Sunday was called 'Statement Sunday' in the NFL. The only statement the New York Giants made is they are nowhere being a team capable of defending their Super Bowl title.
There will be no 'Kudos' today. No one on a team that got embarrassed 34-0 in a game it needed to win can be deserving of any praise. The Giants as a whole get a big, fat 'Wet Willie.' Everybody. From head coach Tom Coughlin all the way down to cornerback Terrence Frederick, who just signed up to join this unpredictable cast on Saturday.
Yes, the Giants (8-6) still control their playoff destiny. Beat the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles the final two weeks and the Giants are guaranteed at least a wild-card playoff berth. They no longer control the NFC East, however. They are, technically, in third place in the division because although they have the same record as the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys they have the worst division record of the three teams.
Yes, this is almost exactly the path the Giants followed to Super Bowl glory a season ago. Start 6-2, stagger around for a few weeks and let everyone catch up, then put yourself in a position where you have to win your final two games to reach the post-season.
This act, however, has gotten old. We have actually seen it four consecutive seasons from the Giants going all the way back to the 5-0 start in 2009
"There's a lot of pride, lot of character in that locker room," head coach Tom Coughlin said during his post-game press conference.
Unfortunately, the Giants didn't show any of that on Sunday.
They were manhandled physically by the Falcons. How else do you explain going 0-for-3 on fourth-and-short and giving up 129 yards rushing to a team that had been averaging only 86.9 yards per game? How else do you explain getting only one quarterback sack and virtually no pressure on Matt Ryan? How else do you explain David Wilson getting crushed on every kickoff return? How else do you explain a time of possession advantage for Atlanta of 38:57 to 21:03?
How do you explain any of what you saw on Sunday?
How do you explain Eli Manning throwing an interception on the second play of the game to personal nemesis Asante Samuel? If you watch the replay it's a ball that never had a chance of being completed to anyone other than Samuel. That's four picks of Manning by Samuel in nine games, and it's almost gotten to the point where it seems like Manning thinks the guy plays for the Giants.
When it comes to Manning, how do you explain another mystifyingly atrocious game? He went 13-of-25 for 161 yards with two picks and an abominable 38.9 passer rating.
Manning is a great quarterback, and we have often seen the extraordinary things he is capable of. There may be more Super Bowl titles in his future, and there are definitely many more great moments. There are also, however, many more bad throws and bad days in that future.
I think this is how I have come to see Manning. He is a great quarterback who makes more bad decisions, bad throws and has more bad games than any great quarterback I have ever watched other than Brett Favre. His ups and downs are a huge part of the inconsistency of the Giants' offense, and both the Giants and their fans just have to live with it.
How do you explain Lawrence Tynes, who looked like an All-Pro early in the season, missing field goals of 36 and 30 yards the past two weeks? Or the return game going from all-world one week to invisible the next?
How do you explain how Coughlin-coached teams can, at times, play with incredible pride, discipline, precision and look like they have the perfect game plan for every situation yet, at other times, play sloppy, undisciplined, uninspired football and look like their only plan is to get the game over with?
It really is impossible to explain any of it. Truthfully, the Giants have been impossible to explain or figure out for years now.
You never know what you are going to get. You can be sure that, beginning today in various radio interviews and press conferences, Giants' players and coaches will talk about pride, about being better when they are backed into a corner, about still controlling their own destiny, about needing to give a better effort than they gave on Sunday.
It is time, though, for the Giants to stop talking -- and stop thinking that because a late-season run to glory happened last season it will automatically happen again.
It is time to win games. Thing is, after what we have witnessed the past few weeks you have to wonder if this team is actually capable of a sustained, consistent effort for the next two weeks.
I don't have any idea what we're going to get from the Giants the remainder of the regular season. I only know that the entire team gets a 'Wet Willie' for putting itself in this position. Again.