QB Eli Manning
Q: Have you come up with any new ways how to describe how this feels right now?
A: No, no, no new ways. It is not fun, it is tough, it is hard. I feel like we are doing some good things. First half, about as good as it goes, and it's the way it is supposed to look. We knew they were a talented defense, we knew it was not going to be easy at times. They would make some plays, and that we would get some pressure at times. They would stop us some drives and you can't give them two touchdowns, that just makes it tough. They were playing well; they did some good things in the second half that gave us some trouble. We responded, I thought, after things were going bad. They took a lead; we responded and took the lead back. We got a touchdown at that point, I thought we had a missed opportunity in the third quarter, we had great field position, 42-yard line or so and missed a field goal, didn't get any points. I thought there were still some good things being done, we just haven't quite figured out a way to win these tight games.
Q: Have you figured out if there is one specific thing that keeps running through these games, these losses, that is preventing you from finishing, or is it different things every week?
A: I don't think there is one specific thing. From the offensive standpoint, it is not so much the end of the game that has been the exact problem, it is somewhere in that third or fourth quarter when we are making mistakes at that point to put the team back in contention and give them a chance to get back in and making it tough on our defense. We have to do a better job at that of kind of learning, you can almost give yourself a great opportunity to win the game and the third quarter and the second half to give yourself a bigger lead and not hurt yourself. I think we have to do a better job of that. When we have a team kind of down and on the ropes a little bit to finish at that point. I think we've done some good things in the second half or when we have been down and responded to get good opportunities to win the game. 49ers game, we just didn't make plays. We are down there at the four-yard line and we've got to make a play. This past game, we just had too many bad plays in the third and fourth quarter to put us down and let the defense score points on us.
Q: In the third quarter this year, you have only scored close to 30 points. What is the reason for that?
A: I don't have a reason, I don't have an explanation, we have to be better, we have to be better in the second half of all these games. That is where games are won, you can build a lead or you can have stuff go in in the first half. It is usually going to come down to that third and fourth quarter, who plays football. That is where the situations of the game come. You are going to be up a little bit, you are going to be down a little bit, you've got to play to the circumstances of the game and make the plays in that time to win the game. We are not making the plays; we are making mistakes, we are not making enough plays in that situation to win the games.
Q: Do you see more mistakes being made, or more good things, and just the mistakes are being magnified?
A: Yeah, I see a lot of good things being done. I feel like we are converting on third down, making big plays, we are running the ball better. We are not having negative runs, we are not throwing interceptions. I don't think we are having mental errors, guys doing the wrong thing; it's just a matter of making a few key mistakes. I think it's fumbles, the two fumbles is what hurt us, what really caused the loss in this game. If you don't have those two fumbles for touchdowns, I think we win this game pretty convincingly. Those are obviously two plays that you wish you had back. I've got to hold onto the ball better and don't let it go. Larry Donnell has to do the same, and it is not a lack of effort, or distraction or doing the wrong things, it is just being more conscious of what is important. That is protecting the football.
Q: Do you think your younger teammates realize what is at stake here? There is no playoffs, jobs are on the line, roster spots are on the line, tremendous upheaval could be coming for this team if they don't find a way to win a game?
A: I think everybody is still competing their tails off. There has not been a lack of effort, I think our practices are good, they are sharp, guys are buying into what we are doing. I feel like from an offensive standpoint we are very close to doing a lot of great things, and playing great football. We are very close to winning these games, and doing what it takes to win the games. It's just kind of taking that next little step or whatever it is to secure the win, to keep fighting in the second half. I am hoping these young guys, we will talk about it a little bit, just understand, hey, this is about our pride and being a professional and understanding we have a job to do. I think we have good character in guys on this team who are going to keep fighting and we want to win. We work hard, we work too hard not to get the wins, and we want that feeling of being proud of what we are doing.
Q: I know you don't like using injuries as an excuse. When someone on the offensive line comes out, as you had yesterday, I would think that disrupts the preparation, the communication. Do you feel that maybe that has been flying under the radar a little bit with the injuries and how they have affected the offense, or do you not see that having an effect?
A: I think we responded pretty well yesterday. We had some new guys playing on the offensive line, but a lot of them were in the first half…we continued to drive the ball and have good production against a defense that is pretty stout, they are good upfront. A lot of teams have had trouble scoring points on offense against them. I think the guys responded well, even when all of a sudden James Brewer gets hurt and John Jerry has to play right tackle, and Dallas Reynolds comes in. We still had a good drive at that point at the end of the game. Went right down the field, protected well, threw the ball, and obviously had to settle for a field goal, but it wasn't because of protection issues or sacks. I think the guys responded well, adjusted, and saw the way we did that. We didn't make an excuse, no one complained, we just went about our business and said, 'Hey, John Jerry you are playing tackle, Dallas Reynolds, you are playing guard, let's go.' We went down there and we had a good drive.
Q: Does any part of you look beyond this year and think about the effect this may have on the future? Yourself, your coach, other players in the locker room? Does any part of your mind, just being a human being, wander to the offseason and what might loom?
A: You try not to wander just because it is not going to do any good. You don't know what is going to happen. You can't control that, all we can worry about is this next game. I think we have done a good job, I have done a good job, of staying focused on getting prepared for this next week. Our goal is Tennessee. Our goal is to go into Tennessee and play a complete game. Play four quarters of good football and smart football, and see if we can get a win. We just have to do our job and compete our tails off these next weeks, and see if we can get some wins and whatever has to happen after that is going to happen, and we will figure that out.
Q: Do you personally feel that the way you guys played in the last four games can, or should, affect the way Coach Coughlin is evaluated by the front office? Do you think the effort at this point matters to that degree?
A: I am not sure what management, what they are thinking. That is not my job to worry about that. Coach Coughlin talked about today, he wants us to worry about Tennessee, getting a win, be able to enjoy, be happy about we are doing, and be able to celebrate as a team together, and celebrate a victory. That is what we are going to do, we are going to focus on this week and take it one week at a time, and compete our tails off, and work hard, and that is all we can do, that is all we can control.
Q: Did Coach Coughlin address specifically for you guys not to think about him, but to think about yourselves. Has he addressed his own situation at all?
A: Not much, I think he was just giving us a heads up of what we will be asked about, what the media will be saying and preparing us for what is going to happen this next week, and for us to worry about getting a win, worry about Tennessee. Not to worry about anything that may or may not occur after the year, after the season.
Q: When things get tough, people point the finger at the head coach. Do you think it is justified in this case?
A: I think the players, we are playing hard, we are competing, we are right in here close to winning these games, a lot of games. It is not his fault that we don't finish games, it is not his fault I fumbled for a touchdown, or Larry Donnell fumbles for a touchdown. That is not his doing, we have been right there. It is not his fault during San Francisco we don't score from the three-yard line. We've got good plays, we got the ball in receivers' hands, we've got to make plays, we've got to make better plays, we've got to make smarter plays. I think we have been very close, we have been competing our tails off, and hopefully – we've got young guys, we've got new guys -- we got to figure out how to come together as a team and a group and hopefully we can figure that out soon.
LB Jameel McClain
Q: Did you get a chance to go over that final drive in your head or on film? Could you give us a little rundown of what you think happened there? You pretty much shut them down the whole game and then when they needed it most, they were able to go down the field.
A: Man, the final drive, we did a few things. We tried to get after the quarterback and we got out of position some of the times. You could see on that final drive the quarterback got a lot of yards on his feet, so that was just a mixture of that, him making a play. We did have to finish and we didn't finish. Regardless of how we do throughout the game, you're always judged on what you do last and we didn't finish. That's what I got from that final drive.
Q: How frustrating is it to know that it's two weeks in a row the offense has given you the lead in the last couple minutes and the other team has been able to come down and score?
A: The game is frustrating, in all honesty. It's frustrating for me to play good football, to play good, solid football up to three quarters or four quarters and some change and for us not to finish, I don't think it's really about being given the lead or not being given the lead or whatever. I always want to finish the game on a good note and that's just what we haven't done. That in itself is frustrating. Whether we're up by 21 or down by 21, I still want to finish it all strong if that's even possible for you all to believe. We just haven't finished, so that is frustrating, not finishing.
Q: Why do you think you've been unable to finish? Did the play calling change? Did the intensity change? Why?
A: I don't know, man. I think it's a mixture of a lot of things. I definitely think it's a mixture of a lot of things. I don't think it's really anything that I want to, no disrespect, speak out loud about.
Q: Do you think there's something to different groups of players and guys being able to win? Is there something to that? Is it something that a group needs to figure out? If that's the case, then how have you done it in the past?
A: I think everybody knows how to win because we've been in this game for so long. We've all had success at different points in our careers. It is something to be said about a team that can go to the very end of the wire and consistently be consistent all the way down until the end. The teams that continue to do that are the teams that have the most success. Being consistent and believing that this is the last play of the drive, believing that it's three-and-out. I'm not saying that it's anything that this team lacks or this defense lacks, but it is something to be said about those teams that just regardless of what the offense does… we're on the field, we're here to stop them. That's just that.
Q: We talked about communication. You guys are in the same meeting room, you're all learning the same things, but yet it doesn't translate over to the field. Is there anything to be said about the fact that injuries are taking guys in and out of the lineup to where you can't develop that cohesiveness?
A: I don't know. This is football. I don't really put too much into… it obviously hurts when you lose players, that's a fact. It hurts when you lose players but (we) are pros so everybody should be studying on their own, everybody should be understanding what the purpose of the defense is and all of those things. In this game, you don't always get a healthy person next to you or in front of you or in back of you all the time. We learn to adjust, we learn to go on a whim or whatever we have, but we have to believe and have to know that the next man up is going to be the man that's ready.
Q: Would you say that the defense has lost its swagger at this point?
A: I wouldn't say the defense has lost its swagger.
Q: Why not?
A: I just wouldn't say it. You asked me what I would say and I said I wouldn't say it.
Q: Even after all you guys have been through?
A: People go through tough times all the time. Would you say that the defense lost its swagger in those first three quarters? Re: No.
A: So we're speaking the same language then. The defense needs to finish. This is a good defense, man. I'm telling you, man, there are talented players on this team and people are in position to make plays. We have to finish the plays and we have to finish the drives and we have to finish the quarters. We just have to finish and finish isn't so simple, it's something that definitely takes concentration and focus and that's what we have to do. For these four games, we just have to find a way to completely finish.
Q: Did anything about Blake Bortles on those options on that last drive, did any of that catch you guys off guard at all?
A: I would say it kind of did catch us off guard. It kind of did, kind of didn't. It was an option that they could do it and it was an option that they couldn't do it. It kind of was more of a passing situation but Bortles, we saw him do it in a game, so I can't really say it caught us off guard. We were prepared for it, we just weren't in position both of the times.
Q: The play calls were there to put you guys in position, it was just a case of somebody missing an assignment on those runs?
A: We didn't execute. I don't have anything for that one.
Q: On kind of an unrelated note, you're being honored tonight by the Salvation Army for your work that you do with them. Can you talk a little bit about them?
A: It's definitely an extreme honor for me to be blessed to be in the company of so many great people. The Salvation Army, they wanted to honor me for my community work and it's something that will be going on tonight. I'm really excited. Everything that I do within the community isn't something that I do for people to pat me on the back for or anything, so it's a good time to be able to just sit back and to be thankful for the people that are thankful for me. To get something like that out of it, it's extremely… it's out of nowhere to me. It's not even anything that I expected, so it's going to be a great honor. A lot of my family is coming down for it.