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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Giants' rout in Philadelphia is hard to understand

Giants quarterback Eli Manning stands on the sideline

Giants quarterback Eli Manning stands on the sideline during the second half of a game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo Credit: AP / Matt Rourke

PHILADELPHIA - Tom Coughlin said it himself Friday: "Talk is cheap; play the game.''

So the Eagles did Sunday night, far, far better than Coughlin's Giants did, resulting in a 27-0 rout that rendered a week of relatively mild trash talk moot and left the visitors in a precarious position in the NFC East race.

That position grew even more precarious with 9:35 remaining in the third quarter when receiver Victor Cruz was carted off Lincoln Financial Field in tears with a torn patellar tendon in his right knee, ending his season.

It made an awful night worse for the Giants, ensuring ripple effects that will last well beyond one bad loss.

If fans were dazed and confused by the nationally televised flop, the coach and his players did not offer many answers for them afterward. They were too busy being dazed by Cruz's injury and confused by the outcome.

"It still baffles me,'' safety Antrel Rolle said. "I have no rhyme or reason why.''

Rolle did know this: "In this league you can't take days off; you can't take them off. We took today off -- everyone.''

Said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul: "We came out sluggish and finished sluggish.''

Other than Cruz's injury, the worst problem among many for the Giants was anticipated in an animated video the Eagles themselves posted this past week.

It featured cartoon versions of Eagles defenders approaching Giants quarterback Eli Manning in the dark, saying, "We're coming to get you, Eli.''

The real-life Eagles did just that come game time, harassing Manning, whose line did precious little to protect him. Giants quarterbacks were sacked a total of eight times.

"We had way too many penalties and way too many hits on the QBs,'' tackle Will Beatty said. "All you have to do is keep [Manning] upright and you know what he can do. And we showed we can do it in previous games . . . Just way too much bad stuff out there.''

Beatty was called for a questionable holding penalty that erased a touchdown pass from Manning to Larry Donnell shortly before the play on which Cruz was injured. That play never would have happened if not for the call on Beatty.

"It doesn't matter if it's right or wrong,'' Beatty said. "It's things like that you have to be able to bounce back from.''

Fellow tackle Justin Pugh had a particularly poor night, which he called "probably the worst game I've ever played -- hands down. It's not even close.''

Manning said of the pass-rush onslaught: "It wasn't anything that confused us. It wasn't any looks that we weren't prepared for. It wasn't like they were bringing blitzes that we hadn't seen. We should have had a hat for every guy who was coming.''

A competitive road loss to the Eagles after a three-game winning streak would have been understandable. But the merciless blowout was difficult to explain and impossible to excuse.

So now the Cowboys, of whom little was expected, and the Eagles, whose fans had been unhappy with their style points through five games, both are 5-1. The Giants are 3-3 and visit Dallas this weekend.

With the Jets all but gone from realistic playoff contention, the Giants are the only thing standing between the New York area seeing all four of its baseball and football teams miss the playoffs for a second consecutive year.

That will be quite a challenge with Cruz gone from the offense. And it brings into question how much the three-game winning streak actually meant.

The Giants are 3-0 against teams that currently have records of .500 or worse and 0-3 against teams that currently have winning records.

"It's not like college,'' said rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr., of whom more will be expected with Cruz out. "It's not like you lost the one game and you're not competing for a national championship anymore . . . There are games to be played. We have to just finish as strong as possible.''

The occasional bad night is allowed in the NFL, and the occasional devastating injury comes with the territory.

But it's getting late early out here, and if the Giants don't quickly figure out what went horribly wrong here, New York will be re-focusing its playoff hopes on hockey and basketball come November.


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