in the postseason. The first time was an overtime victory in the NFC Championship Game, famously played in a wind chill of 23 below zero. But the second game might have been a bigger surprise because the Giants encountered a heavily-favored 15-1 Packers team and never trailed in a 37-20 victory.
"They were playing good football, they were a good team," Manning said. "Their offense was playing great, their defense was doing a good job of getting pressure and getting sacks on the quarterback. So we did a great job of protection, we hit some big plays, hit a Hail Mary before halftime, the defense got four or five turnovers for us. Things went our way that night. That is football, and hopefully we just go out there and play smart, protect the football. The defense has been playing great and hopefully they continue to do that, but we have to help them in controlling the clock, run the ball, get first downs and do our part to slow down their offense as well."
This time, the Giants have a superior overall record (11-5 to 10-6), but the Packers are riding a six-game winning streak, including an NFC North-clinching victory against Detroit on Sunday night.
As they did in their two championship seasons, the Giants fell to the Packers in the regular season, 23-16 on Oct. 9, a defeat they'll more readily accept if they again redeem the result in the playoffs. But the Giants gained a season-low 219 yards in that game, including just 43 on the ground. Manning was sacked a season-high three times, a total Giants opponents reached in just one other game.
"I thought that they did a good job against us getting some pressure, so we have to find ways to get the ball out on time," Manning said. "I thought we had some missed opportunities. We had some opportunities to hit some big plays that we didn't capitalize on. But I think they do a good job trying to take away Odell (Beckham, Jr.) and getting pretty good pressure, a lot of times just bringing four guys, so we have to handle that."
The Giants are coming off their best rushing game of the season, 166 yards in their season-ending 19-10 victory in Washington. Rookie Paul Perkins ran for 102 yards, and Rashad Jennings added 52, including a 2-yard touchdown.
"Obviously, the guys up front did a great job blocking, the running backs ran tough and made guys miss, the receivers block(ed) downfield," Manning said. "So we have to continue to do that, just be really sound on our assignments, make sure that guys are doing the right thing. It is a combination. In order to run the ball, then you have to throw the ball successfully. When you get to third downs, you have to be able to convert on third downs, give yourself more opportunities to run a lot of plays so that you can mix in the run and pass."
Converting third downs could be a key to winning for the Giants, because that would reduce Aaron Rodgers' time on the field. The Packers' quarterback threw 18 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in the season's last seven games.
Oddly, for all of Rodgers' success – including a Super Bowl victory and two NFL Most Valuable Player awards – he and Manning have won the same number of postseason games in Lambeau – two.
Manning seemed unimpressed when that stat was tossed at him today.
"Each year is a new year, new team, different players," Manning said. "It is its own deal, so we have to go out there and play well. I have to play well and I am looking forward to that opportunity."
Because at 36, he doesn't know how many more he'll have.
Photos from memorable Wild Card Games for the New York Giants