While speaking to reporters after Monday night's schizophrenic 41-35 victory over the Cowboys, Justin Tuck said something that revealed much about the psychological makeup of his team. Tuck was complimenting the way the Giants bounced back from being down 20-7 in the first half.
"It shows the character and leadership of this team for us to come back like that," said Tuck.
There wouldn't be anything too earth-shattering about that comment if the Giants had held onto the 38-20 lead that they built in the third quarter. Coming back after an awful opening to a road game does say a lot about a team.
But they didn't hold onto their lead. They won 41-35 and were lucky to avoid a last ditch effort by a Cowboys offense that shredded Tuck and his friends in the final quarter of the game. The Giants had the Cowboys down on the mat, dazed and bleeding, and then inexplicably decided to let them back up.
What does that say about the character and leadership of the team?
Not much, but the fact that there was so much positive and negative to say about this team on one night says volumes about this team. More than any other team in the NFL, the Giants veer from the sublime to the ridiculous within brief periods of the same football game. Monday night's game was like making a Prosciutto di Parma sandwich on Wonder bread.
Most of the middle two quarters were complete domination by the Giants, and you found yourself wondering just how far this team could go with a high-octane offense and smothering defense working in tandem. But the first 20 minutes and the fourth quarter were so bad and so riddled with mistakes that you found yourself wondering how the Giants manage to win any games.
How can Eli Manning throw for 306 yards and four touchdowns while also throwing three interceptions? It was the same overmatched secondary all night long. How can Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith each make several athletic grabs in traffic while also letting passes skitter off their fingertips? How can Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs churn up yardage in huge chunks and then turn around and fumble balls after light hits? How can a defense that wiped out Tony Romo simply stop trying with the game still in the balance?
Such a two-faced approach has to come from the top down and, indeed, the coaching staff has a personality that's just as split as their players. When the Giants were throwing the ball at will in the first half and gaining huge chunks of yards, Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride suddenly decided that Brandon Jacobs needed to get a bunch of carries. Jacobs promptly fumbled and the Cowboys extended their lead. Then, with a big lead in the second half, the Giants once again refused to simply chew up clock or make conservative passes. They made error after error and let the Cowboys back into the game.
Too often it feels like the Giants coaching staff is more concerned with doing something unexpected and showing off than simply going out and beating the opposition. When they do just stick to what makes sense, the Giants look like world beaters who need to be taken seriously. They don't stick to it often enough, however, and that leaves you befuddled about just what the Giants are trying to prove and why they think it matters.
This may all seem a bit too gloomy for a team that is 5-2 and on top of the division and the NFC, but if you're interested in seeing the Giants reach great heights this season then you're interested in seeing them make a better accounting of themselves.
Until they do, the two blowout losses to Indianapolis and Tennessee weigh heavier than the fact that they've won five games against teams that are 11-20 without putting together 60 minutes of good football.