The New York Giants’ recent play gave reason to believe that the team needed some time to rediscover its identity.
After rattling off four consecutive victories in the month of October, the Giants’ momentum skidded to a halt with consecutive losses to the AFC North’s Pittsburgh Steelers (24-20) and Cincinnati Bengals (31-13).
Eli Manning’s high-octane offense reached its apex last month, and averaged 30.7 points per game last month, but failed to surpass the 20-point mark in the team’s most recent pair of failures.
Both the Dallas Cowboys (23-20 over the Cleveland Browns) and Washington Redskins (31-6 over the Philadelphia Eagles) were able to close the Giants’ division lead bye a half-game. Much to the chagrin of their head coach, the Giants’ 2.5-game lead atop the division has dwindled to a mere one-game advantage.
The Giants are looking to avoid their perennial second-half swoon, an issue that has plagued the franchise since Coughlin took the reigns in 2004. Year after year, no matter what the supporting cast, the Giants get out of the gate hot but stumble over the final eight games.
Last season, Big Blue posted a 6-2 record in the first half before going 3-5 over the final eight games to squeak into the playoffs by the narrowest of margins, punctuated by a dominant 31-13 win over the Cowboys in the last game of the year.
Giants blog Big Blue View provided a statistic that gives fans a reason to panic: “The Giants are now 1-8 under Coughlin in Week 9 and 13-19 during the month of November. Five of those November victories came in 2008, when they followed up with a 1-3 December.”
Fortunately for the Giants, the month of November is coming to a close.
The final game on the team’s November slate will come against the Green Bay Packers next Sunday at 8:25 p.m.
Mike McCarthy’s Packers struggled at the beginning of the 2012 NFL campaign, playing their first five games to the tune of a disappointing 2-3 record, but one of the NFL’s most storied organizations has bounced back with five straight wins.
One of the main reason for Green Bay’s recent dominance has been the impeccable play of Pro-Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers. In his team’s last five games, the 28-year-old University of California product has thrown 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions while accumulating an average quarterback rating of 113.
While the Packers have been lifted by the impeccable play of the man under center, the Giants have been dragged down by their own—at least that’s what Coughlin believes.
Coughlin’s post-game press conference after the team’s loss to the Bengals must have made Manning cringe. The two are forever linked to one another by virtue of their two Super Bowl championships, but the head coach didn’t speak highly of his field general.
He had this to say about a particular play that resulted in an ugly interception (via ESPN): “That was terrible. He’d be the first one to tell you that. That was so foolish to try to make a play there. The one guy has got his shirt. … Just go down and take care of the ball and let us have another snap. Just take care of the football.”
The criticism was well deserved, as Manning has resorted to his pre-2007-Super Bowl form in which poor decision making and constant lame ducks out to his receivers raised much doubt as to whether he was an NFL-caliber quarterback.
Manning dispelled those early career grumblings in 2007, but the box scores of his last two games are mirror images to some of his darkest performances. A combined stat line of 39-for-70 for 340 yards, zero touchdowns, three picks and a 48.6 quarterback rating won’t get the team anywhere, especially given the gauntlet of teams it has to run over the final month of the regular season.
However, Coughlin believes that Eli has shown improvement during the bye week. According to Jorge Castillo of the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Coughlin said of his quarterback, “We’ve been down this road before. He’s going to get this thing right, get our offensive team going again and get us on track. I fully believe that and have great confidence in his ability to do that.”
Now that Coughlin has expressed his faith in his most important player for the upcoming tilt, the rest of the Giants community can do the same. But if Manning fails to answer the call, the Giants will be exactly where they don’t want to be heading into their most crucial stretch of games.