New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz fumbles the ball...

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz fumbles the ball as he is tackled by Seattle Seahawks defensive back Walter Thurmond during the fourth quarter. (Oct. 9, 2011) Credit: AP

Tom Coughlin used a lot of words to sum up the aftermath of Sunday's loss to the Seahawks. Terms like "miserable," "sloppiness" and "poor performance."

But the word that stood out in his news conference after the 36-25 defeat may have been "aberration." That's what Coughlin said he thought of this game in which the defense was gashed, the running offense could not get going and the team turned the ball over more times in one game than they had the previous four combined.

The question moving forward is which was the aberration and which was the real Giants? Was the lackluster play against Seattle just a hiccup, or were the three wins the previous three weeks the anomaly?

Maybe they were the same. There were plenty of warning flags in the wins. So what exactly was the aberration, other than the result?

The Giants do have a winning record, but the teams they have beaten this season have a combined record of 2-12. The Rams are still winless. The Eagles (1-4) are a talented team, but the luster of the Giants' win over them has come off a bit as they spiral. And the Giants needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the 1-4 Cardinals.

Perhaps those wins were the mirages, more indicative of opposing flaws than Giants supremacy.

Because along came the Seahawks, who were missing a starting cornerback and wide receiver, who lost their tight end and quarterback to injuries during the game, and who had their running back playing through a sprained ankle suffered on the second snap of the game. All they did was torch the Giants for 36 points after averaging 14.5 in their first four games and have backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst hit rookie Doug Baldwin -- the fifth receiver on the depth chart -- for the go-ahead score.

"I know [the problems] are correctable because we've corrected them each time, but we've reverted back for some reason," Mathias Kiwanuka said. "It's an unfortunate situation, but we were winning games even though we were making mistakes. And it caught up with us."

Things do not get easier for the Giants. In fact, they get decidedly more difficult. This week's home game against the Bills may have seemed like an automatic win when the schedule was released in the spring, but Buffalo has become a powerful team this season. They get the Dolphins after the bye, but November and December are filled with scary teams.

The top four offenses in the NFL right now -- New England, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Green Bay -- appear in a five-game stretch. The only team in the six-game span after the Dolphins that does not have a top-six offense is the 49ers. And they're 4-1, just hung 48 points on the Bucs, and have Alex Smith ranked third in passer rating behind only Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.

That's not to say all of those games are unwinnable. The Giants have already beaten the Eagles, a team and a win we discounted here just a few paragraphs ago. And they've certainly won games against the Patriots in the past when they were prohibitive long shots. But the Giants would be foolish to think that Sunday's loss was somehow bucking a trend, that it was an irregularity. They have to improve in all areas -- particularly the well-documented issues of running the ball and stopping the run -- if they want to look back on the loss to Seattle as a wake-up call, a turning point, or, as Coughlin called it, an aberration.

Because that team that played the Seahawks? Right now, that might be exactly who the Giants are.

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