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QB Eli Manning talks Falcons Matchup


Q: Are you riding this wave of momentum and are you playing as good as you have?A: I think it's been nice to have all of our weapons this past week. From an offensive standpoint, everybody is getting back, healthy. On the defensive side, the same deal – getting some guys back into the mix, having Osi, and they're playing good football on the defensive side. Offensively, we're doing some really good things. We have to build off of that – not making mistakes, not turning the ball over, no penalties last week. There are some good things. We have to make sure we keep that mindset, keep that focus that we've had the last few weeks and make sure we're well-prepared going into this game and then go out there and play our best football.

Q: Is there a sense that you guys have turned a corner?A:  No. I think it's just believing in ourselves. Versus the Jets, offensively we didn't have our best performance. We made some plays when we had to, some big plays. We always have that capability – to hit the big play. Now it's just being consistent, making those third downs, those third and shorts, intermediate plays that become big, keep drives going. I think we did a pretty good job of that. It's just a matter of being well-prepared and go out there, playing hard and finding ways to win.

Q: Can you describe the fourth quarter of a close game for you?A: I think guys just know that it's crunch time. I think that's what happened last week. We didn't do a whole lot in the third quarter, let some opportunities slip away. Dallas had cut the lead to seven points. They had a big third down. That was a big play. Dallas had a lot of momentum at that point. We had to get a drive. We had to get some points. In the fourth quarter we raised our level of play. Victor Cruz had a huge play. Hakeem had some plays. So when we needed something to happen, when it was crunch time, guys were stepping up and making big plays.

Q: What's that crunch time like for you personally?A: Nothing different. You go through the same thought process. You're trying to make good decisions. You're trying to get the guy who's open the ball. So nothing changes from that aspect. Sometimes it's guys, the offensive line, everybody doing their job a little bit better and it makes my job easier.

Q: What's Atlanta's defense like?A: I think they're a very good defense. I think they're very well coached. They are very fast. They run very well. They have good players. They don't make mistakes. Everybody is going to be lined up. Everybody is going to be in the right technique. I think it's just a matter of execution with these guys. It's a matter of the offensive line blocking up. They do have good pass rushers. They do a good job of getting interceptions and turnovers. So it's just a matter of everybody knowing their assignment and going out there and doing it better than Atlanta.

Q: How were you and Victor Cruz able to develop chemistry?A: It's a great credit to Victor. He's worked extremely hard learning this offense. We did get together a good bit this offseason, just going, talking over things and during the season just continuing to grow, talk during training camp about different coverages, talking together during the week to make sure we're on the same page of how we're going to read things. He's done a good job of getting open, having an understanding of getting open in a zone, beating man coverage, all of those things. He's done a great job making plays, on some short throws, making guys miss and doing a lot of the work on his own.

Q: Do you pay attention to the weather forecast?A: No. Not really. You try to get prepared mentally for your opponent, know your game plan. Whatever happens with the weather, there's not much you can do about it. You just have to go out there and play.

Q: Do you feel you don't get enough credit for your play in bad weather games?A: No. I never really thought about it. You just have to go out there and play the game. You don't think about it. I don't know if I play better or worse in bad weather. It's just a matter of guys making plays, guys giving me an opportunity to get the ball off and guys getting open.

Q: Do you feel a burden to have to carry the team?A: No. I think that's the point of a team. It's everybody doing their jobs, it's everybody leaning on each other and expecting the guy next to you to do their job. That's the way we feel. Our defense is playing outstanding lately. Hopefully they continue to do that. Offensively, the run game is coming around. We've run better in the last half of the season than we did at the beginning. The receivers are back healthy and doing a good job of getting open. When we play our best it's when all three phases of the game – offense, defense, special teams – they're all playing at a high level.

Q: What do you think of the fact that you have the most fourth quarter touchdowns in the history of the game?A: I never really thought much about it. I think it's one of those stats that you didn't even know existed until all of a sudden it came up this year. It wasn't something that I was going for. Unfortunately we've been down some in the fourth quarter where we've had to score points and score touchdowns. So that's what has led to having so many touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Again, happy to be amidst [Peyton Manning and Johnny Unitas] but besides that, not giving it much thought from here on.

Q: Where is your confidence level going into the playoffs?A: I think quarterbacks, players, everybody – their confidence level is always high. You always go into a game feeling good about what's going to happen, what to expect. A lot of it is having confidence in the players around you. That's what we have. I'm confident in the receivers we have, with the offensive line, the running backs, everybody knows their assignment and they're going to go out there and play at a high level and let me play at my best also.

Q: This team compared to the '07 team?A: We have a few of the same players that were on that team. That's probably all we want to get into at that point. We have a lot of guys that weren't there. We have a lot of guys on this team that haven't been in the playoffs before. It's a new year. We have different players. It's a new team. It's a new environment. We know what's ahead of us and we can't start looking too far up there. We have Atlanta this week. We're just getting ready to play this game and go out there and have a great game plan and play our best.

Q: What makes Victor Cruz unique?A: I don't know what makes Victor Cruz unique. I know what makes him a great player is he has a great feel for what's going on around him – where defenders are, what coverages are. He reads coverages very quickly and understands what his routes look like – what kind of moves, how does he set up his route to get open. That's where it starts. He does a great job after catching the ball of making guys miss, making big plays. He's got a knack for making a little tick or a play that is designed to get four, five or six yards and turn it into 60 and 70 yard plays. He's not trying to do that every time. It's just the way he plays, it turns out that way.

Q: Are defenses defending Victor Cruz differently than they did earlier in the year?A: Some are. Some teams are kind of doubling him, driving him with a DB and a safety. Some teams are going to play him a little differently. I don't know if that's what Atlanta will do, if that's their style. Some teams have been making sure they keep two guys over him.

Q: Coughlin stayed positive after the Washington game. Has he had a knack for hitting the right button at the right time?A: I think he has a good feel for this team, a good understanding that when we are up against the wall and things seem bad that seems to bring out our best play. He knows how to get our best football and how to get us ready to play that next week. He's done a good job and the players have done a good job responding to that and understanding the circumstances and going out there and playing hard each week.

Q: What makes you good at crunch time?A: I don't know. I think it's just being competitive, wanting to win. It's also the teammates understanding the circumstances, being smart, understand, 'Hey, this is crunch time. We need plays. We need to play our best football at this point.' So I think it's the level of play of the whole offensive unit all of a sudden steps up in crunch time. Guys seem to make plays.

Q: I'm asking about you personally.A: That's what I answered.

Q: When was the first time you realized you had developed a chemistry with Victor Cruz?A:  Obviously our work over the summer was helpful. I knew that he had a good feel, a good understanding for what was going on – just a smart guy. Obviously the Philadelphia game showed we had big-play potential and run after catch, jumping up over guys and catching it. Those types of things. A lot of times you learn the most about your receivers in game time situations. You can see practice, you can work on technique and those things, but all of a sudden you see someone's true colors in crunch time, in the game when they have to make plays, they have to make the tough catches when I get hit or all of a sudden something you practiced all week, the defense does something different – how do they react and adjust? I think Victor has done a great job and grown up and has a great feel for what he's doing.

Q: The playoff formula is usually run the ball and have a good defense. Do you think these playoffs will be more offensive oriented?A: I think that's always the mindset. I hope that we can run the ball this week. I hope that our defense can play great football. That's what you want to do, especially when you get late in the season – it's cold, especially if it's nasty weather like they say we might have. That's what you want to have. Are we going to have to throw the ball successfully? Yes, but you have to understand the circumstances and we have to find a way to find completions, be smart with the ball and when there are opportunities, hit a couple of big plays. Hopefully we can do that.

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