Eli wincing...not from the impact, but from the thought of my impending review.
Thursday night's 27-21 heartbreaker with the Chicago Bears was the first game to come down to the wire since Sep. 8, when the Giants lost by five to the Dallas Cowboys. It's funny; both of those games were sealed with an Eli Manning pick.
Admit it—you let your mind wander as Manning and his offense took the field with 5:21 left in the fourth quarter. You thought maybe—just maybe—Eli could pull one out for old time's sake. After all, Brandon Jacobs was closing in on 100 yards. I had to pinch my arm to remind myself what year it was.
The pinch stung, but Manning's fourth-quarter interception—which fluttered through Brandon Myers fingertips and landed snugly in Tim Jennings' mitts—was an uppercut to the jaw from Jersey Joe Walcott.
What's there to learn from New York's crash back to reality?
It's beginning to resemble a comedy routine.
Not too long ago, this Giants team pulled wins out in the clutch as deftly as magicians do rabbits out of hats. And that's exactly what Eli Manning resembled each time his fourth-quarter sleight of hand produced another game winning drive. He was the consummate gunslinger; a marvel always with an ace up his sleeve. The crowd was in awe.
They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, though, and the bad news for the 32-year-old Manning is his trusty old bag is quickly running dry. We've seen him try to make these plays in the past—many times they've worked out in his favor. You can't blame him for taking the deep shots into traffic and making heroic attempts to shake off rushers, but now these plays yield turnovers rather than points. The old magician's tricks don't have the same flair. The crowd chuckles and cringes as he clumsily tries to break out an old favorite.
This team, now 0-6, finds a new way to lose every week—each one more devastating than the last. If you were one of the few who thought the Giants had a chance at becoming the first team to start 0-5 and make the playoffs, the Bears loss probably shut the door on that dream. Sure, you can point to the fact that they're still only two games back on the Cowboys and Eagles for the division lead, but for that to even matter you do realize the Giants have to win a game at some point—like, this season.
The mighty New York Football Giants are quite possibly the worst team in the NFL; they are vying for the title of worst team in franchise history. As of now, the 1976 team still takes that crown, but this squad is quickly gaining ground. The two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback has been intercepted 15 times in six games. The franchise with the most league championships since 1986 came within three points of fielding the NFL's first team to allow 30 points in each of its first six games. If you're able to take a step back from it all, it's actually pretty funny.
If you weren't laughing when Manning chucked that last pick, then you were born without a funny bone.
Aside from the No. 34 jersey he was wearing, Giants fans had seen the 264-pound back do that exact thing before—just not in a very long time.
Brandon Jacobs, who was signed off the street after Week 1, started in place of the injured David Wilson at running back versus the Bears. Jacobs took full advantage of the opportunity, rushing for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. It was the first 100-yard rushing performance by a Giants back in 2013, as Jacobs surpassed Wilson as the team's leading rusher for the season.
It was also Jacobs' biggest performance since Dec. 11, 2011, when he rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries in a 37-34 win over the Cowboys. Jacobs left the team after winning the Super Bowl that season, joining the 49ers to what amounted in just two appearances and a disappointing experience for all those involved. He was without a team just two months ago.
Jacobs probably wasn't expecting to ever suit up with Big Blue again, let alone star in a feature back's role. It's not difficult to understand how he reveled in the unexpected encore.
The 31-year-old Jacobs has the fourth-most rushing yardage in Giants history, and he pads his team lead for rushing touchdowns each time he plows across the goal-line. Jacobs has played with the Giants in over 100 contests, but Thursday night's showing against the Bears will go down as one of his most memorable, despite the depressing circumstances.
It was no coincidence that Brandon Jacobs had such a solid outing during fullback John Conner's Giants debut.
Conner brought a physicality to the Giants running game that they lacked even during the brief stint in which Henry Hynoski was starting. Although Hynoski has been a prized lead-blocker in recent years, his injuries watered down his effectiveness until he landed on injured reserve. That's over 500 pounds of human being, by the way, between a fully-healthy Conner and Jacobs.
The Giants ground game enjoyed its most successful game of the season, thanks in large part to the efforts of their new fullback. New York gained a season-high 123 yards on 26 carries—the power running game was in full effect, as two rushing attempts crashed in for a score from inside the five-yard line. The Giants even scored on their first play-action pass of the season.
Not to be outdone by Conner, linebacker Jon Beason had a fine showing in his Big Blue debut. Beason earned the surprise start over Mark Herzlich at middle linebacker after being traded from the Panthers just last week. He even took over Spencer Paysinger's old No. 52 jersey.
Beason fit right in with his play, too. In his first start as a Giant, he led the team in tackles with 12 (11 solo). He was a force in the Giants' run defense, bottling up Matt Forte prematurely several times on the night. Forte, who entered the game as one of the league's most dangerous rushers, gained just 67 yards on 19 carries, as he struggled to shake Beason the whole game.
You have to respect the Giants' efforts to make a final push. Instead of folding and preparing for a rebuilding period—like the Browns were accused of doing when Trent Richardson was traded to the Colts—the Giants are trying to add any and all talent to help them win right here and now.
The only thing is the Browns are undefeated since trading Richardson, and the Giants are still winless...
During halftime, NFL Network's Ian Rappoport reported that Giants head coach Tom Coughlin will finish out the 2013 season, and the decision to return for 2014 will be left up to him, according to a high-ranking official within the Giants organization. Quarterback Eli Manning appears to be just as firmly entrenched, despite his struggles.
The Giants play the Vikings and Eagles before they have their bye in Week 9. If the Giants fail to claim a victory before then, they will be 0-8 and in desperate need of a change. The last time New York made a midseason head coaching change was in 1976, when Bill Arnsparger kicked off an 0-7 start. The '76 Giants even tried pulling starting quarterback Craig Morton for Norm Snead.
But the '13 Giants are nothing like the '76 Giants. Arnsparger was the so-called defensive mastermind behind the 1972 Dolphins' perfect season, but he hadn't accomplished much in two-and-a-half seasons at the command of the Giants. Morton was a Super Bowl champion with the Cowboys in 1971, but his worst years as a pro undoubtedly came in New York. Pulling the plug on Arnsparger or Morton is nothing like doing so on Coughlin or Manning.
These two have been partners in crime since 2004, when Coughlin came over from Jacksonville and Manning was drafted from Ole Miss. Along with the help of general manager Jerry Reese and the Giants front office, New York has built an entire team around these two most pivotal pegs. They've delivered on two Super Bowls, one as recent as 21 months ago. They aren't going anywhere soon. Coughlin's no Arnsparger, and Manning's no Morton.
This is a truly unique situation. Has there ever been a team this bad with head coach and quarterback jobs as secure as those of Cooughlin's and Manning's, respectively? If they don't change, what does?