Eli Manning among several Giants injured in win over Redskins in season finale
Eli Manning withstood 39 sacks, threw 27 interceptions, lost nine games and left MetLife Stadium on crutches.
But he wanted to keep going.
"I don't think you're ever happy to see the season end," the Giants quarterback said Sunday after a 20-6 win over the Redskins, the second half of which he watched from the trainer's room with a high ankle sprain. "It was a tough year, but I'm proud of the way we responded."
Those were the mixed emotions emanating from a team that lost its first six games but managed to win seven of the last 10. The early stanza defined the 2013 season as one in which they missed the playoffs, whiffed on the chance to play in a home Super Bowl and suffered their first losing season in almost a decade. The latter, they hope, will propel them toward success in the future.
"It meant everything," Antrel Rolle said of the win, a parenthetical game in a sea of NFL contests filled with playoff drama. " . . . Closing it out winning seven of the last 10 games, we can't ask for much more than that. We showed a lot of resiliency and went out there and fought together as a team."
Perhaps Terrell Thomas best summed up the dichotomy. "It [stinks], I ain't going to lie to you," the cornerback said, "but at the end of the year, I don't feel bad right now because we hung together and we fought."
The Giants (7-9) ended the season feeling good mentally, but physically, it was another story. Manning was the most obvious of the injured players because he never leaves the field. The last time he didn't finish a game because of a physical issue was in 2009. But he was one of five offensive starters who did not finish this one.
Hakeem Nicks also suffered an ankle injury just a few minutes before Manning's on a play in the end zone in which he pushed off cornerback DeAngelo Hall, was flagged for offensive pass interference and appeared to roll his ankle. He limped off the field and into the locker room and was unavailable for comment after the game. Nicks' 56 receptions for 896 yards are team records for a receiver without a touchdown.
Rueben Randle left the game early when a knee injury that surfaced earlier in the week bothered him, and guard James Brewer left with another ankle injury.
None of those should carry over to the 2014 season, but there was one that might. Tackle Will Beatty, making an attempt to catch a third-quarter pass that was tipped by Louis Murphy Jr., fractured his right leg when it was hit by Hall and bent backward. Depending on the severity of the break and whether any further damage took place in the knee, the injury could affect Beatty into next season.
Add it to the list of offensive line issues the Giants will have to monitor and address. When asked if dealing with quarterback protection will be something the Giants focus on this offseason, Tom Coughlin said: "It will be an objective, for sure."
The Redskins (3-13) took a 3-0 lead after Andre Brown fumbled, marking the 16th game this season in which the Giants had at least one turnover. The Giants went ahead 7-3 on Jerrel Jernigan's over-the-head 24-yard touchdown catch with 5:21 left in the first half and Josh Brown added a 34-yard field goal with 1:38 left in the half. Brown had missed a 50-yard attempt earlier, ending his team-record streak of 17 consecutive field goals made.
The Redskins kicked a field goal with four seconds left in the half to make it 10-6.
Jernigan showed the versatility the Giants have been waiting three years to see when he took a handoff on an end-around and ran 49 yards for a TD on the final play of the third quarter for a 17-6 lead. It was the third touchdown in the last two games for Jernigan and the longest run of the season by any Giants player. Brown's 38-yarder made it 20-6 with 4:53 left. Trumaine McBride had two interceptions in the second half to help seal the win.
"I think what you saw the last 10 games is what this team is about," Justin Tuck said. "Unfortunately, there were some games earlier in the season that didn't go our way."
Although losing was not the final note of the season, it is the one that will reverberate long after the false satisfaction of whatever kind of roll the Giants went on to end the season fades away. "Too little, too late," Coughlin said. "But when I said I was proud of this team, I am."