Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
If you want a true sense of just how mystifying and unsettling the Giants' collapse has been, consider this: After they were blown out a second straight week on the road against a playoff opponent, the man entrusted with figuring out exactly what's wrong with the defending Super Bowl champions had no earthly idea why this is happening.
Moments after the Giants succumbed to the Ravens, 33-14, to conclude an eight-day stretch in which his team was outscored 67-14, Tom Coughlin stood before reporters and figuratively threw up his hands in trying to explain away the embarrassment his team has become.
"What has happened over the course of the last couple of weeks is very difficult to explain," he said. "We have a resounding [52-27] win over New Orleans [Dec. 9] and felt real good about ourselves. And then I have no explanation as to why we're in the position we're in."
And there you have it.
Two weeks of utterly atrocious play by the same team that held the Vince Lombardi Trophy aloft in February, and Coughlin can't properly assign the underlying reasons because he's just as shocked as anyone coaching, watching or playing these games.
Complacency? "Not at all," Mathias Kiwanuka said. "This is a new team. You only have this one chance a year. For as much blood, sweat and tears as we put in, we didn't get it done."
A letdown after such an emotional run through last year's playoffs and a 6-2 start this season? "I can only speak for myself and say absolutely not," safety Antrel Rolle said. "I can't speak for everyone else, but there's obviously something missing because this is not who we are. This is not our team."
Ah, but it is his team. For as impressive as the Giants have looked in dispatching elite teams such as San Francisco and Green Bay, their shocking ineptitude against the Falcons and Ravens has left them on the verge of playoff elimination. Only a win over the Eagles next week, plus plenty of help, will allow them to sneak into the tournament at 9-7.
That's the same record that got them into last year's playoffs -- it was good enough to win the NFC East -- but the Giants were a vastly different team at this point in the year.
"When it happened for us last year, this particular game, the 15th game, we had a spark," Coughlin said. "You want to say it was the Victor Cruz 99-yarder [against the Jets]? Whatever it was, it really invigorated our team."
But this time, faced with a nearly identical circumstance, the Giants performed as woefully as they had the week before in a 34-0 loss to the Falcons, the first regular-season shutout of the Coughlin-Eli Manning era.
The Ravens, who'd been having horrific offensive problems in the five games leading up to Sunday -- they fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron two weeks ago -- looked like a machine against the Giants. Joe Flacco threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns, and Bernard Pierce and Ray Rice each ran for more than 100 yards.
And the Giants' offense was a no-show, with Manning throwing for 150 yards and the Giants rushing for 67.
At 8-7, there still is a mathematical chance for a playoff berth. But let's be real here: Even if the Giants sneak in by beating Philly and getting every break they need to qualify, this team is a one-and-done in January. And the way they're playing now, there's no guarantee they'll beat the 4-11 Eagles.
"We're not a very confident group right now," Coughlin said. "In any profession, you have to earn the confidence. We're certainly not doing that."
Just a stunning collapse to finish a season that began with so much hope. At 6-2, this looked like a legitimate chance for the first Super Bowl repeat in franchise history.
Instead, it has turned into one of their most shocking -- and inexplicable -- collapses for this or any other defending champ.