The Giants are losing. What could be worse than that?
Well, how about the way they are losing. Not on the field, but on the scoreboard.
Every kind of outs.
It's hard to find a game in the last two or so years that the Giants have lost and yet been competitive in. Since their embarrassing spiral that cost them the 2012 NFC East division title they had practically sewn up by midseason -- back-to-back road losses to the Falcons (34-0) and Ravens (33-14) -- they have lost 14 other games. Only three of those losses were decided by a touchdown or less. The other 11 were all decided by 10 points or more, including all five losses this season. Seven of their last 16 losses have been by 21 points or more. In four of those seven, the Giants didn't score a point.
They may find a way to win some games now and then, but when they lose of late, they go down with a gigantic thud. Close isn't good enough in the NFL, a league decided by the black-and-white contrast of wins and losses. No one is trying to impress pollsters by running up scores and no one gets credit for almost victories as they sometimes do in college football. But the Giants seem to be further than a horseshoe or a hand grenade away from even being in the games they are losing.
"I don't know if I have an exact answer," Eli Manning said when asked about the team's inability to play in close games.
Even their wins this year have been decided by 10 or more points. In an age of parity, the Giants are the only team in the NFL that has had every one of its games this season decided by more than a touchdown.
Tom Coughlin, who charts just about every trend mathematically available to him, dismissed the idea that lopsided losses are any worse than nail-biters.
"It's alarming that we're losing," he said. "I don't know anything about the points or whatever that is. It's alarming. Any time you lose, it's alarming."
On the other side of the spectrum are the Seahawks, the team the Giants face Sunday. Going back to the midway point of the 2011 season, Seattle has a record of 34-14. The 34 wins are impressive, but the 14 losses are, too, considering that the average differential in those losses is 4.9 points. Their most lopsided defeat during that span was when they lost to the Chargers in San Diego in Week 2 this season. They lost by nine points.
"All we can worry about now is trying to figure out how to get better," Manning said. "We can't worry about these past games."
Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said he doesn't look at the big picture of the score in the losses, but instead focuses on the details that lead up to those numbers.
"You look at how the game goes, you look at how things are and there are a lot of times we had chances to eliminate points, we had chances to have huge swings in the game," Jenkins said. "Once you don't take advantage of those opportunities early, the game can go in a completely different pattern. If you did make some of those plays, all of a sudden you have momentum on your side, you change up what the other offense is doing because they have to change the plays they're calling. A lot of the times, it's just a play here or there that can swing the whole momentum of the game."
Manning seemed to agree with that concept, as well, using a microscope to find a cure for the common fold.
"Sometimes you have to look at the individual plays and try to fix the individual plays," he said. "Fix the things that need to be fixed and move on."
That was certainly the case against the Colts, a game the Giants lost by 16 points (actually lowering their average margin of defeat this season thanks to some fourth-quarter garbage points) but had opportunities to swing early on.
Dropped passes. Dropped interceptions. Dropped challenge flags and coverages. They all played into it.
"I think sometimes people don't understand, the players don't understand that missed opportunities will definitely come back to haunt you and they do," Coughlin said. "They have done that. I can give you 21 points that were gifts to them last weekend. Gifts. Flat-out gifts. Again, you go back to maybe the first lecture in training camp about not beating yourself. Well, we're still doing it and until that's corrected . . ."
The overwhelming losses will keep piling up. As will the opponents' points.
"I think we know we're a good team, we have the ability to be a good team," Jenkins said. "It's just a matter of everything coming together. We make too many mistakes on the game days. We have to eliminate those and put them behind us and move on. Once we can do that, I think we can be the team that we want to be."
Or at least be close.