Kevin Gilbride was smiling, cordial and helpful during his meeting with reporters today, just as he is every week. But the Giants' offensive coordinator is not a happy camper.
Not after the way his unit performed in the last two games, a victory in Dallas and a loss at home to Pittsburgh. Put it this way: the Giants' defense scored as many touchdowns as the offense – two – in those games. The offense crossed the goal line only on a pair of Andre Brown one-yard touchdown runs.
Add to that some other numbers very uncharacteristic of Gilbride's offense – 24 total first downs (three by penalty) in those games, 182 yards gained last week, no touchdown passes in the last eight quarters – and it's easy to see why Gilbride is a little uneasy as the 6-3 Giants prepare to take on the 3-5 Bengals in Cincinnati.
"It wasn't something we expected to happen," Gilbride said. "We certainly appreciate the ability level of the two defenses we've played, but we thought and expected to perform a lot better than we did. Was it jarring? Yeah, it was. There's no question about it. I think we had some opportunities last week where we thought we were there, and we weren't quite skilled enough to take advantage of.
"The good thing is, we have guys that are continuing to work hard. They're very, very proud. They're used to being successful so they're responding the right way. We expect to come out and play well this week."
Gilbride characteristically avoided detailed specifics, particularly regarding individual player performances, when discussing why the offense hasn't played as well as it did earlier in the season. Two weeks ago, the unit was ranked second in the NFL. Today, it is 10th.
"It is a couple of things that we need to do better, there's no question about it," Gilbride said. "We've had chances. We caught them a couple times in quarters coverage last week, and we got two interference calls, but didn't complete it, which should've been huge plays for us. They were still 50-yard movements, but they were potential touchdowns, and we missed two of them. A couple of middle reads that guys should've been clearing out, but they were settling down and there was interference with the other guy coming in. It was a combination of a lot of different things. One play it was this, one play it was that. They're things that we should hopefully get corrected, that shouldn't have happened. When you have chances for big plays, and we were fortunate to have those chances last week, you have to make them."
In the 24-20 loss to Pittsburgh, the Giants had only two plays longer than 20 yards – Eli Manning passes of 26 yards to Victor Cruz and 33 yards to Martellus Bennett.
Manning completed just 10 of 25 passes for 125 yards. His passer rating of 41.1 was his lowest in almost five years.
But Gilbride is not laying blame on his quarterback, nor would he characterize Manning's recent play as a slump.
"Everybody dips a little bit here and there," Gilbride said. "Usually what you do to help resolve it is go back to the things that are at your core. This is what we know we can hang our hat on, everybody knows it well. We should eliminate any of those mistakes that were made doing some of the things that maybe you designed specifically to beat a particular opponent, which is why we've used the pass so proficiently in two-minute. It's your base offense, that's what we've always relied on. That's an easy solution, and then you just make sure that all the things that you usually focus on, you make sure that you haven't overlooked anything; fundamentals, technique, what have you.
"I know this isn't the exciting answer, but everybody has to play well for him to play well. The line has to protect well, the receivers have to get open. Then, it's a combination. He gets way too much credit when things go well; he gets way too much blame when things don't go well because that position only performs as well as the guys around them. It's not just him, it's all of us, trust me. We all have to do a better job."
Gilbride is frequently asked why he doesn't use the no-huddle package more often, since Manning and the Giants are usually successful when they run it. Asked today if he's considered it as a way to jump-start the offense, he said, "Absolutely."
But that doesn't mean he will.
"You don't want me to tip my hand, now do you?" he said. "It's something you always talk about because it has been something good. Sunday, when we got the ball back with four minutes to go, and we didn't do anything, we were in that two-minute mode. It doesn't always work, but it has been something that we have been very good at and hopefully we're going to recover and get back to that."
Gilbride has been on the Giants' staff during Tom Coughlin's entire nine-year tenure as head coach. He has been the offensive coordinator since late in the 2006 season. This is the fifth time he's been an NFL coordinator, so Gilbride has experience leading an offense out of the valleys they inevitably find during a season.
"Of course, it falls on my shoulders," he said. "We need to make sure we get those guys in position, that we're asking them to do things where they can be successful. That's obviously what we're scrutinizing very carefully to make sure that the things that we're doing, we're not asking guys to do something mentally or physically that they aren't capable of doing.
"We're working at it. As you know, it's a continual process. You're tweaking here, tweaking there and hope that you get some things that were not performed at a high enough level, corrected. You look forward, we all are, to playing better this week than we did last week."