*The Giants finsihed the 2018 season on high note, with a 18-10 win over the Redskins at home: *
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –The Giants' 2017 season will be remembered for its too many losses and too many injuries, and for the end of Eli Manning's streak of 210 consecutive regular-season starts. Emotional when he lost his job, Manning regained it the next week and continued onward with his customary stoicism and optimism.
At the end, the Giants were rewarded. They concluded their season Sunday with an 18-10 victory over the Washington Redskins in frigid MetLife Stadium. With the 3-13 season finished at last, Manning admitted it had been a long, hard journey.
"It's probably been my toughest year of football, I would say," Manning said at his postgame news conference. "Obviously with the losses, with the injuries, with a benching and coming back and uncertainty and everything going on. But really, the losses more than anything, probably. It's tough, it's tough to prepare every week and to put all the effort into it and to not get the outcomes you want. Especially some heartbreakers that we lost early on in the season, and then we kind of started losing some of our personnel. So, it's been tough, but hopefully we learn from it and grow from it."
Manning just completed his 14th Giants season. Like everyone with an interest in the team, he is eager to see what changes new general manager Dave Gettleman will institute. At his introductory news conference, Gettleman indicated he wants Manning to be the Giants' quarterback in 2018. Manning left no doubt that is his wish.
"Yeah, 100 percent," Manning said. "I don't want to go play football anywhere else. This is where I want to play, this is my family, the New York Giants. So, hopefully they feel the same way and we can make that work out."
Gettleman and Manning spoke briefly after the game. "He just said congratulations and we'll talk soon," Manning said. "I'm not sure when soon is, but we'll talk soon.
"I heard what he said Friday. I just wanted to finish the season and then I knew we'd talk sometime and figure out what direction he wants to go in, and hopefully I'm part of that plan."
The Giants enjoyed a rare 2017 victory when Manning had one of the worst statistical games of his career. He completed only 10 of 28 passes for 132 yards. But it has been months since he had a chance to throw to Odell Beckham, Jr. and Brandon Marshall. And his two leading receivers this season, rookie tight end Evan Engram and wide receiver Sterling Shepard, were inactive because of injuries. The most experienced receiver in uniform, Roger Lewis Jr., did not play. Three receivers - Hunter Sharp, Travis Rudolph and Marquis Bundy – made their NFL starting debuts. Bundy played in his first regular-season game.
"It's tough," said Manning, who also played behind a line that included rookie tackles Chad Wheeler and Adam Bisnowaty (also making his NFL debut). "You spend all offseason, all summer, training camps, working on your timing, working on your rhythm, working on certain routes and then all the guys that you've kind of worked those many hours with (got injured). Now, you're throwing some routes to guys you haven't thrown yet. Maybe you threw a certain route in practice to Bundy and now you've got Hunter running into the game. So, you hope they run it the way you think they are, but there's always a little hesitation, or a little kind of holding it an extra second just to make sure they're going to be in the right spot. So it's hard to be in rhythm and on time with a lot of things. But I thought they hung in there, they did a good job, knew their assignments and were able to make a couple plays for us."
Sharp made one of the biggest, catching a 16-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. But the Giants earned their first victory under interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo with a relentless rushing attack and a stout defense. They ran for 260 yards, their highest total in nine years. Orleans Darkwa led the way with 154 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown on the game's second play. Rookie Wayne Gallman added 89 yards on 15 carries. Darkwa and Gallman combined to average 7.0 yards a carry.
The Giants needed to run, because the conditions were somewhat less than ideal for throwing. The temperature was 16 degrees, with a 16 mile-per-hour wind, creating a wind chill of one degree.
"This is football weather," Darkwa said. "When it gets cold they're relying on the run like most teams do. So there was definitely more emphasis on it going into this week. We had a good week of practice going into it, and a great game plan to execute."
The Giants defense dominated Washington, limiting the Redskins to 197 total yards, 10 first downs, and one third-down conversion in 13 tries. Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard twice intercepted Kirk Cousins passes, and cornerback Ross Cockrell picked off another. Cousins was also sacked three times.
"It felt like Giants football," Spagnuolo said. "Ran the ball. Played good defense. Stopped them on third down."
And in the end, they enjoyed what Giants football had delivered too infrequently this year, a victory.
"I congratulated all the people involved," Spagnuolo said. "So happy. I appreciate them tremendously. I tried to convey that to everybody in there, and it just feels really good. We've been chasing the feeling of being in a locker room on a Sunday or an NFL winning locker room. It feels special - all the work you put into it and it's a week by week thing. But, the work you put in during the week is demanding. Our players, our coaches, they go through a lot. Our football staff. And, it's rewarding. Prior to that, hadn't been great, but this feels good. And I think the organization can carry this into the next season."
Spagnuolo lingered on the frozen field so he could hug Manning.
"I did ask the camera guy, 'Can you get a picture when I hug Eli?'" Spagnuolo said. "Because, you know, it's a memory. It's a memory. We've both been through a lot and none more than him with this season. But he never changed. I value that in people that can stay that balanced through ups and downs. He's had the highest of highs and this was certainly very, very low. But he's a tremendous competitor and I appreciate him greatly."
So does everyone else on the Giants.