PHILADELPHIA — The Giants did something that hadn’t seemed possible when they were heading into Monday night’s game against the Eagles.
They made Eli Manning irrelevant.
That’s how bad they are.
The buildup for the contest at Lincoln Financial Field focused almost entirely on the return of the two-time Super Bowl MVP to the lineup, and for the first half, he was the sole storyline in a prime-time Manningpalooza.
But by the time the game ended in a 23-17 Eagles victory, with Carson Wentz hitting Zach Ertz with a 2-yard touchdown pass 4:50 into overtime, it became clear that it doesn’t really matter who plays at quarterback for this team.
Instead of turning back the clock to Manning’s glory days, as the script was intended to do, the Giants wound it too far into their past and lost a ninth straight game, matching 1976 for the longest losing streak in franchise history.
At 2-11, they are firmly among the worst teams in the 95 seasons of Giants football, with three more chances to separate themselves in that regard.
“That’s not something you want to be a part of,” coach Pat Shurmur said of the ignominy of not posting a win since Sept. 29.
Manning did provide a few glimpses of the kind of football he used to play when the Giants rolled up and down the field on their way to postseason berths and championship runs.
He started out looking the way a 38-year-old who had not played in a game since early September should look: creaky, rusty and not quite up to speed. But as the game moved into the second quarter, he seemed to click into gear.
His first throw of that period was a 35-yard touchdown pass to Darius Slayton, the first connection between the two players and the 363rd TD pass of Manning’s career.
On the next drive, he hit Slayton for gains of 42 and 10 yards, the longer of the two a perfectly placed pass down the left sideline that sparked memories of the Super Bowl pass to Mario Manningham (Slayton even wears the same number 86).
With 27 seconds left in the half, Manning aired it out deep to Slayton for a 55-yard touchdown. That was his 364th touchdown pass and moved him past Ben Roethlisberger into seventh place in NFL history.
The Giants went into halftime up 17-3, with Manning passing for 179 yards and Slayton catching five passes for 154 yards.
In the second half, though, the Giants managed only 29 total yards on 21 offensive plays, allowed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Ertz with 1:53 remaining in the fourth quarter that sent the game to overtime, then gave up an eight-play, 75-yard drive to end the game.
Manning, who completed 4 of 11 passes for 24 yards in the second half, and the Giants never touched the ball in overtime.
“We’re a team that finds ways to lose a lot of games,” running back Saquon Barkley said. “We’re an inconsistent football team.”
They’ve actually become remarkably consistent when it comes to results. Not even Manning could alter that.
“Obviously, l would have liked to get the win,” he said after his career record as a starter fell to 116-117. “I thought we had a great first half and gave ourselves a chance. The second half, offensively we just didn’t do hardly anything. Put our defense in a bind.”
Shurmur would not say whether Manning will get another start as Daniel Jones recovers from a high ankle sprain. The Giants are taking it “week to week,” he said.
The Eagles (6-7) moved into a tie with the Cowboys for the NFC East lead.
Manning’s return came in a rainy, windy, miserable game that was meaningless in terms of the team’s current fate or future plans . . . but gave something of a nod to the Giants’ history and Manning’s place in it.
Not that it seemed to even matter.
Notes & quotes: G Kevin Zeitler left the game with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter after he was inadvertently leg-whipped. He said he will have tests Tuesday to determine the severity of the injury but left the stadium in a boot and on crutches . . . The Giants signed punter Riley Dixon to a three-year extension during the weekend. Dixon, acquired by the Giants in a trade with the Broncos in April 2018, has punted 46 times this season with career-best averages in both gross (47.0, sixth in the NFL) and net yardage (42.8, fifth in the league and on pace to set a franchise record).