November Rain isn't just a painfully long power ballad by Guns N' Roses. It also describes the mood around the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants when the calendar flips from Halloween to Turkey Month.
The Giants and title-tested quarterback Eli Manning just can't seem to figure out things in the month and continued their annual funk in Cincinnati on Sunday falling to Andy Dalton and the Bengals, 31-13.
Cincinnati had its way with Big Blue from the opening possession, a drive which culminated with Dalton firing a 56-yard touchdown pass to star receiver A.J. Green.
Dalton went on to play mistake-free football for the first time this season, hitting 21-of-30 passes for 199 yards to help the Bengals snap a four-game skid.
"It was a big win for us. We knew it was going to take our best effort to win and that's what happened," Dalton said.
Manning, on the other hand, threw two interceptions and lost a fumble for the Giants, who now head into their bye week on a two-game losing streak.
"I don't have anything I can say I was pleased with," said an angered Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. "We need to play better.
Manning finished with just 215 yards on 29-of-46 attempts and did not throw a touchdown pass for a third straight game -- his longest drought since his rookie season in 2004. Peyton's little brother has now thrown 98 passes since last finding the end zone, the worst stretch of his nine-year career.
"I have to start playing better," Manning said. "We can fix it."
Some have speculated that Manning is fighting through a tired arm, something he denied
"I don't think so. I don't feel like it's tired," the veteran said.
It's hardly time to panic in East Rutherford. The Giants have overcome far too much in the past few years to let a couple of midseason losses deter them from their ultimate goal, another Super Bowl berth.
Meanwhile, New York is still atop what's shaping up as a very poor NFC East. Washington coach Mike Shanahan practically admitted the Redskins were done after a home setback to Carolina on Nov. 4, and it wouldn't be surprising if Andy Reid tapped out on his season after Michael Vick went down with a concussion during Philadelphia's 38-23 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday.
And even though they are now in second place, one game behind the Giants in the loss column, no one is taking the always immature and often undisciplined Cowboys all that seriously. Dallas is prone to implosion when things are going well in North Texas and this version of the 'Boys is still under water on the season with a porous offensive line.
All of that could change quickly, however, if New York can't figure out its November issues. The Giants are now 13-21 in the month under Tom Coughlin.
"We done been here before," Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul told the New York Daily News. "I hate hearing it, but we have."
The bye couldn't have come at a better time for the Giants.
It will enable Manning to recharge his battery and perhaps more importantly, it means only one more game until the calendar turns to December.
"I hate the fact we keep putting ourselves in these situations," defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. "I guess we have to play with our backs against the wall. That's what it seems like and I don't know why it has to be that way."
THE MONDAY REWIND:
SMITH LOOKS BAD IN CHICAGO
Make no mistake, the NFL is concerned about concussions.
Whether you believe the league is really worried about the safety of its players or is just pivoting in response to a mountain of pending litigation on the horizon is a discussion worth having but it's also a moot one. At least until player safety is deemed more important than winning to all involved -- the league, its teams, players and fans.
Right now winning remains paramount to all of those parties.
Three significant starting quarterbacks went down on Sunday with concussions.
Eagles fans finally got their wish when rookie Nick Foles went in for Vick early in the second quarter of Philadelphia's latest loss, while the mighty 49ers had to settle for kissing their sister after second-year man Colin Kaepernick was forced to take over for Alex Smith against the Rams.
Finally Jay Cutler was knocked silly on Football Night in America by a helmet- to-helmet shot from Houston linebacker Tim Dobbins late in the second quarter during the Bears' 13-6 setback to the Texans.
The handling of Cutler was the most disturbing. Despite immediately grabbing the sides of his helmet after getting popped, a sure indication his bell was rung, Cutler was allowed to stay in the game until halftime, running seven more plays and visibly getting hit in the head on at least one more occasion.
After the game Bears coach Lovie Smith had no problem offering his medical opinion despite the fact there is absolutely no way he could have been properly briefed by his staff.
"Didn't have any symptoms, no," Smith said when asked why Cutler was allowed to stay in. "There were a lot of hard hits out there today. You can't start taking guys out for that. When they're injured, then we take them out."
That my friends is an incredibly foolish statement in today's politically correct environment. It also magnifies just how significant the problem is for the NFL.
Look, Smith is an old school guy and so is Cutler for that matter. Both wanted to beat the Houston Texans on national television. Whatever you think of the enigmatic Chicago signal-caller, understand he undoubtedly wanted to keep playing and wasn't pushed by anyone.
It's all about winning now -- not about repercussions 20 years down the line.
But there is a far bigger issue here -- one that could take down a $9 billion dollar enterprise.
"He took some shots," an incredibly ill-prepared Smith said at his post-game presser. "It (a concussion) could happen any time. We just know that at that half, that's when he did have some symptoms."
So exactly what were the symptoms Dr. Smith?
"Whatever the symptoms are for a concussion," Smith stammered. "I mean, I wasn't in there. I'm going to let the doctors handle that."
That's probably a good idea moving forward.
The NFL already fined the Redskins $20,000 earlier this season for misleading the media when Robert Griffin III suffered a concussion. The Bears may want to check the mailbox for their own FedEx package this week.
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM
If you want to know how players think about injuries in general, look to Lions cornerback Chris Houston, who went down with an ankle injury during Detroit's 34-24 loss to the Vikings.
Houston, who was hurt during Adrian Peterson's 61-yard touchdown run which basically sealed the game for the Vikings, offered an inside look on how players view the game.
"Lineman just fell on my ankle on purpose," Houston told MLive.com. "I went to cut him, and as he went down, he put both knees on my ankle on purpose."
If you think Houston had a problem with that, however, think again.
"It's part of the game," he said.
TERRIFIC TIGHT ENDS
In the New Orleans Saints' 31-27 win over previously unbeaten Atlanta, tight ends Jimmy Graham of the Saints and Tony Gonzalez of the Falcons both had at least 120 receiving yards and two touchdowns, marking the first time in NFL history two tight ends accomplished that in the same game.
Graham, the heir apparent to Gonzalez's unofficial title of best receiving tight end in football, finished with 146 receiving yards and two TDs while Gonzalez had 122 yards with two scores.
Gonzalez, a nine-time All-Pro, has been rewriting the record books all season and wasted little time on Sunday. His first reception in the game, a 19-yard pass from Matt Ryan, was the 1,200 of his career, making him one of only two NFL players to ever reach that plateau. Jerry Rice is the all-time leader with an out of sight 1,549 receptions.
"He paved the way for me," Graham said when talking about Gonzalez. "It is definitely something that motivates me. ... No tight end plays the game like he does. It's simply amazing that he's done it for this long. I try to learn as much as I can from him."
Gonzalez also became the first tight end and just the eighth player in NFL history to record 100 touchdown catches during the contest, and passed Cris Carter for eighth place on the NFL's all-time receiving yardage list with 13,955 yards. Additionally, Gonzalez extended his own record for 100-yard receiving games by a tight end with his 30th.
The superstar offered an insight into what has made him so great over the years afterward. Despite all the new milestones, Gonzalez wasn't in the mood to do any celebrating after his team's first loss.
"I'm not going to give you a magic answer as to why they won," Gonzalez said. "This is a typical football game, a hard-fought game, a rivalry game, and they came out on top today."
-Denver quarterback Peyton Manning threw for 301 yards and a touchdown in the Broncos' 36-14 win at Carolina, tying Dan Marino for the second-most TD passes in NFL history with 420. The victory was also Manning's 147th as a starter, matching Marino for third-place on the all-time list.
-The Ravens' Jacoby Jones had a 105-yard kick-return touchdown in Baltimore's 55-20 win over Oakland, becoming the first player in NFL history with two career 105-plus yard kick-return touchdowns. Jones tied the NFL record with a 108-yard kick-return touchdown in Week 6 against Dallas.
-Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson improved to 5-0 as a starter at home after throwing two touchdown passes in the Seahawks' 28-7 win over the New York Jets. Wilson is the first rookie quarterback since the 1970 merger to win his team's first five home games in a season.
-Peterson ran or 171 yards and a touchdown in the Vikings win over Detroit, his 11th career 150-yard rushing game, the most among active players. In the same game, Lions receiver Calvin Johnson notched his third career 200-yard receiving contest, two behind Hall of Famer Lance Alworth for the most ever.