After winning the Super Bowl last season, everyone around the Giants seemed happy to live in a world where the team did nothing until the last possible second.
That happiness came because Eli Manning had a knack for winning games in the final minutes and the excitement of those moments made it easy to ignore the fact that the Giants' inconsistency was making games much closer than they needed to be. The fact that most of their wins were one unlucky bounce from going the other way was much less significant than the fact that the bounces went the Giants' way more often than not.
If the lesson for that year wound up being "In Eli We Trust," this year's lesson is that choosing to play for just a few of the 60 minutes every week is a really bad idea. Four of the Giants' five losses this season have come by one score and all of them have found the Giants unable to dig themselves out of the hole created by their mistakes.
Monday night's 17-16 loss to the Redskins wasn't any different. The Giants offense moved the ball easily for the entire first half, but only had 13 points to show for it thanks to settling for field goal attempts instead of getting the ball into the end zone.
Third down conversions were a snap right until the Giants would get the ball into scoring position. The Giants attacked most of the night and then got conservative on their final two drives. It was like the Giants wanted things to be as hard as possible for them.
The defense forced the only turnover of the game to kill a promising Redskins drive in the third quarter, but, again, the offense could only manage a field goal. There were games last season when teams would do that against the Giants, leading people to say that you can't beat Eli by kicking field goals.
It is a maxim that applies to Robert Griffin III as well. The Giants nearly lost the first game between the teams because they let the Redskins hang around after turning the ball over several times and this time they got beaten by finding themselves in the same situation.
Tom Coughlin acted surprised that the Giants did this after the game, but it is pretty hard to understand why it would have been any kind of a shock. This is what they've done all season, what they did all last season and, it seems, the way things are always going to be for the Giants.
Unless you come out and play a complete game, as they did against Green Bay, you're going to run the risk of losing thanks to a freakish play (Griffin's fumble into the arms of Josh Morgan on the first Redskins touchdown) and continued opportunities that give the opposition life. It's a bad way to live and one that all but guarantees another slog to the end of the season.
That's also bad, since things don't tend to work out the same way twice. Here's the rest of the good, bad and ugly from Monday night.
GOOD: Ahmad Bradshaw might be banged up, but it hasn't been easy to notice in the last two weeks. He's running as well as ever, give a pat on the back to the offensive line as well, and giving the Giants balance they should be able to use to better effect than they did in Washington.
BAD: RG3 is difficult to stop and the creativity of the Redskins offense makes it hard to know which way the ball is going on every snap. We get all that and accept it. That doesn't make the play of the Giants defense any easier to swallow, especially the way they got run over on the final Redskins drive of the game when they needed a stop to give the offense a chance to win the game.
UGLY: Nine penalties are never acceptable, but Monday's flags were especially galling by a Giants team that prides itself on discipline. The special teams were flagged on almost every kick or punt return, mental errors led to penalties that killed two first half drives short of the end zone and Will Beatty was flagged for holding on what looked like a key third down conversion in the fourth quarter.
BAD: The passing offense looked very good in the first half, but even then the Giants just missed on a few plays that could have led to big gains or touchdowns. It looked even worse in the second half outside of one long completion to Victor Cruz and clearly rumors of all being well after the Packers game were greatly exaggerated.
UGLY: Cruz has had a problem with drops for quite a while and it reared its head in the third quarter when he dropped a potential touchdown on a third down play. We're not sure if he was already doing his touchdown dance in his head or not, but it looked that way and it looks that way far too often at this point in Cruz's career.
GOOD: You might not like the fact that the Redskins used one of NFL's lamest decisions as motivational material (Giants owner John Mara's leading role in league penalties for the Redskins violating the "spirit" of the salary cap in an uncapped year) or that loathsome 'Skins owner Dan Snyder gloated a bit too much after a regular season win, but you'd have to hate football to not love the atmosphere from Monday's game. The Redskins are punching up at the Giants and they want to resume a rivalry that's been dead for years. Monday's win helps do that and sets the table for two must-see games a year as long as Griffin and Eli are on the field.