PHILADELPHIA - With their 0-2 start in the rearview mirror thanks to a three-game winning streak, the Giants headed into their Week 6 matchup against the Eagles last night in sole possession of first place in the NFC East with a chance to make a major statement against their division foes.
That statement went as follows: They are not ready to take control of a division that is absolutely screaming for some team -- any team -- to step up and step out of the muck the first six weeks have given us.
After the Giants' 27-7 loss to the Eagles, by far their worst game of the season, the two teams are tied atop the division at 3-3. The mediocrity was positively oozing at Lincoln Financial Field, especially from the Giants. Unlike their previous five games, when they held the lead in the fourth quarter, they were never in it against the Eagles aside from a burst at the outset.
Bottom line: They stunk.
"We had a chance to separate ourselves a little bit, but we didn't make it happen," linebacker Mark Herzlich said. "The momentum we had, not only with the three wins but also in the game, we weren't able to capitalize on it. Any time you have a chance to get a win in the division, it's definitely a wasted opportunity."
And how. It was their most brutal performance since the depths of their seven-game losing streak last year, which coincidentally enough began with a loss to the Eagles after a 3-2 start.
"Disappointed," linebacker J.T. Thomas said. "Not in our guys, not in the system, not in our preparation. I just think we're disappointed in the opportunity missed."
Problems on both sides of the ball contributed to the Giants' inability to follow up on a flawless opening drive that gave them a 7-0 lead. Eli Manning looked razor-sharp, completing passes to four receivers, including Odell Beckham Jr. on a 13-yard strike for the touchdown.
But the Eagles then rolled up 27 unanswered points as Sam Bradford, who gradually is finding his way in Chip Kelly's offense, got the passing game going and DeMarco Murray finally made his way past the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time this season.
The Giants wound up with three turnovers, as Manning had his first multi-interception game of the season and Rashad Jennings lost a fumble. One of Manning's interceptions came on a pass to tight end Larry Donnell, the hero of last week's win over the 49ers, as Donnell failed to wrest the ball away from linebacker DeMeco Ryans.
"I thought it was a critical play in the game," coach Tom Coughlin said of Donnell losing the ball. "Our inability to put points on the board right there, to be able to go back and forth and match [the Eagles], that hurt. I thought our first drive was as good a drive as we've had. That really excited me about the rest of the day, but from that point on, there wasn't a whole lot to get excited about."
The defense wasn't much better. Continued problems with the pass rush in Jason Pierre-Paul's absence let Bradford throw with little sustained pressure.
So now it's on to the Cowboys on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, where first place again will be on the line. The Cowboys will be missing quarterback Tony Romo (broken collarbone) and wide receiver Dez Bryant (broken foot), with Matt Cassel replacing the ineffective Brandon Weeden at quarterback.
The Cowboys (2-3) haven't won without Romo, but just as the weak division helped the Giants recover from their 0-2 start, so has the watered-down NFC East kept Dallas within range.
The Giants also can take comfort from the weak state of the division, which means they can write this one off and move on to the Cowboys. But Manning's turnover problems shouldn't be overlooked, and if there is a steady dose of interceptions and fumbles in the coming weeks, there will be cause for concern.
The defense's lack of a sustained pass rush will be an ongoing problem even if Pierre-Paul makes it back. He is expected to meet with the team this week, and a follow-up examination of his right hand, which was severely injured in a July 4 fireworks accident, could determine whether he can return this season.
Even a healthy Pierre-Paul wouldn't have made a difference against the Eagles. The Giants barely showed up.
The good news is there's another chance next week, and likely plenty more chances after that. Such is life this year in the NFC Least.