Giants QB Eli Manning addresses the media on January 30, 2008. Photo by Keith Nordstrom.
CHANDLER, Ariz., One of the main reasons for the Giants late-season surge is the play of quarterbackEli Manning. Manning's numbers aren't going to blow anyone away but the only number Giants fans care about is; zero. That's how many interceptions Manning has in the playoffs, after throwing 20 during the regular season.
"You always keep your confidence up," Manning said about the criticism he received earlier in the year. "In this town it's always what have you done for me lately? You have to ignore it and you can't buy into what's being said."
Manning went from a guy who didn't perform well under pressure to winning three playoff games on the road. It all goes back to the first time the Giants played the Patriots. In that game, Manning had one of his best performances of the season, throwing for 251 yards and four touchdowns.
"I think Eli gained a lot of confidence from that game," tight end Kevin Boss said. "He has always been confident and we've always believed in him but after that game the entire team started to really come together."
Tom Brady said at his press conference that he and Manning have become friends over the last couple of years. When Manning addressed the media, he agreed with the NFL's Most Valuable Player.
"I met Tom the past couple of years and he's always been very nice to me," Manning said. "He's fun to be around. I'll text message him from time to time. All of us quarterbacks, we're kind of like a fraternity."
One quarterback Eli is particularly close to is his older brother Peyton. The elder Manning knows a thing or two about playing against a Bill Belichick defense. Not surprisingly, Eli called his big brother for some advice on how to approach playing the Patriots.
"Peyton and I, we play two different styles of offense," Manning said. "I called before the first time we played the Patriots and all he really said was the more film you can watch on them, you can get a pretty good feel for what they do. They don't change it up all that much. They kind of do what they do and they don't make many mistakes. They have veteran guys and smart players. They'll try something new, I'm sure, but a lot of it is they just play sound defense."
Peyton beat the Patriots last season on his way to winning his first Super Bowl title. Now Eli is hoping to do the same this Sunday and follow in his brother's footsteps. But in order to beat the Patriots, Manning will have to continue to do what he's done all postseason.
"Not throw the ball to the other team," he said regarding the secret to his playoff success. "It's pretty simple."
Men in black
The Giants players all wore black suits to Arizona. It's believed they all donned black as a sign of team unity but word broke that the color was chose because the Giants players were mourning the death of the Patriots dynasty. On Wednesday, some of the players offered differing opinions on the subject:
LB Kawika Mitchell: "Yeah, that's one way to put it. I think black lets you know that we're here for business, that we're here for a reason. We're not here for a celebration. There's nothing to celebrate yet. I've been wearing the black everyday this week. It's really just a mindset for me. It's all business and that's why I'm here. I'm not here to party, I'm not here to play around. I'm here to win the game."
S James Butler: "No, that's not true (laughing). It's all about team unity. The guys felt like we all wanted to be in black to make a statement. And we were looking real clean in our all black too. It's all for unity. It has nothing to do with the New England Patriots. It's all about us."
LB Reggie Torbor: "Where did you get that from? We just wore all black because we're going to a special occasion. We wanted to wear the proper attire so that's why we wore the all black. It's going to be a celebration Sunday."
LB Gerris Wilkinson: "I didn't know that's what it was for. I thought it was because everyone wanted to come here with the same look. It just shows that everyone is on the same page. Black is a strong color, so it's just a sign of team unity. If we win we'll probably come back the same way we came and put the black back on."
KR Domenik Hixon: "Where did you get that from? We just wore all black because we're going to a special occasion. We wanted to wear the proper attire so that's why we wore the all black. It's going to be a celebration Sunday."
--Hixon – who has become a dangerous kickoff returner for the Giants - was asked if he could some day be the Wes Welker of the Giants offense.
"I don't know about that," Hixon said. "He does a heck of a job. Wes is a great football player. I don't deserve to be mentioned with him at this point."
--Giants fullback Reuben Droughns compared the Patriots defense this season to that of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens offense.
"They don't make mistakes defensively," Droughns said. "I think the Patriots are like, if I can reflect to a different team, I would say the Baltimore team. It's just opposite roles this time where the offense is really the strong point and the defense just tries to not make mistakes. When the Ravens won the Super Bowl back in 2000, their defense was great but the offense went out there to not make mistakes. That's what the Patriots defense is. They're just going out there trying to not make mistakes and let the offense do its job."
Droughns did have high praise for the senior member of New England's defense. When asked if Rodney Harrison was the key to what the Patriots do defensively, Droughns replied, "I think Harrison is an aggressive player but in my eyes, Junior Seau is the key to the defense. He's the guy the other players really look up to and respect around that locker room. I think he's definitely the key to their success."
--Giants defensive end Justin Tuck became the latest player to make a guarantee before playing the Patriots. But in this case, the only thing that's a guarantee is Tuck's prediction for the game will come true.
"If you want a guarantee, I'll give you a guarantee," Tuck said. "I guarantee either the New England Patriots or New York Giants are going to win the Super Bowl on Sunday."