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Manning sees room for champion Giants to improve

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The New York Giants will head into next season with the goal of getting better, not winning another Super Bowl, quarterback Eli Manning said Tuesday.

"We've said we're not going to talk about repeating or doing that, just becoming a better team," he said. "We have a lot of work to do. You look at a lot of things from last year that we did not do well. From an offensive standpoint, there's a lot of things."

Manning spoke before a crowd of about 1,000 people attending a College Football Hall of Fame luncheon. He answered questions about New York's Super Bowl-winning season, his college career at Mississippi and growing up the younger brother of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and the son of former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning.

Manning said the focus for the Giants this season is to find a way to learn from last season, when they turned around their season with a six-game winning streak after losing their first two contests.

"Last year we got where we were by playing our best football at the end of the season," he said. "We're trying to hold that for a whole season now, week in and week out that we're playing at our best."

Manning compared the Giants beating the unbeaten New England Patriots in the Super Bowl to the U.S. hockey team winning the gold medal in the 1980 Olympics. The U.S. team lost to the Soviet Union in exhibition games before beating them in the Olympics, just as the Giants lost 38-35 to the Patriots in the regular-season finale.

"We knew we could run up and down the field with them," he said. "We knew the game before we had chances to win that game, so we were very confident going into that game."

A key play came on a third-and-five from the New York 44 with 1:15 left when Manning avoided getting sacked and threw a 32-yard pass that David Tyree caught on his helmet.

"My linemen are actually taking credit for that play now. They said if they didn't miss their blocks, 'then you never would have been grabbed and you wouldn't have thrown it to Tyree,'" Manning said. "That's how linemen think. Now they want extra gifts, extra meals because they feel it was all their doing that we won that game."

Manning also said that on the Friday before the Super Bowl, Tyree had "the worst practice in NFL history."

"I've actually went back to watch the practice on film to see the exact stats of what he had. I threw him nine passes that day, he dropped seven of them," Manning said.

Manning also gave some good-natured ribbing to his brother, Peyton, who led Indianapolis to a Super Bowl title a year earlier.

Commenting on media coverage when the Giants played the Colts and some in the media dubbed it the Manning Bowl, he said: "I wish Peyton was playing defense for the Colts. That would be a great advantage for me. If I looked over and I saw Peyton on Plaxico Burress, I'd guarantee where I'm going. He runs a 5.4 40."

He also got a jab in at his father Archie, who is chairman of the National Football Foundation, which oversees the College Football Hall of Fame. He said he didn't want to follow in his brother's footsteps at Tennessee and initially had the same feeling about following his father at Ole Miss.

"I was a little nervous at first, then I saw his stats and they really weren't that impressive," Manning said. "He threw a lot of interceptions."

Although Manning said the Giants aren't focused on winning the Super Bowl, he did admit there was one goal he has for the season: "As long as we keep the Super Bowl Trophy in the family, we're fine with that," he said.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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