So much for the nationally-televised coronation….  I’m sure most of us had forgotten how much losing sucks.  It’s been a long time since we’ve felt this way, which I guess underscores how lucky we’ve been this calendar year.  And hey, at least we’re not the Cowboys.

I started to worry – I always worry, but seriously worry – during the drawn-out pregame hype on ESPN.  All throughout the week, I had no problem indulging in the media love-fest surrounding the Giants, but as it crescendoed an hour before the game, it began to take on an ominous edge in my mind.  The “humanizing” segment on Coughlin featuring the Snees (Chris and Tom’s daughter) was an especially surefire sign that things had become too good to be true.  At that point, I knew a letdown of some kind, at some time, was imminent.

I just hoped it wouldn’t be last night.  But as I keep telling myself, we weren’t gonna go 16-0.  Even great teams will occasionally turn in terrible performances.  And last night, the 2008 Giants – who have become a great team over the last eight games by discovering an ability to play consistently well on both sides of the ball – laid their first egg.  It was a terrible performance, to be sure, but one that is now in the past while we are still in first place at present.

Or so I keep telling myself.  Because last night’s loss was not only brutal, it was worrisome, particularly because of our pass rush.

Neither or front four or are many blitzers could get close to Anderson all night.  Play after play, he was able to sit back, calmly scan the field, and find the open man.  Pretty quickly, he got into a rhythm where he was making his reads and firing strikes.

This makes it two out of three games where our pass rush has let us down (the Bengals game, the 6 sacks notwithstanding, was the other).  After that game, the Star-Ledger’s Mike Garafolo took stock of our pass rush over our first few games.  His conclusion was that while the sacks were there, the quarterback hurries were actually way down from last year.  Last night, neither the hurries nor sacks were there.

This points to two things that should really concern Giants fans: 1) We miss Osi and Strahan a lot more than we wanted to think at the beginning of the year.  Sure, Tuck’s great, but Kiwanuka and McDougle might not even be good.  At the position, it’s possible that we’ve gone from historically good to merely above-average.

And 2) Our blitzes were completely, utterly, scarily ineffective last night, which makes you wonder if we’re tipping them in some way.  There was talk after the Bengals game that we were tipping them, but that quieted after the Seattle blowout.  Maybe its time to start thinking about that again, as well as the uncomfortable possibility that the league may have caught up with Spags.

Could it be that our pass rush is a shell of what it was last year?  After last night, it seems possible.

While the pass rush was worrisome, there were some things last night that were merely bad.  There’s a distinction there: the bad stuff you expect will turn around.  The worrisome stuff you’re not so sure.

The play of the secondary, for instance, was bad.  But with all the time Anderson was given and with the confidence in his protection he accumulated, those guys faced a real uphill battle.

Obviously, Aaron Ross – a universally popular Giant, it seems – had a truly horrific game.  The first big play to Braylon – you rarely see Ross miss a tackle like that – the second big play to Braylon, and the fourth quarter touchdown to Braylon were all back-breaking plays and were all Ross’ fault (though it’s hard to kill a guy for suddenly getting a cramp).  On the touchdown to Darnell Dinkins, Ross was playing the deep safety position, and seemed a little slow coming over the top to help Pierce.  The good news is that he appears to be okay.  Good player, awful game.

The tackling was pretty bad last night too.  Repeatedly, the Browns were able to slip out of the initial tackle to pick up a couple extra yards to put them in “manageable” situations (the announcers were so big on that concept last night).  Against the Bengals, the tackling was poor too.  In both instances, this was probably a function of being on the field for so long but it’s still something to watch going forward.

In terms of the merely bad stuff offensively, there was obviously Eli.  It was a bad performance, but one that can be shrugged off – all quarterbacks, even great ones, have them.  And aside from the interceptions, Eli was actually pretty decent last night.  (I know, I know…  If my aunt had balls, she’d be my uncle, but still.)  His throws were generally pretty sharp, and he completed 18 for 28, or 64% of his passes, which is actually a hair better than his 2008 completion percentage and significantly better than his career mark.

The rest of the offense was fine.  We ran the ball very well and put up 373 yards of total offense, only 57 of which were full-fledged garbage-time yards gained during that bizarrely time-consuming drive at the end of the game.  (What the hell was that, anyway?  No, we weren’t going to win the game, but it was still mathematically possible.  You don’t give up, Tom!)

So in the end, you can shrug off some things about this game.  Eli and the secondary played poorly, but that’s in the past.  The pass rush, however, and to some degree the tackling, are things to worry about going forward.