This is the bye week, so there's plenty of time to analyze what's going on with this team until the next game, which we will certainly do on this blog. Before I get to that in later posts, let's spend some time analyzing the specific game itself, without digressing too much to the reasons the Giants are slumping.
The recent woes of giving up big plays on defense (Giants are near the bottom of the league in giving up plays >20 yards) showed up on the first drive when AJ Green, who is an incredibly impressive WR, maybe better than Megatron, was left alone on a badly blown coverage by the Giants and scored in a walk. I don't know what's worse - DBs getting beat physically by superior players or DBs making mistake after mistake, miscommunication is what the players call it, and allowing painfully easy TDs. I guess if they are getting beat physically, there's little hope for improvement. If opponents are bigger, stronger, faster, you have little recipe to improve. But if you have blown coverages and miscommunication, there is at least hope that the players will stop making mistakes and clean things up. This seems to be what happened last year when, in addition to the benefit of some good players coming back from injury, the secondary definitely tightened things up and made fewer mistakes down the stretch. When players keep making these mistakes, you could question: is it because they are stupid, uncoachable players or is it because the coaching is not very good. That was a rhetorical question, I hope you're not thinking of giving an answer. It is theoretically possible that you could have a particular assembly of players on a team that are just not good team players. But since the Giants have won with this group before, that is obviously not the case. I am going to put this on the coach. Fewell is just not good at coming up with schemes or disguising the defense (Giants never fool anybody on defense), is not very good at calling a game (calls for risky blitzes and predictable defenses at the wrong times) and apparently is not very good at tutoring his players (players keep making all these mistakes.
The second more worrisome recent problem is not moving the ball on offense and not scoring TDs in the red zone, settling for FGs. This happened twice in the first half; once when the Giants recovered a fumbled punt and were set up inside the Bengals 30. Giants moved it down to the 5 but settled for a FG, because of a predictable call by Gilbride, throwing a swing pass to Bradshaw and asking him to making someone miss. This may work out near midfield when the S group is back defending the deep ball. But when all 11 defenders are up within 5 yards of the play, it has little chance for success. Then, trailing 17-3 before the half, Giants moved it about 70 yards inside the Bengals 10, Eli threw a perfect pass to Bennet who did not keep his feet in bounds and Giants were down 17-6 at the half when it could/should have easily been 17-14 or at least 17-10.
Then in the second half the wheels fell off because of all the turnovers. After an exchange of punts and some good defense, Giants started a drive near midfield. After a pass and a few effective runs, Giants moved the ball to around the 10 and Bradshaw fumbled. That absolutely took the steam out of the team. It just added to the feeling that nothing was going right - even when the team makes some positive plays and has a chance to get back in the game, something goes wrong to mess it up. A TD or even a FG there gets the Giants right back in the game. Consider: as much as it looked like the Giants were being dominated to that point in the game - some decent red zone production could have had the Giants ahead 21-17 instead of down 17-6. The next two possessions were two awful INTs by Eli, both when he was getting hit and pressured. He tried to throw the ball away on the first one and complete a desperation throw under pressure on the second. They were both bad decisions by Eli - he should have just taken the sacks - but that was just the conclusion of the play. The reason the play ended that way is because the OL was getting hammered all day long by the Bengals DL. It's not just the 4 sacks, it was the constant pressure which resulted in these turnovers and is a main contributor to the lack of offensive productivity.
I will do some more analysis of what's wrong with the offense in later posts, but for now, realize that the OL, especially the RT Diehl is a huge problem for this team. I said coming into the game that giving Diehl his starting RT job back was a mistake - Locklear was playing OK and he had replaced Diehl who was playing poorly when he was in there. Maybe the Giants don't feel Locklear has enough tread left on the tire to start all season long, but from a pure productivity standpoint, this sure looks like a situation where the Giants tried to fix something that wasn't broken. It may not have been broken before, but it sure looks like it's broken now.
After all that, as much as everything went wrong for the Giants, if a few things broke differently, Giants could have won this game.