EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's been a tough week for New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who's taken a public beating for the mental errors he made at the end of Sunday's season-opening loss against the Dallas Cowboys. But within the walls of the Giants' locker room, Manning's support remains strong.
"Through thick and thin, we're going to be behind Eli," Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said Wednesday. "He's going to lead us and we're all going to follow."
Manning told running back Rashad Jennings not to score on two straight plays near the goal line with the Giants up three points in the final two minutes Sunday. He admitted he lost track of the number of timeouts the Cowboys had and wanted to run as much time off the clock as possible. Then, counterintuitively, he threw an incomplete pass on third down, stopping the clock, setting up a field goal and leaving the Cowboys enough time to drive for the winning touchdown.
As a result, the early part of the week has been fraught with apology and explanation, with Manning stepping forward to shoulder the blame for the loss.
"He's the quarterback," Beckham said. "He's the top guy. He's going to get the credit for the win, he's going to get the credit for the loss. But it shows tremendous character on his part, even though you can't sit there and let him accept all the blame. You win together, you lose together."
Jennings revealed after the game that he was told not to score on the first-down and second-down plays on the final series. Manning admitted Monday that it was him who told Jennings that and apologized for doing so without the coaches' permission or knowledge. Jennings felt so bad about speaking up that he wrote a public apology to Manning in Wednesday's New York Post -- the same paper that Tuesday ran a photo illustration of Manning in a Giants helmet shaped like a dunce cap with the headline "$84 Million Dope," in reference to the contract extension he signed last week.
"Rashad didn't do anything wrong," Manning said Wednesday. "We chatted, we moved on, we've learned from it."
So the talk Wednesday was about moving on and focusing on Sunday's home game against the Atlanta Falcons. Coach Tom Coughlin even borrowed a line from Bill Belichick when he was asked about whether he'd spoken to individuals involved in the controversy.
"We've had the conversations," Coughlin said, "and we're on to Atlanta."
Manning insisted somewhat unconvincingly that he hadn't seen Tuesday's tabloid covers: "I missed it. I didn't look much at newspapers yesterday. I figured they might be coming after me."
And he said he and the team would have no problem putting the issues of Sunday and Monday behind them.
"You go on, and you play the next game," Manning said. "Do my job, go out there and play well, and we'll be fine. Anytime you lose a game, it's tough. You never want to disappoint anybody or feel you let down your team, but you bounce back and you get the next game. I'm over it. We've moved on."