Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
The Cardinals aren't supposed to travel across the country and beat the Giants in the Meadowlands -- yet that's exactly what happened. The Giants have lost two consecutive games and that cushion they had on the Eagles and Cowboys in the NFC East has all but vanished.
Since leading his team to a Super Bowl in 2007, quarterback Eli Manning has usually bounced back from poor performances, but he's put back-to-back clunkers together against the Saints and Cardinals. He had a chance to atone for his poor effort late in the fourth quarter Sunday, but he floated a ball on the sideline that was intercepted by Cardinals cornerback Antrel Rolle.
The Cardinals did a nice job of bringing pressure up the middle and Manning rarely had an opportunity to step into throws. He spent so much time at the line of scrimmage checking out of plays, that he never seemed to get in a rhythm. His 62-yard touchdown pass to rookie wideout Hakeem Nicks gave the Giants a 14-7 lead in the first half, but the Giants weren't able to build on that lead.
The Cardinals' secondary was banged up in the second half, which should have allowed Manning to feast on inexperienced players. Instead, he went at veterans Bryant McFadden and Rolle. The Giants trailed 24-14 in the fourth quarter, but then they started moving the ball. They could have made it 24-21 but wide receiver Mario Manningham dropped a certain touchdown pass. It's a disturbing trend with Manningham -- and it's going to eventually earn him a spot on the bench.
The Cardinals held Steve Smith in check most of the evening but he broke through late in the game. He made a brilliant catch to keep a drive alive late in the game and he probably should have drawn an interference penalty on the play before Rolle made the game-sealing interception. Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams was covering Smith in the middle of the field and he never turned around to actually make a play on the ball. He was face-guarding Smith -- and it worked.
The Giants defense did a nice job of taking away the deep ball and pressuring Kurt Warner. All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald finished with six catches for 83 yards, but the Giants can certainly live with that. I thought the Giants' defense played well enough to win, but the offense simply made too many mistakes. The fumble by Ahmad Bradshaw with just over four minutes left in the game was an absolute killer. Bradshaw had just rumbled for 14 yards when he was stripped of the ball.
The Giants would have had the ball in Cardinals territory with plenty of time to work with. Instead, they needed a desperation drive starting near their own goal line. Running back Brandon Jacobs returned to his punishing ways in running for 76 yards on 13 carries, but the Cardinals did a really nice job of bottling up Bradshaw. In fact, the run he fumbled on was his longest carry of the game.
The thing that would worry me the most about the Giants is the fact that the Cardinals' offensive line pushed them around in the fourth quarter. Defensive end Justin Tuck had to leave the field because of an injury and suddenly the Giants were on their heels.
It's acceptable to go on the road and lose to the undefeated Saints. Losing at home to a team from the NFC West is not a good sign for this team.
In time, the Giants will get cornerback Aaron Ross (hamstring) and linebacker Michael Boley (knee) back on the field. But for now, this is a vulnerable team. It's hard to imagine a three-game losing streak by a Tom Coughlin team, but it's definitely something that could happen with a game in Philly looming.
The fact that the Cowboys won a big game against a quality NFC opponent further reduces the Giants' margin for error. This team is having an identity crisis right now, and they need to get it figured out.