Many of us may be surprised with yesterday's 33-20 loss to the previously one-win Cowboys at the new Meadowlands Stadium. As we all know, it was the ninth game that the Giants have played this season, meaning that it was the first game of the second half of the season.
It sounds odd to say, but this is the fifth time in the last six years that the Giants have had a first half that was 6-2 or better (last year's 5-3 first half was the lone exception). Despite this being a good first half team, the Giants seem to lay an egg at some point in the second half at home against a team they either a) have beaten already during the season, or b) should easily beat.
I feel like I've seen this from the Giants before...
Here are some examples:
2010: Cowboys 33, Giants 20
Dallas had just replaced Wade Phillips with Jason Garrett as their season was spiraling out of control at 1-7. In the previous two games, the Cowboys had been outscored 80-24, and in the game before that, they were trounced by the Giants at Cowboys Stadium. Meanwhile, New York was riding a five-game win streak, and was considered a Super Bowl favorite in the NFC at 6-2. Jon Kitna threw for 327 yards on just 13 completions, and a critical 14-point swing occurred early in the game with Bryan McCann's 101-yard INT return for a touchdown. It was the second time this season that the Giants totalled 480 total yards or more at home and lost - the other being a 29-10 Week 3 loss to the Titans.
2008: Philadelphia 20, Giants 14
Limping in at 6-5-1, the Eagles season was teetering on the brink. A win over the Ravens had give Philly some new life, but no one expected the Eagles to come to Giants Stadium and win. New York (11-1) was in absolute cruise control, as a hiccup in Cleveland on Monday night was the lone blemish of the season. Earlier in the season, the Giants ran for 219 yards in a 36-31 win in Philadelphia. Outside of a gift touchdown on a Kevin Dockery return of a blocked field goal, the Eagles completely dominated the game. Brian Westbrook accounted for about 672 total yards* (*Disclaimer: may be an exaggeration), and Eli Manning completed just 13 of 27 passes on a windy day in East Rutherford. A touchdown pass with 15 seconds left was the only offensive score of the day for Big Blue.
2007: Minnesota 40, Giants 17
Ah, the infamous Three Pick-Six Game. The Giants were coming off a thrilling road win in Detroit (don't laugh, the Lions were actually 6-2 entering that game), and had run their record to a respectable 7-3 after winning six of seven. Meanwhile, Minnesota was reeling at 4-6, having to turn to the unproven Tavaris Jackson at quarterback who had thrown one touchdown pass to six interceptions at that point in the season. Jackson impressed, completing 10 of his 12 pass attempts and Eli was picked by Darren Sharper (I hate that guy), Dwight Smith, and Chad Greenway for touchdown returns of 20, 93, and 37 yards. To be honest, this was the first time that I really started to wonder if Eli was going to be a major bust. NOTE: I understand that the 22-10 loss to the Redskins a few weeks later also would qualify.
2006: Dallas 23, Giants 20
Similar to the Eagles game in '08, this was a Cowboys team that the Giants had absolutely thrashed 36-22 earlier in the season (to be fair, that was with Drew Bledsoe still at quarterback). The Giants had dropped three straight after a 6-2 start, but still had a chance to right the ship and save their season. Even after that losing skid, a win would've pulled the Giants into a first-place tie with the Cowboys, and given them the head-to-head tiebreaker with the season sweep. Tony Romo wasn't great, throwing two interceptions, but Dallas did enough behind three field goals from Martin Gramatica to had the Giants their fourth straight loss. If memory serves me, the Giants also wore the dreaded Red uniforms in this game.
2005: Minnesota 24, Giants 21
Hey, it's those pesky Vikings again! In circumstances eerily similar to the '07 game, the Vikings came limping in (again) at two games under .500 (again), and took advantage of silly Giants' mistakes (again) in the win. Minnesota was the first team in NFL history to return a punt, kickoff, and interception (sound familiar?) in the same game to account for all three of their touchdowns. Eli Manning threw four picks, three going to Giants fan-favorite Darren Sharper, as the Giants fell to 6-3 despite outgaining Minnesota 405-137.
2003: Atlanta 27, Giants 7
Many of you might be thinking, "2003? What? The Giants were an awful 4-12 that year." That's true, but what's also true is that entering Week Ten they were 4-4 and their season was still very much alive. The G-Men were coming off back-to-back road wins over the previously undefeated Vikings, and an overtime slopfest against the Jets. After getting back to .500, the Giants returned home to face a 1-7 Falcons team without star quarterback Michael Vick. Backup Kurt Kittner only completed 9 of his 23 pass attempts for a paltry 65 yards, but Warrick Dunn shredded the Giants for 178 yards in the easy 27-7 win. The common theme in almost all of these games is turnovers, and the Giants committed four, including two Tiki Barber fumbles in the Red Zone. The Giants season completely came unhinged after this game, as New York dropped their final seven games of the season to finish 4-12.
The good news is that despite these stinker games, the Giants didn't always fall flat on their face like they did in '03. In 2005, New York rallied to win the NFC East at 11-5 despite the inexplicable loss to the Vikings. Though they finished 2-6, the Giants still snuck into the playoffs in '06 and gave the Eagles a good fight in Philly in the Wild Card round. We all know what happened in '07, and in '08 the Giants still won the division finishing 12-4.
What yesterday's loss does is lessen the margin for error the rest of the way, especailly with next week's trip to Philadelphia looming.