CHICAGO — The New York Giants have 10 days before their next chance to avoid 0-7. That's what it has become this season: a seemingly endless nightmare of close losses whose scales were tipped by some of the most ridiculous turnovers you ever did see.
Oh, sure the Broncos, Panthers, Chiefs and Eagles bullied the Giants on the scoreboard, but three of those four games were one-score contests late in the third quarter before the wheels came off.
Remember Dallas in Week 1? Thursday night's 27-21 loss to the Chicago Bears sure felt similar to that one. In both games the Giants found themselves in the crazy position of being able to win a game they had absolutely no business doing so because of turnovers. And then they lost. Both. By turnovers.
Eli Manning takes the brunt of the blame because, after all, he's the quarterback, and with his three interceptions in Week 6, his turnover total is up to 17 now. On the first interception, 48 seconds into the game, Manning was pressured and underthrew Rueben Randle, as Bears corner Zach Bowman ran it back to the Giants' 12-yard line.
"The throw was a little wide, and I couldn't make a play on it," Randle said.
Four minutes later, Randle and Manning crossed signals again. Another pick, this one run back to the house, giving the Bears a 7-0 lead that frankly should have made it 10-0 or 14-0.
"I thought the corner was going to jump the route, so I converted the route (to a "go" pattern)," Randle said. "We just weren't on the same page there."
Later on defense in the second quarter, the Bears were finally putting an offensive drive together after the Giants had mostly held them down, even stopping a fourth-down play in the red zone. And just when it looked like they might hold down down again, safety Will Hill ran onto the field late on a 3rd-and-9 play from the Giants' 10-yard line and was out of position to stop Bears receiver Brandon Marshall, who got in front of him for a touchdown.
"We just have to get the personnel calls in quicker," Hill told Shutdown Corner. "Still no excuse whatsoever. It wasn't the reason (he didn't make a play on Marshall)."
The Giants fell behind 10 points at halftime and 13 early in the third quarter, but never quit — always the litmus test of whether a bad team has given up, and this one clearly hasn't yet. Manning got on track in the middle portion of the game and led scoring drives of 80 and 91 yards. The struggle face that pervaded early seemed to be gone.
"We were doing some good things," Manning said. "We got off to a horrible start, but we fought back and went down and scored a touchdown after the interception for a touchdown.
"Obviously, there were some good things. We kind of made some things happen. ... Again, I felt confident we could go down there, have a good drive and go win that game."
Brandon Jacobs was huge early, stopped cold in the second and third quarters, but a one-man wrecking crew again in the fourth. The back who looked cooked against the Philadelphia Eagles the week prior (11 rushes, 37 rushing yards, no run longer than seven yards) was on fire in this one. After the hot start and cool down, Jacobs had enough to rumble through several tackles on five fourth-quarter carries for 55 yards.
And yet the Giants couldn't harness that, as Manning's pass to a wide-open Brandon Myers was high but catchable — instead, it glanced off his fingertips and into the hands of Tim Jennings to ice the game for the Bears.
The Giants know the games have been close for the most part. That's what makes this whole thing harder. It wouldn't be easier if they were getting blown out every week from the opening whistle. It would just make it easier to understand.
"It makes it harder, knowing we should win," Jacobs said. "But you turn the ball over three times and don't (force) any turnovers, and you're going to lose most of the time."
"We played hard. We fought. We did a lot of good things. We didn't do enough," a dejected Tom Coughlin said afterwards.
The frustration in the locker room was palpable, but it was not mopey either. It reflected a team searching for answers. How do you prevent turnovers from happening? How do you force more yourselves? New linebacker Jon Beason, who had an auspicious first start with the team at middle linebacker, has a good idea how to make it happen.
Beason was witness to a 2-14 season with the Carolina Panthers in 2010 and knows a little something about the parts not adding up to the whole. That team's defense often battled to the bitter end and fought the good fight. Beason thinks this group is far more talented and has the ingredients for success.
"The pieces are there, no doubt," Beason told Shutdown Corner. "I can see it. All three levels. It's not as if we're weak in any of those spots. It just seems like one thing breaks down at a time, and things just roll (downhill) from there. We need to stop that roll. It can happen."
And that's the Giants' mission now: to salvage what they can of this season and find small solutions, one at a time. Manning admitted that even though it's no time to feel bad for themselves, he said, "Everybody is fighting every day, and I'm fighting too. I'm trying to get a win for these guys, but you know, it's tough. It's definitely tough when you don't feel you're playing your best."
Coughlin said hard work will be the way out of this hole for the Giants.
"We're all sick of the losing, but we put ourselves in this position and there's only one way to get out of it," he said. "No one is going to hand you anything."
The Giants have handed the ball over to the opponents 15 times more than they have taken it away. Fix that, and close games tend to turn the other way, instead of drifting away. They also need to find a way to get some symmetry — when Jacobs was running well, Manning tended to struggle, and vice versa.
But the team's attitude seems remarkably in check, despite the 0-6 start.
"We don't point fingers," safety Antrel Rolle said. "That's not something we've ever done. That's not something were ever going to do. No matter what our record is."