Big Blue sustained a second consecutive loss on Sunday, falling to the Bengals 31-13. An overall sense of lethargy appeared to plague the Giants, leading to a number of turnovers and miscues.
The Giants turned the ball over four times, with quarterback Eli Manning responsible for three of the four turnovers. More concerning, this is Manning’s third straight game without a single touch-down pass, the longest drought of his career. He threw for only 215 yards on Sunday, which coupled with the three interceptions and zero touch-down passes make for some depressing statistics.
The defense wasn’t much better. Bengals QB, Andy Dalton, has thrown at least one interception in every game this season. The Giants weren’t able to capitalize on any of Dalton’s errors and didn’t post a single interception. Dalton finished the game throwing for 199 yards and four touch-down passes.
Poor play coupled with a few critical (and unusual errors), such as Cruz’s drop of an assured touch-down pass, resulted in the beating the Giants took at the hands of the Bengals.
While Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin stated today that he witnessed some positive signs on the field, for many Giants fans it appears the team is slipping straight back into its annual November slump. Since 2004, when this dreaded “November slump” started, every year around this time, you can hear a collective groan from Giants’ fans across the country as Big Blue loses one game, then two, then three, and in the worst seasons four or five games, and is suddenly faced with a do-or-die moment late in the season.
This team teases its fans with a strong first half of the season, going 6-2 for six of the past nine seasons in the first eight games. Fantastic! Giants fans think, this year it won’t come down to the wire, we’ll seal a play-off berth easily! But then November hits, and suddenly the Giants can’t seem to find a way to win. They practically hand their opponents games (as evidenced on Sunday against the Bengals, who until they defeated the Giants, were on a four game losing streak), here, take it! We don’t want to win!
Eventually, the Giants lose enough games that they wipe out the safety net built up earlier in the season. Prior to losing to the Steelers last Sunday, the Giants were handily dominating the NFC East. Philly was mired in coaching drama and already “playing for next season”. Jerry Jones’ Cowboys were 3-5 and unable to pull off a win despite their desperation situation. And the Redskins were a non-factor. Now with back-to-back losses and a Cowboys win over Philly on Sunday, suddenly the Giants don’t look so comfortable atop the NFC East. If the Cowboys get hot, this could become another season that comes down to the wire as it did last year.
The one comfort for Giants’ fans is, of course, that despite the long-standing “November slump” the Giants have managed to claw their way out of the deep hole they dig and win Super Bowls. Not Super Bowl. Super Bowls. In 2007, the Giants started out 6-2, then went 4-4 in the second half of the season. By nothing short of a miracle they scrambled into the playoffs and put together one win after another, culminating in the greatest of all miracles, defeating the undefeated Patriots. Last year, the team again went 6-2, before slipping to 3-5. They spanked the Cowboys in a must-win game to secure a play-off spot and again used the momentum to push all the way to the Super Bowl and defeat the Patriots.
As many, many players, commentators, fans, and random passers-by have previously noted, the Giants love to be underdogs. The always seem to play their best football in panic, must-win situations. So, like Giants’ fans everywhere, I’m trying to take comfort in that plain and simple fact. The Giants will use the bye week to get themselves together and while they might lose another game or two, I still expect this team to win the NFC East and head into the play-offs.