Eli Manning looks on from the sidelines after throwing an...

Eli Manning looks on from the sidelines after throwing an interception in the fourth quarter of a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium. (Oct. 6, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Justin Tuck brought up the specter that hangs over the Giants' 0-5 start, a streak extended with Sunday's deflating 36-21 loss to the Eagles.

With 11 games left in a season that essentially already is over, the defensive captain spoke about the two directions the Giants can go from here.

He said one path has the team continuing to fight and trying to improve and maybe salvaging a few wins and a little pride in the next three months.

"Or," he said, referencing a darker, much grimmer trail, "you can sulk and feel sorry for yourself and have the worst season ever in Giants history."

And there it is.

Less than two years removed from hoisting a fourth Lombardi Trophy for the franchise, the Giants are staring into the abyss of all-time futility -- and it's not as if this team hasn't seen some depths.

The 1970s and the second half of the '60s were the dark ages, close to two full decades of despair. To be compared to those struggling times now, even in passing, is almost unfathomable for a team that was using words like "dominance" and "urgency" as recently as the preseason.

The Giants won't have much time to dwell on the fact that no team has ever overcome an 0-5 start to make the playoffs. They face the Bears in Chicago on Thursday night with the very real possibility of falling to 0-6. Only two teams in Giants history have started a season without a win in their first six games: They started 0-9 in 1979 and 0-7-2 in 1947.

They're already the first team in the NFL to allow at least 31 points in each of the first five games of a season since the 1954 Chicago Cardinals. And yet they are only two games behind the first-place Eagles and Cowboys in the NFC East. That's closer than the lead the Giants had in the division last November, when they were up by three games before giving it away.

"I don't know what's the breaking point," safety Antrel Rolle said. "I don't know."

Eli Manning threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter, two of them on ill-advised passes that Tom Coughlin called "almost unbelievable."

But there was very nearly a turning point for the Giants' season in this game.

The mood at MetLife Stadium certainly changed midway through the third quarter when, during a commercial break, the defense broke into a dance. The Eagles were huddled near their sideline, so the only 11 people on the field were the Giants' defenders. Suddenly, almost imperceptibly at first, they started bouncing up and down and jumping in celebration. The crowd, which had turned on the team with lusty boos at halftime, was sparked to life with raucous cheering.

None of that would have mattered had the defense not performed on the ensuing possession. But it did. After a crowd-induced false start against the Eagles, the Giants forced a three-and-out. Rueben Randle was interfered with by Brandon Boykin while trying to make a fair catch and Boykin was flagged for pass interference against Victor Cruz for a 32-yard gain. Then Manning hit Randle in the left side of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown pass to give the Giants a 21-19 lead. It was the first time they led in the second half this season.

"That was reminiscent of better times here," Tuck said. "You think you right the ship and it's clear skies ahead, I guess. But it wasn't today."

The lead didn't stand, even with Michael Vick sidelined with a left hamstring injury. The Eagles (2-3) took advantage of a pass-interference penalty against Prince Amukamara and kicked a 41-yard field goal to take a 22-21 lead with 1:04 left in the third quarter.

It still was a game in the fourth quarter, but that's when Manning and the Giants started donating alms to the Eagles.

The first of the INTs was on a play in which Manning was pressured in the pocket, had his head pulled backward by Trent Cole and had his pass intended for Brandon Jacobs clunk off the back of center Jim Cordle's helmet. It fluttered into the arms of Mychal Kendricks, who returned it 18 yards to the Giants' 25, and on the next play, backup quarterback Nick Foles hit Brent Celek for a 25-yard TD over Ryan Mundy for a 29-21 lead.

On the next possession, Manning again tried to force a pass, this time to Cruz. It was intercepted by Boykin and set up a 5-yard touchdown pass from Foles to DeSean Jackson for a 36-21 lead with 8:24 left.

Cary Williams added another interception, giving the Giants 20 turnovers and Manning 12 INTs on the season.

"I have to start playing better football and making throws and putting our team in a better position," said Manning, who completed 24 of 52 passes for 334 yards.

The Giants have been in position in many of their games this season. Despite what have turned into blowouts, the Giants have been within a score of the Cowboys, Broncos, Chiefs and Eagles late in the third quarter. Then things have spiraled out of control.

"We just need to pick it up," Rolle said. "We need to get our head out of our [butt] and pick it up. That's the reality of it. We're 0-5 and we're losing games around here and this is not Giants football that we're playing."

In fact, it may wind up being the worst Giants football that's ever been played.

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