By Ernie Palladino
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By the length of a finger joint, the Giants finished the first half appearing primed for a charge to another NFC East title.
That’s what a 6-2 record indicates, at least.
Ah, but wait. About the time Halloween and all those things that go bump in the night come around, something just as supernatural usually happens to Tom Coughlin’s fourth-quarter miracles. They turn human again.
In light of that, the 2012 season will turn quite interesting over the next eight games because of two important factors: the schedule and the history.
Let’s get historic first. This is the seventh time in Coughlin’s nine-year Giants career that his team has started 6-2 or better. In all those years, he has never had a losing first half. Never, in fact, has he ever had a .500 first half.
But then, something happens once the back end of the schedule arrives. They swoon. The mighty Giants invariably turn into some collection of sweet southern belles who faint at the sight of a door-mouse in the parlor.
They suddenly forget how to win games. Only twice, in 2005 and 2008, have they ever had a winning second half. They went 2-6 in ’06 after a 6-2 start, triggering a world-wide call for Coughlin’s head, among various other bodily parts. There was also a 1-7 collapse his first year, 2004, after a 5-3 start.
Add it up and it comes out to a cumulative 27-37 record after the eighth game, compared to a 47-17 first-half mark his first eight years.
So this Giants team is no stranger to second-half fallouts. It’s understandable, then, that Coughlin downplayed this start during his conference call with reporters Monday.
“There’s nobody looking at this than anything other than what it is,” Coughlin said. “We’re very happy to be 6-2. We have a long way to go. We have a lot of work to do to be the team we want to be.”
His men will undoubtedly say the same thing, whenever superstorm Sandy allows press and players to meet once again. They always do. But they always fall into the same trap of losing games they shouldn’t in the second half.
They barely made the playoffs last season after a 3-5 finish. One more win in 2010 would have given them 11 and a clear route to the postseason, instead of a 10-win non-playoff campaign.
So what of this year? They just received the break of breaks when the refs rightfully overturned Dez Bryant’s acrobatic catch on the end line in the final 10 seconds. The immediate reaction might be to think an emotional moment like that should propel this team into an NFC East coronation, as opposed to a divisional competition, in the second half.
After all, Philadelphia is a mess. Dallas looks even worse. And Washington just isn’t ready to win anything yet.
The schedule will have something to say about the Giants’ future, however. Pittsburgh (4-3), Green Bay (5-3), currently undefeated Atlanta (7-0), and Baltimore (5-2) await, not to mention the faltering but always dangerous Drew Brees-led Saints. And then there are divisional matchups with Philadelphia and Washington remaining.
Those are always tough, regardless of current records.
Coughlin needn’t worry about his players’ mentality. They’ve been through these things too many times before to get complacent over a fast start. But the strong ending just never seems to happen. One way or the other, they always seem to be hanging on to postseason hopes, rather than marching straight into them.
Perhaps this year will be different.
As Coughlin likes to say, we’ll see.
Is this the year that Coughlin’s team dominates in the second half? Let us know in the comments below…