New York Giants making headlines for all the wrong reasons

Graziano: Eli, Coughlin made critical mistakes (2:05)

ESPN Giants reporter Dan Graziano discusses the decision-making and time-management errors made by Giants QB Eli Manning and coach Tom Coughlin against the Cowboys. (2:05)

Expectations are low. They've gone three straight years without making the playoffs. Their star defensive player is out indefinitely with an unprecedented injury that happened away from the field due to a stupid mistake. In the first game of the season, their quarterback made a series of blunders that included a rogue strategic decision he didn't run by his coaches, and a New York City tabloid put him on its front page in a helmet shaped like a dunce cap.

Same old Jets, right?

Wrong! The sorry-sounding squad in question is the New York Giants, whose start to the 2015 season has been the kind of kooky circus with which their beleaguered stadium-mates are usually associated.

The most upsetting part of Sunday night's loss, if you're a Giants fan, is you were let down by your rocks. Veteran coach Tom Coughlin, winner of two Super Bowls, took the blame for mismanaging the final minutes of the game. And franchise quarterback Eli Manning, who signed a four-year, $84 million extension last week, was the one who (A) told running back Rashad Jennings not to score on two straight plays and (B) threw a clock-stopping incomplete pass on a play in which an incomplete pass was the worst possible outcome.

There are so many holes, so much inexperience and so many question marks on this Giants roster that Coughlin and Manning need to be ultra-reliable in order for anything to go right. Especially because there's no relief off the field with the very-much-unresolved storyline of Jason Pierre-Paul, his fireworks accident and his damaged hand.

The fact that the Giants found themselves in a position to win a game they weren't supposed to win and Coughlin and Manning blew it is what makes this whole thing so hard to swallow.

The bright side, however, is that if any team is well-positioned to recover and move on from this quickly, it's the Giants, and it's because of Coughlin and Manning.

When the Giants arrive for work Wednesday morning, Coughlin will immediately swing, as he does every Wednesday, into look-ahead mode. The conversation will be about the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday's opponent, and what the Giants must do to beat them. If there's any mention of Sunday's mess or Monday's fallout, Coughlin will use it to make a point about growing stronger from experience, moving on and blocking out the outside noise.

Coughlin and Manning have made very successful careers of their abilities to focus on the game, the week and the moment at hand, and not letting the things being said or written or photoshopped on the other side of their door affect them. Manning is a quarterback who can throw the worst interception you've ever seen and then, on his next drive, look like a quarterback who's never thrown a bad pass in his life. Coughlin is a coach who has the full attention and loyalty of his roster and the track record of getting his players to focus on the important things at the important times.

The Giants are a mess right now -- an injury-riddled 0-1 team that's trying to avoid a third straight losing season and is making headlines for all the wrong reasons. If you're a fan of the team, that's not what you're used to, and it's not making you feel good. But if you're looking for a reason to feel better, it's that Manning and Coughlin are the leaders who were willing to take the hits Sunday and Monday and know exactly what to do to make sure the past few days don't ruin the days to come.