When the New York Giants made their remarkable and unexpected Super Bowl run last year, Eli Manning was, of course, tremendous. But Manning was getting a lot of help from a superb pass rush and a rejuvenated running game.
Right now, Manning isn't getting the necessary support from his teammates. As a result, the maddeningly inconsistent Giants have fallen out of first place in the NFC East after being handed their fourth-worst shutout loss in franchise history Sunday in Atlanta.
Manning threw two more interceptions in the 34-0 loss to the Falcons, giving him four in the last two games. Rookie David Wilson did next-to-nothing on the ground in place of an injured Ahmad Bradshaw. And worst of all, the pass rush failed to do anything to slow down Matt Ryan, who was able to pick on New York's depleted secondary all afternoon.
That pass rush, which had 15 sacks during the final four games of that 2011 Super Bowl season, has just two in the last three games after taking Ryan down once. And when that happens on the road against the conference's top seed, and your offense gets zero points on four drives that reach that opponent's 32-yard line, well, you're bound to get blown out.
There are plenty of reasons to worry. This is a team that hasn't won back-to-back games since October. It seems as though they're either completely in-sync or completely out-of-sync, and that doesn't bode well for a deep playoff run.
They did lose in this exact same week last year, with Manning throwing three interceptions against Washington. But after that loss, they never lost again. And that's why you can't rule out Tom Coughlin's team in situations like these.
But just because it's happened twice in the last five years doesn't mean it's going to happen again.
This wasn't a game the Giants were necessarily supposed to win. In recent years, this team has made a habit out of beating supposedly superior teams on the road and in December, January and February.
They will likely survive to make the playoffs with wins over the slumping Ravens and Eagles in the final two weeks. Maybe they're just waiting to peak late yet again, but right now this does not look like a team that can string together three or four wins against quality opponents.
And it definitely does not look like a Super Bowl team.
But, again, we would be crazy to count them out.