How low can these Giants go?

Giants quarterback Eli Manning stands on the sideline

Giants quarterback Eli Manning stands on the sideline during the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs. (Sept. 29, 2013) (Credit: AP)

A little less than 20 months ago, they were the best football team on the face of the Earth, having earned the right to hold the Vince Lombardi Trophy aloft for the second time in five seasons, filled with pride at an accomplishment reserved for only a handful of teams throughout NFL history.

Today?

Today, after a 31-7 loss to the Chiefs, the Giants are a burned-out husk of that team, still winless after four games, still unable to score points, still searching for answers.

At 0-4, they are as low as any Giants non-strike team since the 1979 version, which went six games before winning. But at least that team had an excuse, with first-year coach Ray Perkins trying to lift them out of more than a decade of futility before he took over.

This year's team still is stocked with enough players from the previous championship run after the 2011 season, and even a few holdovers from their 2007 Super Bowl title. So yes, this stretch will go down as one of the worst in franchise history, if only because there are too many good players on the roster for this to keep happening week after week.

"It's as low as you can get," said Justin Tuck, a veteran of the two championship teams. He is so befuddled by the record that he'll take advice from anyone. Even reporters standing around him.

"Y'all have been around football longer than me," Tuck said. "If y'all find some answers, let me know. I'm willing to try anything and everything."

The answers aren't there, and it's anyone's guess when -- or even if -- they will find enough of them to win a game. Up next is Philadelphia at home, followed by a Thursday night game in Chicago. There might not be a gimme left on the schedule, which means there figures to be plenty of misery ahead.

And plenty of changes heading into next season. As general manager Jerry Reese said from the start, "Everyone's on notice." After what we've seen, no one should feel safe.

Owner John Mara, whose formative years were spent watching the Giants in their worst epoch, from the mid-1960s through the late '70s, must be seething at what he's seeing from this team. And he'll be demanding answers unless there is an unexpected turnaround.

Does that mean he takes a look at whether Tom Coughlin has lost the team, which appears on track to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five years? Still too soon to know whether Mara will look to make a change there, but it certainly will be a topic for discussion as the losses mount.

"It feels like crap," Tuck said. "Every time you go out on the football field, you realize all the great ones that came before you, all the champs. It's hard walking into the locker room looking at your owner's face when you're 0-4. How do you think it feels?''

Tuck said Mara did not address the team after the game, and neither the owner nor Reese was available for interviews. But the two decision-makers must be thinking long and hard about how this thing will get fixed. And what kind of changes that will entail.

The script for these losses has taken on a sad consistency, with the defense mostly keeping the team competitive through the first three quarters, only to see the offense continually misfire. And then it's blowout city.

Even Sunday, this was a 10-7 game late in the third quarter when the Giants got what appeared to be a key first down at their 31. But after a replay challenge showed that Victor Cruz didn't quite make it to the first-down marker, the Chiefs turned the momentum on Dexter McCluster's 89-yard punt return for a touchdown.

How bad was it? As bad as two other season-defining punt-return touchdowns against the Giants by Brian Westbrook (2003) and DeSean Jackson (2010) of the Eagles. Both of them killers. Both of them with Andy Reid on the sideline. So Reid got to watch another returner crush the Giants' hopes with a late-game touchdown.

You can argue whether Coughlin should have gone for it on fourth-and-inches -- Cruz thought so, but the coach made the right call in playing the percentages in a one-score game, especially with his defense playing so well. Coughlin said afterward he'd have gone for it had the Giants not been so deep in their own territory.

After the return, it was over, leaving the Giants to wallow some more in their own misery.

It won't be the last time this season.

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