By Ernie Palladino
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It occurs every year, it seems. The Giants start off hot, and then turn utterly human in the second half of the season.
It’s happening again, only it may be even worse this time. In a 31-13 loss to the eminently beatable Bengals, Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning and the defense turned into — gulp — the Jets.
Not that Rex Ryan and his crew had anything to smile about in their 28-7 loss to the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, but even the most wild-eyed Gang Green fan had to have known where their season was headed, anyway. The Giants were supposed to rebound mightily Sunday after taking that 24-20 setback to a good Steelers squad last week. They were supposed to have this bye week to feel good about how this year might be different from years past, where big first-half leads evaporated to turn final stretches into nail-biters instead of playoff coronations.
So what did they hand us?
Garbage offense, as the line couldn’t keep a defense off their quarterback. The Bengals didn’t get within sniffing distance of Denver’s Peyton Manning one game ago, and yet sacked younger brother Eli four times. That’s not to mention the numerous early and plain, bad, defense-influenced throws that left Manning with 215 passing yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Oh, and for those keeping score, he hasn’t thrown a TD pass in three games, since Oct. 21 against Washington. Victor Cruz didn’t help by dropping one Sunday.
Defense? More garbage. Andy Dalton threw four touchdown passes, all to different receivers. Not that he didn’t have time to pick and choose, what with the Giants reverting to their sack-poor ways of the early season. Sacks are one thing, but they didn’t get enough pressure to force an interception, either.
The ground game netted 129 yards; respectable enough, but of small consolation, especially after Ahmad Bradshaw coughed up the ball on the Bengals’ 14 when it was still a game in the first half. And let’s not forget that Andre Brown didn’t score his touchdown until 2:46 remained in the rout.
It all sounds rather Jets-like, doesn’t it? The fact that the Giants are still 6-4, still atop the NFC East, won’t hide the fact that they have now lost two straight. They’ve let one get away and turned out a real clunker in a second one. Remember, that’s all it takes to turn varsity into JV — read that Jets, in this case — in this fast-moving era.
Perhaps the bye comes at an opportune time for Tom Coughlin and his group. Manning says his arm isn’t tired. But the stats — one touchdown and six interceptions in his last five games — appear pretty fatiguing compared to the 11 scores against five picks over the first five.
And maybe, just maybe, that defense could use a rest, too.
“Ten games, that’s a lot of games in a row,” Manning said afterward. “It will be good to get a little break and everybody rest up our bodies, rest up our minds a little bit.”
Rest indeed. This was some exhausting week for New York professional football. It was a week where neither starter threw a touchdown pass, a week where the lines of distinction between Eli Manning and Mark Sanchez blurred after being so clear a few, short weeks ago.
Perhaps the Giants will come back stronger after this bye. If they beat Green Bay the night of Nov. 25, bet that they’ll red-line themselves right into the postseason.
If not, well, their fans will have to set themselves to nail whittling once again. Those losses catch up with the wins awfully fast.
The latter would certainly be preferable. After all, uniform colors aside, who really wants to watch the Jets anymore than they already have to?
Are you confident the G-Men will turn things around? Be heard in the comments below…