We've known for quite some time that the New York Giants are vulnerable in the secondary and inconsistent on the ground. But the Giants have usually been able to compensate for that by winning the turnover battle, creating constant pressure and overwhelming opponents with their aerial offense.
In Sunday's shocking 31-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, New York lost the turnover battle, got absolutely no pressure on defense and again failed to make plays in the passing game.
Ordinarily we could write such a dud performance off as a blip on the radar, but the Giants have made such a habit of looking ordinary lately that this current "slump" could be poisoning the team just enough to destroy its chances of repeating.
The Giants are notoriously bad during the second half of the year, and now they've dropped back-to-back games in similar fashion. Had they not eked out somewhat lucky victories against Washington and Dallas in Weeks 7 and 8, they'd be on a four-game losing streak. They haven't outplayed an opponent since beating San Francisco handily in Week 6.
The good news is a lot of the Giants' issues have come and gone during this rough patch. They couldn't stop the run last week, but were able to do so this week. They fared well in the turnover battle last week, but gave it away four times this week.
The one constant detriment, though, has been Eli Manning's inaccuracy and his sudden inability to lead his team back from near death in clutch fashion.
The bye week might have come at a perfect time, because the Giants simply can't afford to have Manning without his magic for much longer.
I do believe they can regain their ability to benefit from turnovers, and the pass rush is too talented not to become a factor again. However, with Hakeem Nicks disappearing against the Steelers and Victor Cruz doing the same against the Bengals, and with pass protection becoming a question mark again, Manning will have his hands full trying to dig the passing game out of this hole.
It doesn't help, of course, that the schedule is unforgiving. The Giants have that post-Super Bowl target on their back, and they don't have a single gimme on the schedule over the final six weeks.
To stick with the golf analogy, good teams get mulligans here and there. But with their NFC East lead shrinking and the momentum up for grabs, the Giants can't really afford any more of them.
This team is at its best when it's desperate. That time has come.