AFTER LOSS TO PHILADELPHIA, GIANTS PLAYOFF CLINCHING PARTY KEPT ON HOLD
PHILADELPHIA – It’s eerie how silent a large room with grown men can become. Such was the Giants’ locker room late Thursday night after their bid to clinch a playoff berth came up short in a 24-19 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Lincoln Financial Field.
The 10-5 Giants can have someone else punch their postseason ticket this weekend; they will be in if Atlanta, Green Bay or Tampa Bay lose Saturday, or Detroit falls in Dallas Monday night. They can also clinch with a victory in their season finale on New Year’s Day in Washington.
But the Giants wanted to end all the what-ifs by beating the Eagles for the second time this season. Instead, they fell behind, 14-0, kicked field goals on four of their five trips into the red zone, and committed three turnovers, all on Eli Manning interceptions – one that was returned for a touchdown, and one that sealed the 6-9 Eagles’ victory with five seconds remaining.
So now the Giants will monitor the results in the NFC on Christmas weekend.
“Hey, it wouldn’t be us if it was easy,” guard Justin Pugh said. “I wanted to clinch today. I wanted to enjoy my holidays and enjoy that with us going to the playoffs. Now, we have to rely on other teams to help us out. You never want that.”
“Everything is still in front of us,” linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. “I don’t know how it will play out or if we’ll need help or whatever but we can still win and get in. I think we’re all in for it. It’s not hard to motivate this team or to go get this team ready to play. We just have to be able to capitalize on the situations that we’re in and play and win. Today, we just started slow and couldn’t overcome it.”
But they came close. After Manning’s fourth-down pass to Sterling Shepard was knocked down by Nolan Carroll with 1:54 left, the Giants quickly forced a punt and took possession at their own 15 with 1:31 remaining and one timeout.
Eli Manning has thrived in those situations his entire 13-year career. He has led 33 career game-winning fourth-quarter drives, including five this season. The Giants were confident this would be the 34th.
“With 10 throwing the football and making smart decisions, that’s what you want,” wide receiver Victor Cruz said. “That’s the guy you want with the ball in his hands making decisions for this team. He’s done it time and time again. Unfortunately, we didn’t come through. I have all the faith in him, so we’ll see what happens.”
Manning threw a Giants-record 63 passes. The last of his 38 completions – the second-highest total of his career, was an 11-yarder to Cruz that gave the Giants a first down at the Eagles’ 34-yard line with 25 seconds left.
After an incompletion to Cruz, Manning’s second-down pass to an open Odell Beckham, Jr. sailed over the receiver’s head in the end zone.
“I had him,” Manning said. “I had a shot. I had a little double move and I probably could have tried to throw it early and made sure that I had enough room with the end zone and kind of put it on the line, so that the safety couldn’t recover and I just missed him a little bit. That is not a route that we throw all of the time. It was kind of a desperation moment right there, but that was definitely one of those plays again where we didn’t make it, it was there and we didn’t make it and it would have been a winner.”
Beckham said he was responsible the play didn’t result in a touchdown.
“I just didn’t make the play,” he said. “The ball wasn’t overthrown; it was put right where it needed to be. I just needed a little bit more gas in me to go and get it. When you get into a two-minute situation at the end of the game and you run a 30-yard route and come back, you run another 30-yard route and you come back and then you try to get it again, I just didn’t have enough gas to go and get it. It wasn’t really overthrown; I needed to do a better job. That’s one of the things I said I needed to work on: when the ball is in the air, you duck your head and take three steps and drive, look up and then take another three steps and drive. I just didn’t do it for some reason, I thought I would’ve been able to go and get to it and I wasn’t. That weighs heavy on me; I want to be able to make those plays for this team. We had our own destiny in our hands tonight and we just didn’t come up with it.”
Similar sentiments were expressed in all corners of the quiet locker room.
“Everyone on this offense wishes they can have a couple plays back,” Pugh said.
The Giants’ final play certainly qualifies. On third down, Manning was pressured and his pass to tight end Will Tye came up short and was intercepted by Terrence Brooks with five seconds remaining.
“The quarterback couldn’t step into the ball and throw it on a rope the way he wanted to throw it on a rope,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “When the ball is in the air, we like our players to go attack the ball.”
“(I was) getting hit as I was trying to throw it, and the ball just didn’t get out how I wanted it to,” Manning said. “I am disappointed that we weren’t able to pull it off and we were a couple plays away from winning the football game.”
Some of those plays occurred early in the game. The Giants had sizeable advantages in total yards (470-286), first downs (24-15), and third-down conversions (10-4). But the Eagles had a 3-1 lead in touchdowns. Robbie Gould kicked four field goals.
“We didn’t score touchdowns. We kicked field goals,” McAdoo said. “I didn’t coach well enough, and we didn’t play well enough, in all three phases.”
After the Giants went three-and-out to start the game, the Eagles drove 78 yards in seven plays, the last a Darren Sproles touchdown run. On the third play of the Giants’ ensuing possession, Manning’s pass to Tye was intercepted by safety Malcolm Jenkins, who returned the ball 34 yards for a touchdown. Only 6:40 had elapsed, and the Giants trailed, 14-0.
“Just a bad decision,” Manning said of the pick. “I threw it up there and it was one of those deals where I was trying to get the ball to Tye, felt the pressure, was going to try to put it on his back hip and I saw the defender in front, but didn’t see the defender behind. I just never saw the defender that was chasing him from behind.”
Manning’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard helped lift the Giants to within 21-13 at halftime. But their five second-half possessions resulted in two field goals, two interceptions, and losing the ball on downs. And the ultimate result was that strangely quiet locker room.
“(We) understand that we had it right there for our grasp to win this game and be in the playoffs, right where we want to be, and we didn’t complete that task today,” Cruz said. “So, unfortunately, we have to go into next week hoping some things happen with some other teams. I haven’t even wrapped my head around it right now. We just have to make sure we’re ready come next week.”