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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

With 4-8 record, Giants wondering what might have been

Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants

Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants is tackled during a run in the fourth quarter by Roquan Smith #58 of the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Credit: Jim McIsaac

What if?

It’s a question that haunts Odell Beckham Jr., something that gnaws at him whenever he thinks about what might have been.

“Trust me, I think about it all the time,” he said.

Saquon Barkley says it bothers him, too.  “Yeah, that one [stinks],” he said. “Obviously, part of you wants to look back and say we let that one slip away.”

What if?

What if the Giants hadn’t blown that 19-3 first-half lead in a 25-22 loss to the Eagles, a game in which Jake Elliott kicked the go-ahead 43-yard field goal with 22 seconds left? What if they were going into Sunday’s game against the Redskins on a four-game winning streak with the potential to pull even with Washington — and possibly Philadelphia — and stay within range of the division-leading Cowboys?

And what if they didn’t ruin another chance at victory in Week 5 after a stirring comeback against Carolina? Graham Gano’s 63-yard field goal with one second left gave the Panthers a 33-31 victory.

“When I said what I said, it wasn’t like just saying this for any reason, attention of any kind to make a story,” Beckham said, referring to his suggestion a month ago that at 1-7, the Giants could run the table in the second half of the season and potentially win the division. “What I believed was pretty much right there in front of us except for us not finishing that Philly game.”

At some level, at 4-8, the Giants are engaged in a game of woulda-coulda-shoulda, a sad but true state of affairs caused by their inability to put away the injury-riddled Eagles when they had them down. The defending Super Bowl champions staged a remarkable comeback and may have saved their own season.

Instead, it ruined the Giants’ season, leaving them at this point with less than a 1-percent chance of winning the division, according to a statistical breakdown by ESPN. If they win and the Eagles beat the Cowboys in Dallas, the Giants will be two games off the divisional lead with three to play.

A loss against the Redskins on Sunday, and the Giants are officially out of the tournament.

“Just hope that it’s not the one that’s going to haunt us,” Beckham said of the loss to the Eagles. “At this point, we really can only focus on Washington.”

The Giants lost all reasonable hope of competing for the playoffs with that loss in Philadelphia, which turned on Eli Manning’s brutal interception near the end of the first half. The offense produced only three more points and the defense buckled in the second half.

Couple that with the crushing defeat in Carolina, and the Giants’ season might come down to those two late-game losses.

“We’re playing at a high level in the last four games,” Barkley said. “We’re 3-1 and you can’t complain about that. But you want to be 4-0. That [Eagles] game was similar to the Panthers game where we had it and let it slip out of our hands.”

The Giants could very well be eliminated in the next week or two, but even if they are, Beckham will find meaning in the remaining games.

“We’re going out there to win, and if our season’s over, I’m making sure somebody else is coming home with us. That’s the goal,” he said. “The goal is to win all these games and see what happens, but if not, you’re going to have a tough game to play against us for the last four games.”

Barkley believes the experience, painful as it may be, ultimately will help the team.

“I believe this whole thing is a learning moment that’s building up to be a great story one day,” he said. “Even though it may not be a great story right now, it will be . . . I think we’re going to laugh at those moments and laugh at those situations and look back and be like, we learned a lot from that.”

When might that happen?

“Only The Man above knows,” he said with a smile.

But in his mind, it will come to pass. Said Barkley, “I know it’s going to happen.”

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