After the Giants dismantled San Francisco about a month ago, it looked as if Big Blue was on top of the world.
The defense was beginning to play like — well, the Giants defense. Eli Manning and Ahmad Bradshaw were putting up big numbers. And they showed they could get up, emotionally, for big-time games.
From Oct. 7-Oct. 28, the Giants reeled off four straight wins, and the last two were not convincing.
Take the Redskins game — Manning had to throw a 77-yard strike to Victor Cruz in the final minutes to rally back. Sure, the positive is Manning displayed poise, but as a team they were down in the fourth quarter against a really porous defense.
Then there was Dallas, where Big Blue surrendered a 23-point lead, an again had to rally in the final quarter. Defensively, despite picking off Tony Romo four times he threw for more than 400 yards. On offense, Bradshaw and Andre Brown couldn’t surpass the 100-yard mark. And a “non-slumping” Manning had a pedestrian 15 completions for 192 yards and a pick.
Enter Sunday, another highly emotional game given the state of New York and New Jersey, and the Giants stalled in the fourth quarter. The defense looked confused trying to solve the Steelers’ running game and short-passing attack. Offensively, the Giants couldn’t stay on the field for more than a handful of plays. The result was a Big Ben rally in the fourth in a very winnable game.
Fast forward to now. At 6-3 and first in the NFC East, the Giants have seven games remaining on their schedule. Beginning with Cincinnati on Sunday, their combined record is 32-26 and features five playoff teams from a year ago.
In addition, the Giants travel to Cincy, where the slumping Bengals kept it close with Peyton Manning’s Broncos last week. They head to the nation’s capital in rematch with RGIII. And in back-to-back weeks they head to Atlanta, where the Falcons are undefeated and overwhelmingly difficult to beat, and Baltimore, where the Ravens too are unbeaten at home.
Now add in this: Despite two Super Bowl titles in the past five years, head coach Tom Coughlin owns a 13-20 record in November and 27-38 in the second halves of the year.
However, I am not a big believer in certain historical stats like that. For instance, the stat that shows how awful Romo is in October v. November, to me, is bull. And I don’t think the date on the calendar is suggestive of the type of player he is.
This stat is a bit different — in the sense that this does not come down to a date or month — but still, I believe it something not pertinent each year.
In the Super Bowl years: 2011 — Giants won three of their final four into the post-season. 2008 — Giants won three of their last five.
My sense is that if the Giants play up to their full potential, they can pull off a similar feat this year.
After the bye week, Washington, New Orleans and Philadelphia are certainly winnable games. Honestly, so is Atlanta, because despite a perfect record there are obvious flaws in their game. And the same goes for Baltimore, who struggled last week v. Cleveland.
It comes down to whether the Giants can correct their glaring issues. Will Manning snap out of his “funk?” It would require Hakeem Nicks to make an appearance sooner or later. Returning to a steady running attack would help.
On defense, there has to be a stronger focus on the run. They’ve also been exploited in the secondary in recent games.
Fixable problems — I think so. We’ll see.
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