"That's where you want to be," Manning said after the game when asked about having been reinstated as the starting quarterback. "I wanna go out, be there with my teammates, try to get a win, be there for the fans and do my part. Hopefully, the coaches believe I gave us the best chance to win at quarterback."
In the end it really didn't matter though.
Manning, who took the field to a standing ovation from the crowd, finished his first game back from a one-week benching in favor of Geno Smith going 31 of 46 for 228 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. But he also was victimized by three dropped passes in the second half, balls that would have gone for first downs had they been reigned in.
If he was upset by being let down by his receivers, he sure wasn't letting on.
"I've got a lot of respect for our receivers," he said. "They work hard, they practice hard, they do everything we ask them to do. I understand, hey, drops are part of the game. They're running the right routes, hitting the right spots. (I) have confidence they'll make the next one and make plays for us and a couple of them made some outstanding plays for us."
While Manning said he was touched and appreciative of the crowd's warm welcome, especially when it started chanting his name during the first drive of the game, he was also full of remorse that the Giants sent the fans home unhappy.
"I appreciate it. I appreciate all the support the fans have given me for 14 years and these last weeks, especially. I appreciate them coming out today and cheering me on and cheering on the Giants. Sorry we couldn't get them a better game today," he said.
Smith, who began his NFL career in 2015 with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State, appeared in one game for the Seahawks before being waived and picked up by the Cowboys that same season.
Appearing in 17 games between 2015 and 2016, this year has been Smith's breakout season. In 13 games played, he's rushed for 209 yards on 46 carries with three touchdowns and has caught 13 passes for 158 yards and one touchdown.
Against the Giants, Smith finished with an impressive 160 all-purpose yards and contributed two touchdowns, one as a receiver and one as a runner as the Cowboys scored 27 unanswered points in a 30-10 win over the Giants.
"I didn't know that," Smith said when told of his impressive yardage total. "It felt good, it felt good. I'm really out there just being me. I'm not trying to do too much to tweak, nothing too special. Just out there playing my game and they gave me an opportunity and I'm definitely going to take full advantage of it."
Quarterback Dak Prescott, who has had to navigate these last five weeks without star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who has one game remaining on a 6-game league imposed suspension, said he was grateful for what Smith has brought to the offense.
"Yeah, I mean, we know Rod's talent and that's why we've pushed him and given him the ball so many times like we have in the run game, and in the pass game," Prescott said. "Yeah, he's great. Check downs, going to get first downs, obviously that play, making the big touchdown and in the run game he's been spectacular."