Two weeks ago, the Giants prepared to face the Dallas Cowboys with an offense that was ranked second in the NFL in total yards (411.6 per game) and third in passing yards (295.3). Today, a day after a 24-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in which the offense underperformed for the second week in a row, the Giants are ranked 10th (372.9) and ninth (263.4), respectively.
Clearly, this trend needs to be reversed if the Giants are to return not just to their gaudy stats but to the level of play that saw them win four consecutive games prior to their defeat yesterday.
"I just think for some reason, we're not clicking like we were," coach Tom Coughlin said today. "Two weeks ago, we were the number one big-play team in the league. After two weeks of admittedly poor offensive play, we're sitting here with not a lot to show for it. Hopefully, we can get back on the same page and deliver and be able to communicate as we have in the past. Hopefully, it'll be this week."
The Giants next play Sunday in Cincinnati, their final game before the bye.
In the last two games – a victory over Dallas and the loss to Pittsburgh – the Giants scored only two offensive touchdowns, both on one-yard runs by Andre Brown. They totaled only 24 first downs, had consecutive sub 200-yard passing games for the first time since Dec. 5 and 13, 2010, vs. Washington and Minnesota – two games they won.
Against the Steelers, the Giants totaled only 182 yards, their lowest figure in almost three years. They had 13 first downs and converted just two of 10 third down opportunities.
Asked if slumps are applicable to football, Coughlin said, "I don't know what that is. This is not baseball. I think we didn't play well. We didn't play well for a couple weeks on offense and we've got to do better. We've got to get back to: drop back, throw it. Let's get the game going."
When an offense struggles, scrutiny instantly falls on the quarterback. In the last two games, Eli Manning completed 25 of 53 passes (47.2 percent) for 317 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 50.6. It's the first time he's gone consecutive games without throwing a touchdown pass since Sept. 26, and Oct, 3, 2010. Manning completed only 10 passes vs. the Steelers – one on third down – and his 41.1 passer rating Sunday was his lowest in the regular season since a 32.2 rating at Buffalo on Dec. 23, 2007 in perhaps the most challenging weather conditions of his career.
Manning has been the first to admit he hasn't performed to his capability.
"Obviously, I didn't play well last night," he said. "There's no hiding it. I didn't play my best football and I've got to play better. That's all I'm worried about. You go from week-to-week, you go from game-to-game, you see where you need to make improvements and you make those improvements. I've gone through stretches where I haven't played great football, and I've been able to bounce back and start playing better."
In the first five games of the season, Manning completed 65 percent of his passes, averaged 315.8 yards a game, threw 10 touchdown passes and five interceptions and had a rating of 96.0. In the last four games, his completion percentage was 54.5, his per-game yardage was 211.8, he threw two scoring passes and four picks and his rating was 68.4.
So is Manning in a slump?
"I don't think so," wide receiver Victor Cruz said. "I think it's just a matter of all of us getting on the same page and we'll be all right. I won't call it a slump, but it's just a couple of bad games of where everybody is just not getting things done together and catching the football and moving the ball. So I wouldn't necessarily call it a slump."
"Whatever you want to call it, we're not playing good football," Manning said. "That's what it is. No one is going to come in and help us out. It's all about us, getting back to playing better football, converting on third downs, getting more opportunities to make plays and we'll do that."
Coughlin is confident Manning will quickly return to the high level where he resided early in the season.
"(Because of his) ability," Coughlin said. "Who he is and how he works. He's resilient. The type of person he is, the character that he has, the pride and the work ethic, all of those things. He'll come bouncing back. He'll be back."
Manning and his receivers seemed out of sync all day. Cruz caught five passes for 67 yards, but Hakeem Nicks finished with only one 10-yard reception.
"There are certain miscommunications that are going on out there," Cruz said. "Just as far as the full scheme of the routes that are going on, everybody has to be on the same page and we haven't been having that lately.
"In the course of the game when things happen that kind of derail us or certain things that we don't expect to see coverage-wise, we just have to do a good job of adjusting to that. And I think we didn't do a good job of adjusting throughout the game to the different coverages, to adjusting our routes and our route combinations according to the coverage. So I think that was just one of the things that we saw that we've just got to get squared away and learn not just adjusting to what we see on film and during the week of practice, but adjusting to the different coverages they might play throughout the course of the game."
"I don't think we've been off on a lot of things," Manning said. "Teams have had some good play calls against us. I think it's just a matter of getting great reps, working at practice and making everything game-like."
Nicks hasn't produced as he normally does since his return following three weeks on the sideline with foot and knee injuries. In four games, he has 13 catches for 152 yards and no touchdowns.
Asked if Nicks is healthy enough to play a larger role, Coughlin said, "Well, I certainly hope so. That's what we depend on. We haven't seen that and it hasn't happened in the last couple of weeks. That's another area that we have to get going."
Sunday in Cincinnati would be a good time and place to start.
"I think we can work it out, I definitely do," Coughlin said today. "I think it's got to happen relatively fast, to be honest with you. I think it can be solved, I think a lot of it is the individual. When you look at some things, like the crossing pattern that was tipped, there's nobody on it. I mean, he's got a chance to turn and go. The ball doesn't get there, the ball gets tipped and that hurt us. On that third-and-one, it was a fade stop; there was a miscommunication between looking for the ball and winning deep by the rookie (Rueben Randle). That can be worked out. So, I think a lot of this can be solved."