When the Giants were on their way to a 6-2 start this season, they never seemed overly concerned about the way they were winning games.
Every week would find them struggling for long stretches of the game before coming alive at the last minute to pull out a win. The reaction to the win would only focus on those end notes with flowery statements about the heart of the team and their fighting spirit taking the place of a level-headed view of what actually happened on the field.
It wasn't much of a surprise that those underlying problems wound up being the prime contributors to the four-game losing streak that made Sunday night such a big one for the Giants. The issues -- poor run blocking, a leaky defense, mental mistakes -- were rampant in those losses, making all of those earlier statements sound like the words of men who weren't grounded in reality.
The losing streak either changed Tom Coughlin's impression about all being well when things end well or the coach decided that honesty was the best policy when it came to dealing with the media. He spent some time at his press conference lavishing well-deserved praise on Eli Manning and Jason Pierre-Paul, but he saved his strongest words for a defense that was embarrassed again on Sunday night.
"I’m continually asked about concern. It’s tremendous. Grave concern. I can’t express that any more. We continue to work with it. You have technical errors. You have just physical breakdowns where one person is able in a certain way to win on a certain play over another. You have those kinds of things that happen as well, but the thing that I’m most discouraged about and disappointed is when we do have a breakdown in communication and we do have some type of a error that gives up a big play. And that should not be happening and we’re continuing to try to eliminate those things."
Focusing on the negative part of Sunday's game is absolutely the right course for the Giants to be taking right now because the inability to stop other teams remains the biggest obstacle in the way of the push for a playoff spot. If they can't stop the opposition, games are going to be close and there's going to be a chance that the Giants stumble before they reach the finish line.
Narratives about intestinal fortitude and grace under pressure make for good reads, but they don't accomplish nearly as much as a clear-eyed view of what actually happens on the field. The truth about Sunday night is that the Cowboys were able to do whatever they wanted when they had the ball and the team was bailed out because Manning and Pierre-Paul were the best players on the field.
That's not a winning formula. The good thing is that Coughlin knows that it isn't a winning formula and is making an emphatic point that it needs to change.