At 5-0, New York was buzzing. Are the Giants really that good? Could they beat the Saints in New Orleans and be in the driver’s seat for the NFC playoffs to get back to another Super Bowl?
At 5-1, after getting pummeled in New Orleans, the doubts crept in, but there was no huge cause for alarm yet.
At 5-2, giving a home game away to Arizona with careless mistakes, the suspicions grew stronger.
Now, at 5-3, getting blown out for the second time in three weeks on the road, against an NFC contender, the Giants might even be questioning themselves as to how good they really are.
Such is life in the NFL. Legitimate Super Bowl contender one month, great uncertainty if you can even make the playoffs the next month.
As bad as the Giants looked against the Saints and Cardinals, all would have been forgiven had they gone to Philadelphia, a place they’ve often played well in recent years, and won. After all, despite a couple of losses in a row, 6-2 and first place in the NFC East at the halfway point of the 2009 season, on pace to match last year’s 12-4 and NFC East division title would have still been just fine among the Giants and their fans.
Contrast that with losing 40-17 in Philadelphia on Sunday however, and what you’re left with is as big a disparity as the Giants’ good play in starting this season 5-0 and the their awful play in their three straight losses since.
Much like the loss in New Orleans, Sunday’s game, which was supposed to be a hard fought NFC East showdown, was over early for New York.
The Eagles jumped on the Giants fast. Three plays after the opening kickoff, fullback Leonard Weaver, from a small school called Carson-Newman College, filing in for star running back Brian Westbrook, ran up the middle, 41 yards for a touchdown, to put Philadelphia up 7-0, just 94 seconds into the game.
On the Giants’ first possession, Asante Samuel, who probably cost the New England Patriots the only 19-0 season in NFL history when he dropped what should have been a late interception on a ball thrown by Eli Manning in Super Bowl XLII, didn’t drop a Manning pass this time. Instead, Samuel intercepted Manning and returned the ball 37 yards to the Giants’ 10-yard line, setting up an eventual 17-yard touchdown pass from Eagles’ quarterback Donovan McNabb to tight end Brent Celek (PAT missed). And, just like that, it was 13-0, Eagles, just 3:45 into the game.
On Philadelphia’s third possession, New York allowed McNabb to direct the Eagles 72 yards on 15 plays in 6:47, to take a 16-0 lead on a 30-yard David Akers field goal 9 seconds into the second quarter.
The Giants tried to make it a game after that, forcing a punt on Philadelphia’s next possession, and then driving 89 yards on 8 plays in 6:58, cutting the Eagles’ lead to 16-7 on a Manning 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kevin Boss with 1:54 to go in the half.
But, then New York, just as it has since the beginning of its current losing streak, helped to give the game away.
The Giants allowed a kickoff return to the Eagles’ 46-yard line. McNabb needed just one play, a 64-yard strike for a touchdown to wide receiver DeSean Jackson with 1:38 left in the half, putting Philadelphia up 23-7.
Just two plays later, Manning threw his second interception, and the Giants were on their way to turning the ball over four times for the second consecutive week.
Philadelphia of course, quickly took advantage again, as McNabb needed only two plays to find rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on a 23-yard touchdown pass with 46 seconds left in the opening half.
30-7, Eagles. Game over.
The teams played even on the scoreboard in the second half as the Giants never got closer than 33-17 with 1:03 left in the third quarter before Eagles’ rookie running back LeSean McCoy closed the scoring on a 62-yard touchdown run 38 seconds into the fourth quarter.
In a span of just three weeks, the Giants’ season is suddenly crumbling, and it all adds up to this…
The Giants have gone:
– From 5-0 to 5-3.
– From first place to third place in the NFC East, now a half-game behind 5-2 Philadelphia and Dallas.
– From a fundamentally sound team to a mistake-filled, careless team.
– From a team with a balance offense to one with an offense that’s out of sync.
– From the league’s leading defense to one that’s very quickly become a laughing stock.
Is it time to jump off the bandwagon?
As history, even fairly recent history, teaches, no. Not yet, not with so much football still left this season. There is still plenty of time to fix what has gone wrong over the past three weeks, and the Giants possess the talent among their players and their coaching staff to get their season back on track.
Remember, in 2007, the Giants started 0-2, allowing 80 points over the first two weeks, and later looked absolutely dreadful and anything but a playoff team in a 41-17 home loss to Minnesota, before ultimately putting it all together with a lot of the same key pieces they have now, to win a Super Bowl title.
That said, with a tough second half schedule ahead, the time is now for the Giants to regain the form they started with in 2009. That second half begins next Sunday at 1pm EST, at home against San Diego (4-3).