Is it another November fall for the Giants?
Bob GlauberBob Glauber
Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He
The evidence is irrefutable, borne out by the dismal numbers that simply can't be ignored. For Tom Coughlin's Giants, November is the cruelest month.
Coughlin has been one of pro football's most successful coaches in September and October, but November has almost always signaled a change for the worse. Is Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Steelers the latest evidence of another impending swoon?
We're about to find out.
The subject is a touchy one around the Giants, especially in the wake of a dispiriting loss to the Steelers in which they blew a 20-10 fourth-quarter lead at home and Eli Manning's struggles continued.
Manning threw a game-winning 77-yard touchdown pass with 1:13 remaining against the Redskins in Week 7 and gathered himself in the fourth quarter to beat the Cowboys last week. But there were no late-game heroics against the Steelers, just another November loss that makes you wonder if this mystifying trend will continue.
Sunday's loss dropped the Giants to 13-20 in November since Coughlin took over as coach in 2004. In the ninth game of the season, his teams have gone 1-8. But Coughlin reminds skeptics that second-half slumps don't always end badly.
"I didn't see any problems at the end of last season," he said Monday. "You can talk about it all you want, 'Ohhh, the second half of the season.' I don't know what the numbers are. I'm not defending anything. I'm just telling you the facts are the facts."
The facts are that his Giants teams are 53-19 in the first half and 27-38 in the second. They're 48-17 in September-October and 32-40 in regular-season games after Halloween.
But here are some other facts: The 2011 Giants recovered from a 1-3 November to get into the playoffs on the final weekend of the regular season. And they went on a run to Coughlin's second Super Bowl championship.
Coughlin's message: Obsess all you want about what happens after the halfway mark of the season, but check out the record at the end.
Duly noted. But he needs to make sure his players don't dwell on the sins of the past; he must prevent this year's November performance from becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And yes, to one degree or another, it is in their heads. "You can't hide it. It's been there," Justin Tuck said. "I wish I could sit here and say this team is going to be different from that, but I can't tell the future. All I can tell is we're aware of it and we're trying our darndest to make sure it doesn't happen again."
The next indication of whether they can stave off another brutal November comes Sunday in Cincinnati, where the Giants visit a 3-5 Bengals team that has been alternately awful and promising this season.
"We're 6-3, OK?" Coughlin said. "We lost a football game we thought we could have won. But we've got to regroup, go forward, do a better job with preparation this week. Get our focus back, get our game back going."
Tuck insists it's too early to draw conclusions, and he's right about that. One loss to a strong Steelers team that ended a four-game winning streak isn't cause for pessimism. But an upcoming schedule that features the surging Packers at home after a bye, plus games against the Falcons, Ravens and Eagles, adds a sense of urgency to the situation.
"I don't think it's a trend yet," Tuck said. "We won four straight and our focus from [Sunday] night is to get back on the right track. Come back, watch the film, try to get the sour taste out of our mouths this week with a great week of practice and go out to Cincinnati and hopefully be able to get back on a winning track."
Manning, mired in a stretch of games in which inconsistency has been an issue, said he believes the team can right itself in a hurry.
And past November slumps?
"All you worry about is this year," he said. "You can't worry about what's happened last week or last year. We have to look at things hard, see what we need to fix up, but we have good character guys here and we'll get back to work and we'll do whatever it takes to get back to playing better football."
He hopes the better football comes back quickly. Otherwise, it's more November disappointment and self-doubt.