EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Giants guard Geoff Schwartz spoke to several reporters for more than five minutes today.
"Got one question about Atlanta," he said.
The Giants have put their opening-night loss in Dallas well behind them and are entrenched in preparations for the Atlanta Falcons, their opponents in this week's home opener. But today was the media's first opportunity to talk to the players en masse since the sudden and controversial finish in the Giants' 27-26 loss. To the players' credit, they answered patiently and thoughtfully while firmly delivering the message that they are moving forward.
"Anytime you lose a game, it's tough," quarterback Eli Manning said. "You can lose for different reasons or plays you want to take back. But yeah, you're disappointed about it or you feel like you let down your team. But you bounce back, you get over it, and you go to the next game."
Manning confessed after the game that he was uncertain how many remaining timeouts Dallas had. He assumed the responsibility for the loss. But in true Manning fashion, he's not dwelling on the defeat or berating himself for what happened.
"I'm over it," Manning said. "We've moved on. As soon as you start game planning for the next team and starting to take your notes, and get ideas, and see how you're going to move the ball, make plays, buy completions, your mind gets on the next week and doing what you've got to do."
Any player or coach who has been involved in athletics at any level for any length of time has suffered defeats he or she considers galling, inexplicable and disheartening. Manning has been around football his entire life, and this is in his 12th season as the Giants quarterback. He knows the surest path to forgetting the last loss is to win the next game. And that is made possible by the work the Giants are now engaged in.
"I think you treat each week the same, I think that's part of being a professional, being a quarterback," Manning said. "It doesn't matter if you had the best game of your life or worst game, you come in the next week and set out to try and be prepared. Try to get prepared for the next team and game plan and watch film. Practice, look at your practice, look at your fundamentals, look at everything. Get mentally, physically prepared for the next game."
Part of the media's interrogation of Manning included questions about running back Rashad Jennings, who said after the game Manning had instructed him not to score on two runs in the game's waning moments. Jennings apologized publicly and privately, but questions lingered about Manning's reaction to the tempest. As always, Manning answered them perfectly.
"Rashad didn't do anything wrong and we chatted and talked," Manning said. "We're great, we've moved on from it, and now we're going to play football."
The players didn't try to feign ignorance regarding the public reactions of what happened late in the game and in the following hours. But they believe they can turn it into something beneficial by further solidifying the bond between them, and directing their disappointment toward improving vs. Atlanta.
"I mean, you obviously talk about it," guard Justin Pugh said. "You can't not talk about it. But it's something where you realize that there's a lot of different things that go into it. And if we would have put seven points on the board at different points in the game, we wouldn't have been in that situation. Everyone wants to put it on one guy, and that's just totally unfair. We're a team in here, all 11 of us could have done things differently during the game. That's just the way it is."
It would be a vast understatement to say Manning has the unwavering support of every one of his teammates.
"Through thick and thin, we're going to be behind Eli," wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. "He's going to lead us, and we're all going to follow. You know it's just unfortunate the way the game ended, but it is what it is. There's nothing we can do to change it now. Nor can you put the blame on one person in an 11-man game.
"He's the quarterback, he's the top guy, he's the head guy. He's going to take the blame for everything. Win or loss, he gets the credit for the win, he gets the credit for the loss. It's just something we're all kind of there and we support him."
The last word goes to Schwartz, who, after uttering these words, was eventually able to answer a question about the Falcons.
"We have full faith and trust in (Manning)," he said. "I don't think we thought anything more than what it was.
"I don't think Rashad kind of meant to say what he did. It came out, obviously, he said it, but I think he erred. It happens. I know he talked to coach, and he probably talked to Eli about it. We know that Rashad is not the type of guy to throw guys under the bus. I'm sure that it won't happen again, it was just a mistake of his. He owned it, too. It's the same thing as Eli. That's kind of the end of that."