EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The question vexes Eli Manning, and he's certainly not alone.
When the Giants lost yesterday to Carolina Panthers, 38-35, it was their sixth defeat this season after they were leading or tied with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most such games they've had in one season since the 1970 merger.
The Giants lost those six games by a total of 15 points. Two of those losses were to the AFC and NFC frontrunners: New England by one point with one second remaining, and Carolina by three points as time expired.
On a conference call today, Manning was asked what all those close losses represent. Do they indicate the Giants are close to competing with the NFL's very best teams, and just haven't made the necessary plays at the end of games? Or, are they just not good enough?
"I'm still trying to deal with that and understand it," Manning said. "Even today, just going back and watching the Carolina film, I saw all the games on the computer screen. And you just go down each one, starting with (the season opener in) Dallas, and how many opportunities we had, and how many games we lost on either the last play of the game, on a field goal made or a field goal missed, or on a play within seconds of the game being over and how many close ones there are.
"I feel like every game has been that way. Every game we've had an opportunity, we've had a lead and lost it, or maybe we were behind and fought back and just ran out of time. So I think we are a good team. We just haven't been good enough to win some of these games."
*Jason Pierre-Paul sacked Cam Newton for a nine-yard loss yesterday, his first sack in the five games since his return from a lengthy rehabilitation of his injured right hand. He also batted down a pass, and had three solo tackles.
"Honestly, I think that I'm getting better and better," JPP said today. "This didn't come with instructions, as my coach said. As far as me as a player, I think I'm getting better and better every week. Training camp is over for me. I had no training camp whatsoever, a couple of my techniques I'm still rusty (with). But anytime you come back from a long injury or whatever, you'll be rusty. Other than that, I think I'm just getting started. I had a sack yesterday, I could have had three, but it's not a 'could have' that I make a big difference on the line and I'm just happy that I'm out here playing with my teammates and I can help. We may win games and we lose together."
*The Giants yesterday rushed for a season-high 161 yards, including 107 by Rashad Jennings, the first 100-yard game by a Giants back this season. It was the second week in a row the Giants' rushing attack showed improvement.
"I think it's just the offensive line is doing a great job," Manning said. "They've opened up some holes, the backs have hit them and we had a couple nice, longer gains, which has been great. I think we had a (19)-yarder and then had the (38)-yarder (for a touchdown). So to get a couple of those big gains and long runs always helps out, but just overall, just a little bit more consistent. Just getting positive yardage, no runs were going backwards or getting negative yards, so that's a great key, and it was good to get that running game going and be balanced."
*Barring a tie, the Giants can win the NFC East only if they defeat Minnesota and Philadelphia in their final two games, and Washington loses to the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. The Redskins play in Philadelphia on Saturday night, so the Giants could be eliminated 21 hours before they kick off in Minneapolis.
But that will not affect how Coughlin and the Giants prepare for the game.
"Full speed ahead, that's how you handle it," Coughlin said. "We talked about that, and we looked each other in the eye, and we've got to have two great weeks of practice starting right now. We have to have this great week of practice, going up to Minnesota to play against a very, very good football team that scored 38 points the other day. So we've got to focus and get ourselves ready to play and go play against a very good team, a team that's headed for the playoffs, and give it all we have as we prepare. So nothing changes, nothing changes. We will prepare and do the necessary work, and go up there and believe we will win."
Photos from the Giants Sunday matchup vs. Panthers