EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It's a time like this when the Giants most need Eli Manning to be at his best.
The Giants have lost three of their last four games, including a desultory 20-14 loss in Washington last Sunday that dropped their record to 5-6. They've been unable to get consistent production from their rushing attack, and this week host a Jets team that has a defense ranked first in the NFL against the run, and third overall. If it's not a must-win game, it's a realistically-we-can't-afford-to-lose game.
Manning has stood tall in these situations many times in his 12-year career. And Tom Coughlin didn't try to sidestep the issue when asked today if the Giants need Manning to "rise above the circumstances." But he also insisted that Manning can't do it alone.
"Well, he has to," Coughlin said. "He's our guy and he's done it so many times before. You just said a mouthful. What am I going to tell you other than, perhaps, something that's irrelevant about somebody who should catch the ball - you've got to catch the ball when the ball is thrown to you, as well. That's part of the responsibility. I had a coach in college (Ben Schwartzwalder at Syracuse) that believed a couple bad things happened when you threw it, but that's not the case today in this league. So guys have got to catch the ball."
Manning is not naïve regarding his importance to the team, but he's not putting the entire fate of the Giants on his shoulders.
"I try not to put more pressure on myself than there needs to be," he said. "I just try to go out there and do my job. Have a game plan, know it, study the defense, have a great understanding of what they're trying to do, what their responsibilities are in the defense, try to be able to get the ball out quickly, and get it to our playmakers."
Manning has impressive performance credentials in the clutch. He has led 27 regular-season game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, plus five more in the postseason, including two in Super Bowls. Like any quarterback, he's not been perfect. But his frequent success has given his teammates and coaches confidence he can play well when the team absolutely needs him to.
Coughlin all but implored the other players to pitch in and support their quarterback.
"He can do it, he's done it before," Coughlin said. "We've got to have some help. He's not out there by himself. People have got to - they've got to extend themselves this time of year. If it's that important to them, extend yourselves, and by that, I mean, hey, it's no different than you guys (reporters) - go to office early, stay late, make sure you're responsible for your assignments, make sure you're prepared, make sure you know the guy you're going to play against, do everything in your power.
"We're in December now, there's not many games left to play. There's no reason not to commit yourself totally and completely to something you've spent your life wishing and hoping for. That's the attitude I take."
• Darrelle Revis, a six-time Pro Bowler and universally acknowledged as one of the NFL's finest cornerbacks, did not play last week in the Jets' victory over Miami because of a concussion. It is unknown if he will face the Giants.
"We'll see whether he plays or not," Manning said. "But you always want to see guys back healthy, and if they have an ability to play, play. But if he's not out there, we'll adjust, and I won't complain about it."
• Three Giants did not practice today: tight end Larry Donnell (neck), safety Brandon Meriweather (knee) and tackle Marshall Newhouse (back).
Two starting offensive linemen who did not play in Washington did work on a limited basis: center Weston Richburg (ankle) and guard Justin Pugh (concussion). Also limited were defensive end Robert Ayers (toe) and linebacker Devon Kennard (knee/hamstring).
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (hand) practiced fully.
• It's one of the season's biggest understatements to say Richburg despised watching the Giants-Redskins game on television.
"I wouldn't wish that on anybody," Richburg said. "Not being able to be there and help out, that was tough.
"It was terrible. I was shaking, nervous, and I had to get out of the house and take a walk at halftime, (and) take one after the game. It wasn't fun. I belong here, I need to be with my team playing. I don't want to do that again at all. … Anything that happens, you want to share in the good things and when bad things happen, you want to be there to try and fix them. It was not fun."
• Richburg, who hurt his ankle in the game against New England on Nov. 15, practiced briefly last Wednesday, but was unable to work the rest of the week, and was inactive for the game. He was reasonably confident he'll play against the Jets following practice.
"After today, I'm pretty encouraged; (it's) much better than last week," Richburg said. "Last week, it was pretty tough, but today's been much better. I did quite a bit more than I did last week, so it was good. It was very positive."
Moments later, Richburg said, "I don't want to wear it out too early in the week, but I think we'll just continue to treat it how we treated it today and do the same thing tomorrow. Hopefully, it will feel better on Saturday."
• The Jets have allowed only 14 sacks this season, tying them with Oakland for the NFL's lowest total. Jason Pierre-Paul, who has yet to record a sack in his three games, is unfazed.
"I'm still trying to get a sack myself," Pierre-Paul said. "I'm not even worried about that. How I feel, I'm going to go out there and give my best game. That's how I'm going to play the game, giving my best game, and I know about the D-linemen behind me, so I'm going to play at a high level, and they're going to play at a high level."
• Manning is the Giants' nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which recognizes a player who displays excellence on the football field and in the community. He was the Giants' nominee for the award in 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012. No Giants player has ever been selected for the NFL Man of the Year Award since it was instituted in 1970.
Playmakers on Jets first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike