The only good news for the Giants on Sunday is they don't have to visit Cincinnati for another eight years.
Nothing seems to go right for the Giants when they visit southwestern Ohio. On Sunday, they fell to 0-6 in the Queen City with perhaps their worst loss they've had here, a 31-13 clunker in which they scored their only touchdown with 2:46 remaining, long after the outcome had been determined.
It was their second defeat in a row and left them with a 6-4 record heading into the bye. They return to action at home on November 25 vs. Green Bay.
The Bengals broke a four-game losing streak and improved to 4-5.
"The way we played (was) very disappointing," coach Tom Coughlin said. "I think we had four turnovers to their one, and just the fashion in which they took place, it was just unbelievable.
"I told the team that we certainly got into this mess together and we've got to find a way to get out of it together. I don't have anything I can really say I was pleased with. It certainly starts with me. I'm not pleased with the way that I prepared them and certainly the way that they played."
The Giants remain confident they will stop the slide and finish strong, as they did in 2011.
"I'm not worried," quarterback Eli Manning said. "Every year we have gone through stretches where we didn't play our best football and we were still able to bounce back. That's what is going on right now."
The Giants' offense continues to struggle, scoring a single touchdown for the third game in a row. All three of them have been on short runs by Andre Brown. Manning was intercepted twice and did not throw a touchdown pass for a third consecutive game, the first time that's happened since late in his rookie season in 2004. He was also sacked a season-high four times.
"Offensively, we're not playing our best, converting on third downs, or scoring in the red zone (where they twice settled for field goals in the first half)," Manning said. "We haven't made enough plays to keep the ball in our hands at all. I have to start playing better personally and we need to as a group as well. We still have good players and a good scheme. We just have to put it together better."
Coughlin said it's unfair to pin everything on Manning.
"He was under duress a lot today," Coughlin said. "I think he got — what, (they had) four sacks and another seven or eight hits on the quarterback today. The protection was not what you would want; it's a combination. Again, there were times when perhaps the protection was good and we were holding the ball a little bit longer (than usual) due to people not being open or whatever.
"I still believe that Eli will bounce back and will play the way that he has played (before) at a championship level," Coughlin said. "I certainly don't quite understand where we are and why — there certainly are contributing factors in terms of what we're doing. We've had some miscommunication in the last couple of games — not so much today — between our quarterback and receivers. We had very few plays that were down the field, and when we did go down the field, we had an opportunity to score there and it didn't happen. I think it's a combination of things and, certainly, we need to play better at all those positions (on offense)."
Second-year quarterback Andy Dalton threw four touchdown passes for the Bengals - 56 yards to A.J. Green and 11 yards to Andrew Hawkins in the first half and four yards to Jermaine Gresham and 10 yards to Mohamed Sanu in the second. Both of the later touchdowns followed Eli Manning interceptions. Mike Nugent kicked a 28-yard field goal for Cincinnati.
"(This was) a letdown," middle linebacker Chase Blackburn said. "Obviously, we didn't play well in all three phases. We turned the ball over too much. We gave up the early momentum on the touchdown, early in the game. That gave them some confidence. You can't do that against a team like this."
Lawrence Tynes kicked second-quarter field goals of 23 and 31 yards for the Giants before Brown scored his late touchdown.
"(The Giants' performance) is a little subpar from where we are used to," wide receiver Victor Cruz said. "I don't know how to explain it. I don't know what's going on or what's going wrong. It's just a matter of getting back to the drawing board and playing football."
One play by Cruz, or more accurately, one he didn't make, best epitomized the Giants' day. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Manning threw a perfect strike to Cruz, who dropped the ball at the goal line, negating what surely would have been a 38-yard touchdown.
"It was a long pass," said Cruz, who had little to celebrate on his 26th birthday. "I took my eye off of it at the last minute. As soon as I got my hand on it, someone reached in there and broke it up. I should have come down with it."
The game got away from the Giants in a disastrous third quarter in which the offense committed turnovers on three consecutive possessions, including the two Manning interceptions in Giants territory that the Bengals turned into touchdowns. It was the first time since Dec. 26, 2010 in Green Bay that the Giants both had three consecutive turnovers and Manning threw picks on back-to-back possessions.
Less than three minutes after an Ahmad Bradshaw fumble, Manning – while in the clutches of defensive tackle Geno Atkins – threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by another tackle, Pat Sims, who played his first game of the season after being activated off the reserve/physically unable to perform list.
Sims returned the ball three yards to the Giants' 12-yard line. Three plays later, on third-and-eight, Dalton threw to middle of the end zone for Gresham, whose score increased the lead to 24-6.
"I was trying to throw the ball away," Manning said. "I wasn't trying to force anything at all. The guy was pulling on me and I couldn't follow through. It was a mistake on my part and I know better, but I made a bad decision in the moment."
On the Giants' third play of their next series, Manning overthrew Martellus Bennett and the ball was intercepted by Nate Clements, who returned it 21 yards to the Giants' 16. Once again, the Bengals scored on third down as Sanu got a step in the end zone on Prince Amukamara and caught Dalton's fourth touchdown pass. That gave Cincinnati a 31-6 lead with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter.
"We didn't play well in any aspects of the game today - special teams, defense or offense," said defensive captain Justin Tuck. "We didn't deserve to win this game at all. That was a desperate team that was coming off four straight losses. They got healthy today and came out and took it to us."
Tynes' second field goal, with 11 seconds remaining in the second quarter, cut the Giants' halftime deficit to 17-6.
After the Bengals had increased their lead back to 14 points, the Giants drove 69 yards in 13 plays prior to the kick. The biggest was a 16-yard pass from Manning to Hakeem Nicks on fourth-and-six that advanced the ball to the Cincinnati 25-yard line. That was followed immediately by an 11-yard completion to Bennett.
But the Giants stalled in the green zone, a problem that has plagued them in recent games. Manning was sacked for a six-yard loss by Carlos Dunlap and Atkins on first down. A pass to Brown gained seven yards, but on third down, Bennett couldn't get his feet down inbounds after catching Manning's pass in the back of the end zone, forcing the Giants to settle for three points.
On the Bengals' previous possession, Hawkins had similarly failed to stay in-bounds when he caught a pass all alone on the right side of the end zone. Nugent then kicked a 28-yard field goal to complete a 15-play, 60-yard drive during which the Bengals held the ball for 7:46.
The game began poorly for the Giants, who trailed at the end of the first quarter, 14-3.
They won the coin toss for the seventh time in 10 games, but deferred taking the ball for the first time this season – then trailed five plays into the game.
"I really wanted the ball in the second half," Coughlin said. "To start (with) the ball in the second half, as there's quite a differential between the number of points we had scored in the second half and the number of points they had scored in the second half. I also wanted the wind - I thought we'd kick the ball out (of the back of the end zone), which we didn't do. I thought that if you looked at the numbers, with the exception of the (Denver) Broncos game, they hadn't really been much of a second half team scoring-wise. So I thought that would be an advantage for us."
Cincinnati took a 7-0 lead on Dalton's 56-yard pass to A.J. Green, who caught the ball at the 20 with Corey Webster the nearest Giant to him – seven yards away. It was the second-longest play allowed by the Giants this season. Green scored a touchdown in his eighth consecutive game.
Webster said the problem on the play was a miscommunication in the secondary.
"You can't have that against anybody that you are going against," Webster said. "Everybody gets paid in this league. Everybody is good. You can't have miscommunication. They are already a good team. We don't need to give them a 50-yarder to start. You can't have that. You have to have better communication — communicate every play. You have to be great communicators on the field, and we weren't."
The early portion of the game quickly deteriorated from bad to worse for the Giants. They tried the no-huddle on their first offensive series, but gained only five yards while going three-and-out. Steve Weatherford's punt bounced out of bounds at the Bengals' 14-yard line. But Justin Tryon was penalized for running out of bounds and returning to the field of play. It was the Giants' only penalty of the game, but it forced Weatherford to re-kick. This time, Adam Jones fielded the punt, took advantage of missed tackles by Brown and Michael Boley and returned the ball 68 yards before Weatherford tackled him at the Giants' 11-yard line.
It was the longest punt return by a Giants' opponent since Dallas' Dez Bryant had a 93-yarder on Oct. 25, 2010.
On third-and-10, Dalton threw to the right side for Hawkins, who got a step on Jayron Hosley and made a one-handed catch at the seven before stepping into the end zone for a 14-point lead just 4:07 into the game.
It was the Giants' second 14-0 deficit of the season; they fell behind two touchdowns early in their victory over Cleveland on Oct. 7. The Giants had last allowed two touchdowns that quickly at the start of the game on Nov. 1, 2009 at Philadelphia, where they gave up two in the first 3:45.
A takeaway helped the Giants get on the scoreboard for the first time. Their next possession ended with a Weatherford punt that was fielded by Brandon Tate, who was clobbered by Blackburn and fumbled. The ball was recovered by Will Hill on the Bengals' 27-yard line.
A 10-yard pass to Nicks helped advance the ball to the six, but Manning's pass to Ahmad Bradshaw on third-and-four gained only one yard. Tynes then came on to kick a 23-yard field goal to make it 14-3.
Dalton finished the first quarter with nine completions in 11 attempts for 120 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 151.7.
"We just didn't play our game today," Webster said. "We've got to go back to the drawing board and get better — continue to work on our craft as a team and, hopefully, get better after this bye week."