ARLINGTON, Texas - The last time the Giants won a football game, which seems an eternity ago but actually was only two weeks in the past, they knew they would wake up the morning of Oct. 20 with a good understanding of how their season was playing out.
They had games against the Eagles and Cowboys ahead and a chance to come through that gantlet atop the NFC East standings. They were healthy and confident. They were primed to make some noise.
So what kind of team are they as they roll out of bed Monday, still undoubtedly sore from Sunday's 31-21 loss to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium and still smarting from the previous week's shutout in Philadelphia?
"I don't know, man,'' defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said when asked that very question.
Perhaps he just didn't want to know.
What they are is in third place, three games behind the Cowboys (6-1), the hottest team in football. They head into their bye week with a 3-4 record and on a two-game skid. And they are starting to show the strain of injuries that have stolen a half-dozen or so key contributors from the field.
There was some consolation Sunday. They played better than they had against the Eagles. But there still were too many sloppy plays and inexcusable breakdowns to be happy about anything. Once again, as they have been for the better part of the last two calendar years, the Giants are left to speculate about what they are capable of while grousing about what they actually have done.
"We've got a good football team,'' Pierre-Paul said. "You see it and I see it. We just have to get those kinks out, the errors that we're making, and we're going to be all right. I see we have a good football team and it's scary, if we do everything right, what would happen.''
Against the Cowboys, the list was long but familiar. Breakdowns in the secondary, which included allowing second-string tight end Gavin Escobar to be wide open for the game's first touchdown, leaving Antrel Rolle chiding teammates for mistakenly double-teaming another target. Miscommunications that led at one point to back-back-backup corner Chandler Fenner locked up in coverage on Dez Bryant.
When the Giants had a chance to drive for the potential tying touchdown in the fourth quarter, there was a fumble by tight end Larry Donnell, who was fighting for first-down yardage but had the ball stripped.
"It's terrible,'' a dejected Donnell said. "When that happens, that's just something to think about . . . We had a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter. We had our opportunity. I just have to do better on my part.''
Three plays later, Tony Romo hit Bryant for a spectacular 24-yard completion that initially was ruled a touchdown but was spotted at the 1 after a review. DeMarco Murray ran it in on the next play, his first career TD vs. the Giants, to make it 28-14.
Murray ran for 128 yards and became the first player in NFL history to open a season with seven 100-yard rushing games.
The Giants responded by driving 80 yards in 11 plays, scoring on a 5-yard pass to Odell Beckham Jr. on fourth-and-goal to make it 28-21 with 5:28 left. It was the rookie's second TD catch of the game. But the Cowboys held the ball for nearly all of the time remaining, and Dan Bailey's 49-yard field goal made it 31-21 with 59 seconds left.
"We couldn't stop them when we had to stop them and get the ball back,'' Tom Coughlin said.
Donnell fumbled again with 35 seconds left to end the game.
So what now?
The Giants have two weeks until they play again, and they certainly know how different the NFL landscape can look in that period of time. They'll get healthier in some areas -- starting running back Rashad Jennings (knee) is expected back and guard Geoff Schwartz (toe) will come off injured reserve -- but still will be without Victor Cruz and other key components.
The season isn't over. There are nine games left and anything can happen. "I'm not worried at all,'' Rolle said.
"Nobody wins this division in October,'' Prince Amukamara added. "We just have to be great in November and December.''
But for the majority of their time off this week, they'll undoubtedly consider where they could have been had they played better the last two games.
"We had a chance to be right up there at the top with them,'' Cullen Jenkins, who left the game with a calf strain, said of the Cowboys and Eagles. "Now we put ourselves in another hole that we're going to have to climb back out of. We just have to approach it like we did when we were 0-2. We fought hard to climb out of that. We have to do it again.''