The oldest NFL saying in the book is that anything can happen on any given Sunday. Or Monday, in the case of the Giants. The Cleveland Browns beat them in every phase of the game en route to a 35-14 win, puncturing the bubble of invincibility around the defending champs with the precision of a subprime mortgage default to the housing bubble. The easy way to write off the game is that the Giants were flat and the Browns, a disappointment thus far, finally played their A game. That combination is a recipe for a loss.
That doesn't mean there weren't a couple of items that require attention in the coming days and weeks. Foremost among the concerns should be the inability of the Giants to pressure Browns quarterback Derek Anderson. Without pressure, opposing quarterbacks will follow Anderson's lead and exploit a secondary that remains the weakest part of the defense. Without Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan, it was surprising that the team didn't suffer a significant drop in productivity early in the season. With just two sacks in the last two games, though, it's become a serious concern. If Mathias Kiwanuka can't outplay good left tackles, like Cleveland's Joe Thomas and Seattle's Walter Jones, the defense will lose much of their fear factor.
On offense, Eli Manning's three interceptions were the primary culprit for the loss. Manning was obviously pressing, trying to get the Giants back into the game and, as a result, slipped back into some bad habits. Throws off the back foot and failures to recognize defenses were nowhere to be found on the eight-game winning streak, should there be concern that they've returned? Not yet. It's easier to see Manning's performance as a bad game, and we shouldn't forget that he suffered a chest injury in the second quarter.
The Giants host the 2-4 49ers this weekend. Only one other team on their schedule has a losing record so we'll know soon enough if this was a lapse or the start of a rapid descent to Earth.