LANDOVER, Md. - OK, just one question about the Giants' 45-12 blowout win over the Redskins Monday night: Where the heck was this the last two months?
The Giants played the kind of football we'd come to expect from a team not even two years removed from winning the Super Bowl. They obliterated a much-improved Redskins team that had beaten Denver and nearly upset the Saints, Eagles and Cowboys in recent weeks.
How good did the Giants look? As good as they've looked all season. Again, where was this the last two months?
If the Giants had summoned this kind of performance for even a few weeks during a run in which they lost six of their previous eight games, they wouldn't be as worried about their playoff fate as they are now. They'd be prepping for a postseason run and thinking about another Super Bowl run.
Instead, they're left to wonder whether Monday night's stunningly effective showing will be in vain. After all, even with the win, the Giants (8-6) are not assured of a playoff berth. They'll almost certainly have to beat Carolina at home and the Vikings on the road to even think about reaching the postseason. And even then, they'll need some help from either Dallas or Green Bay. Or perhaps the Eagles, although only a complete collapse would suffice there.
"We know we have a tough stretch,'' Eli Manning said. "Carolina is a tough team, and we know we have to keep going and we know we have to score points."
Does Manning think the Giants can get into the playoffs if they win out? "That's the only way you can go into it,'' he said. "We have to take care of our business and something's going to work out for us. If we win our games and play well, that's all we can concern ourselves with."
"If we can win these next two games, you've got to feel like 10 games should get you in,'' Shaun O'Hara said. "You hope, but you can only wait and see."
But at least the Giants know they're capable of playing the way they did earlier in the season, when they rang up a 5-0 record against mostly bottom-dwellers such as the Chiefs, Buccaneers and Raiders. Come to think of it, this game was reminiscent of their 44-7 romp over the Raiders in Week 5.
But that was the last time they enjoyed that kind of win; the ensuing two-month slide nearly knocked them out of playoff contention. The defense fell off a cliff, and so did the Giants.
After last week's pitiful effort against the Eagles, and after they watched the Cowboys upset the Saints on Saturday, the Giants' playoff destiny no longer rested in their own hands.
Fitting that they should play the Redskins on the road. After all, how many other times have we seen the Giants face difficult situations against their longtime NFC East rivals? Consider:
In 2006, the Giants were facing playoff elimination and Tom Coughlin's job was on the line when they visited the Redskins in the final week of the regular season. What happened? Tiki Barber had the game of a lifetime, rushing for a franchise-best 234 yards, and the Giants beat Washington, 34-28, to reach the playoffs and save Coughlin's job.
In 2007, the Giants came into FedEx Field at 0-2 after losing to the Cowboys and Packers and giving up 80 points in the process. One more loss, and who knows how the season would have ended up? The Giants didn't have to find out; they beat the Redskins, 24-17, the first of six straight wins. They went on to win Super Bowl XLII.
And last year, the Giants visited the Redskins the day after Plaxico Burress shot himself in a New York City nightclub. Still shocked about an incident that ultimately ended Burress' Giants career, they maintained their composure on the field and beat Washington, 23-7, to run their record to 11-1.
On Monday night, the desperation was just as palpable. Maybe even more so. And they responded just as they had the previous three years: with the kind of effort that makes them playoff-worthy.
"We didn't change anything. It's the same things,'' Osi Umenyiora said. "I've been in this league long enough to know that sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't. Everything just fell together today. Sometimes it falls for you and sometimes it doesn't."
Said Manning, "Offensively, we're in a pretty good rhythm right now. We're playing well. Even as well as we played last week, we got off to a poor start, spotting Philly 14 points. , we played outstanding all game."
This was as dominant a first-half performance as the Giants had put together since their 5-0 start. First drive: Manning moved the Giants 80 yards with a mix of mid-range passes, solid running and short catches turned into big gainers by Ahmad Bradshaw. Throw in a few bone-crushing runs by Brandon Jacobs, and the Giants were off to a 7-0 lead with a drive lasting nearly 10 minutes. It was capped by Bradshaw's 3-yard run.
Next drive, another touchdown, this one a 73-yarder that was finished off by another Bradshaw TD run to make it 14-0.
Next possession, a field-goal drive to make it 17-0. Next drive, another TD to make it 24-0 with 4:36 to play in the first half.
Too little too late?
We'll soon find out.