Stumbling Giants must turn it around in a hurry
Two weeks into the season and this New York football team is a complete mess, with the quarterback turning the ball over at an alarming rate, the defense being pushed around and the coach searching for answers.
Who ever thought it would be the Giants and not the Jets?
The 0-2 Giants can't do much of anything right, and who knows when things might turn around? Or even if they will? After a demoralizing 36-31 loss to the Cowboys in a turnover-filled opener, they looked even worse Sunday in the Manning Bowl. Peyton's Broncos walloped them, 41-23, forcing younger sibling Eli into an unsightly four interceptions. That's already seven for the season, the most in a two-game span in Eli's career.
Tom Coughlin's subdued demeanor seemed out of character. "I can stand up here and be fiery if that's what you want,'' he said. "I have a little bit of a hole in my stomach, too. I'm greatly disappointed. What can I tell you?''
About the only consolation Coughlin could offer his players was that it isn't the first time the Giants have been 0-2 on his watch. The other time was in 2007, when they ended up making a stunning Super Bowl run. But right now, the Giants look as if they'd struggle to beat the Jets.
"I'm not trying to make any comparisons to years,'' a subdued Eli Manning said after losing for a third time to big brother Peyton. "You can look at it the same, but you have to find a way to play better.''
Coughlin brought up 2007 in the locker room, but with so few players left from that team, it might not have resonated the way the coach had hoped.
"We have to be focused on what this team's about,'' said defensive end Justin Tuck, one of a handful of holdovers from 2007. "We need to do the extra work in the film room, if someone isn't playing to their ability, get in their face and tell them they need to step up. That's what this is about. That's what we did in '07. That's what we have to do going forward.''
There's really no excuse for how poorly the Giants are playing. Their personnel matches up with most teams, and they have shown flashes of being an elite team in both games. Despite three interceptions against Dallas, Eli nearly pulled off a stunning second-half comeback. And the Broncos were up only 17-16 in the third quarter before their lead quickly mushroomed.
Unless the Giants quickly transform themselves into a more efficient operation in all three phases -- even special teams gave up a punt-return TD Sunday -- this season threatens to spin out of control early. Fortunately, they still have plenty of time to rectify their mistakes. And at least they didn't fall any further behind in the division, because Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington all lost.
We've seen these NFL seasons with all their twists and turns, and there are many more chapters ahead. But something has to turn around before long. Especially with a schedule that doesn't get much more forgiving.
The Giants play an equally desperate Carolina team, also 0-2, next week, and then it's Philly at home, Chicago on the road, Minnesota at home and at the Eagles before the bye week.
There's a lot of work ahead, especially for the quarterback. Manning usually has been the one constant the Giants have relied on, but two bad games into the season, he's now a potential liability. There's little room for error, and he knows it. Which is why this game hurt so badly, and not because it was against his brother.
"It's team-related,'' Eli said when asked if it was more disappointing to lose to Peyton. "You want to go out there and play well, so you're frustrated that you lost another game.''
Can the Giants turn it around?
"We'll have to see what kind of team we have,'' guard Chris Snee said, "what kind of fight we have.''
We'll find out soon enough if this could be 2007 all over again. Or more of the same from a team that has missed the playoffs three of the last four years.