Five weeks into the season, the New York Giants are still searching for an identity on defense.
And their once formidable running game has been one of the worst in the NFL.
Running the ball and stopping the run are two of Tom Coughlin's greatest commandments but so far, the Giants haven't been able to do either with much success.
On top of that, the Giants compounded the situation during last Sunday's loss to the Seahawks by turning the ball over five times and making killer mistakes and penalties.
"We continue to shoot ourselves in the foot," Coughlin said. "The oldest axiom in the world is you have to first keep from beating yourself before you can expect to beat the other guy. We didn't do that."
With all the injuries they have endured and are trying to make up for, the Giants won't be able to overcome turnovers, penalties and defensive breakdowns while being unable to run the ball or stop the run.
Defensive players say the run-stopping problem is something that can be fixed by paying better attention to detail, such as better gap control and trusting that teammates will handle their responsibilities.
Running the ball, though, may be more problematic since the offensive line has been unable to open holes and two starters -- center David Baas (neck/burner) and Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee (concussion) -- are injured.
The Giants have to figure out a solution to their problems fast. After losing to the Seahawks, the Giants must regroup to face a much-improved Buffalo Bills squad that is surging at 4-1.
Buffalo's Fred Jackson is third in the league in rushing with 480 yards and five touchdowns. Jackson has gained more yards rushing than the Giants' entire team, 480-to-419.
Eli Manning says opponents are bringing a safety down to stop the run. But this is nothing new to the Giants.
So far, Ahmad Bradshaw has 286 yards rushing and is still searching for his first 100-yard game. Brandon Jacobs, who missed last week's game with a sprained MCL, hasn't rushed for more than 50 yards in a game this year.
"We're going to keep hammering away at it," Coughlin said of the run game. "We knew exactly what we were getting into with the safety down [in the box] and so on and so forth. We're just going to keep hammering away at it because that is philosophically what I hold to and believe in. I understand that you wouldn't be able to sense it at this point, but it's something that we feel that we have to do."
The Giants have had success through the air as Manning has hooked up with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz on big plays this season. The no-huddle has also helped jumpstart the offense at times. But they can't become one-dimensional.
Manning said the no-huddle won't work all the time and it won't necessarily draw the opposing safety out of the box.
"I don't think that would make a difference," Manning explained. "We tried a little no-huddle during the second quarter for a couple of series and didn't have much success with it. We work on it and dabble in that. At the end of the second half, we did it and were able to go down there and score and it was a big drive and at the end of the game we were in it and we got down to the 5-yard-line so it is one of those deals. We used it a little bit but it has to be working for you to be able to stay in it."
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has to figure out a way to slow down Jackson. Fewell is familiar with the Bills after he was their defensive coordinator and briefly served as interim head coach before joining the Giants in 2010.
In the past three weeks, the Giants surrendered 128 yards and a touchdown to Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy, 138 yards and three touchdowns to Arizona's Beanie Wells and 98 yards and a touchdown to Seattle's Marshawn Lynch.
"It's just the little things that we can clean up that are hurting us," defensive tackle Rocky Bernard said. "We have to do more gang-tackling, playing our gaps, playing sound football. We have to keep working and guys trusting each other and that somebody is going to be in their gap and not peeking in and out and things of that nature."
"[Opponents] watch a lot of film on you," Bernard added. "They study you, they know your tendencies, they know what you like to do. They will set you up to peek inside and they bait you to go inside. It is something you have to just trust, hey look, this is my gap, I have to stay here, I can try and make this play but I am going to stay where I am supposed to be and trust that the [other] guy that is supposed to make this play will make this play."
Because of season-ending injuries to cornerback Terrell Thomas and middle linebacker Jon Goff and shuffling other players in and out due to injuries to defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora this season, some Giants players may be trying to do more to compensate.
Whatever the problem may be, the Giants have to get their act together soon. After Buffalo, the Giants enter their bye week before facing the Dolphins. Then the schedule gets nasty with games against New England, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Green Bay and Dallas.
If the Giants can't run or stop the run then, they could be staring at yet another meltdown in the second half of the season.
"When we do get everything corrected, and we're all on the same page and we're clicking, we're a tough team to beat," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. "And I feel like we're one of the best teams in the league when we do get everything corrected, so it's just a matter of placing the emphasis in the right places to get it done."