To understand how treacherous the Giants’ situation has become, you need look no further than the historical challenge they face.
They are 0-3 after a stunning 27-24 loss to the Eagles, on a 61-yard field goal with no time left, and there is little chance they will punch a ticket to the playoffs. Consider: In the 27 seasons since the NFL expanded the postseason format to 12 teams in 1990, of the 132 teams that began 0-3, only three made it to the playoffs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The last to do it: the 1998 Bills.
The chances of this year’s Giants becoming part of that select group: slim to none.
They at least made things interesting Sunday, and for a time it looked as if they would breathe life into their season. With a stunning turnaround on offense in the fourth quarter, the Giants rallied from a 14-0 deficit and took their first lead of the game — of the season, actually — at 21-14. But they couldn’t hold on and lost in the most gut-wrenching way possible in a stadium that has been the scene of so many disappointments.
“It’s tough to take that loss,” said Eli Manning, who finally emerged from a vexing funk with three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. “Tough one because of the way we fought back and took the lead. Just the events at the end of the game, to lose that way is tough.”
It may have been a season-deciding loss.
With an offense that can’t be trusted and a defense coming off a loathsome effort that allowed the Eagles to rush for 193 yards, an immediate turnaround is most unlikely. And it must be immediate if there is to be a chance to achieve the goals they spoke of confidently coming into the season.
A team that once harbored what it considered legitimate Super Bowl aspirations is facing an identity crisis that no one could have foreseen.
The margin for error is . . . well, it is nearly gone. “We can’t lose no more,” defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said.
It is a stunning fall from grace for a team that seemed to have all the pieces in place. But it no longer is about talent, Pierre-Paul said. It is about will.
“I knew from the start of the season, from the draft and the trades and guys getting contracts, that at the end of the day, it was going to be about the willing part,” he said. “How bad you want it. When it comes down to the individual, you just have to dig deep and see how bad you want it. The Eagles wanted it bad and definitely got the win.”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Go ask Jerry Reese. I’m not a general manager. I’m just here to do my job and do it well.”
Pierre-Paul isn’t part of the problem. “I want it bad,” he said. “I want to see a ring on my coach’s finger. I want to see a ring on a couple of guys’ fingers. It’s about how bad you want it. We’re three games in and we lost all three of them, so from here on out, what are you gonna do?”
Ben McAdoo struggled to make sense of it all. “A lot of guys are disappointed right now, and rightfully so,” he said. “The game continues to teach us tough lessons that we have to learn from in a hurry and fix.”
Time is quickly running out. Blowing a perfect opportunity to jump-start themselves with a dramatic fourth-quarter win may have dealt a death blow to their playoff chances.
“The first win keeps getting delayed,” McAdoo said. “We are irritable and we need to find a way to win a game. It’s not going to get any easier.”
No, it is not. Nor are their chances of recovering from a dismal start and getting to the playoffs. The way it looks now, it’s almost impossible.