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Eli Manning throws five interceptions in Giants' fifth loss in row

Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants

Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants looks on after throwing his second interception of the first half at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014 in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: Jim McIsaac

One shot to gain 1 inch. The Giants didn't make it.

Four chances to move 4 yards. Again, the Giants failed to gain the ground.

One game to stay relevant in the final six weeks of the season. You guessed it. The Giants came up short.

Their fifth straight loss, a 16-10 heartbreaker to the 49ers made all the more difficult to digest by the many missed opportunities despite Eli Manning's five interceptions, dropped the Giants' record to 3-7. It essentially buried them in the NFC East standings, virtually ended their season and officially made them something they never thought they would be: worse than last year, when they were 4-6 after 10 games despite losing their first six.

The difference in 12 months is inconsequential, though, compared to the commonality. They almost certainly will miss the playoffs for the third straight season and fifth time in six years.

It was so bad that Tom Coughlin was left comparing the last two disasters the way Weather Channel reporters contrast the damage of historic hurricanes.

"We've had a defensive fiasco,'' Coughlin said, referring to last week's meltdown against the Seahawks. "We've had an offensive fiasco,'' he said of Sunday's performance. "Perhaps maybe now we'll be able to go and put something together.''

Not that it will matter much. Even with the Eagles losing, the Giants trail them and the Cowboys (both 7-3) by four games with six to play. The Cowboys and Eagles play each other twice, so the chance of dual collapses is remote. Both will get to eight wins or one will reach nine based solely on their head-to-head. The most games the Giants can win is nine.

The Giants may not be eliminated mathematically, but they seem to be so mentally.

"We all wish that we could make it to the postseason. I'm not sure right now if that's attainable or not,'' Antrel Rolle said. "We play this game for pride, we play this game for passion. Just go out there and try to be the best we can be and let the rest unfold on its own.''

The way things unfolded Sunday was awful.

The Giants scored their only touchdown on their first possession, taking advantage of a fumble recovery by Zack Bowman and going ahead 7-0 on Manning's 19-yard pass to Larry Donnell. By halftime, though, the 49ers (6-4) led 9-7 on three field goals, and a touchdown on their opening possession of the third quarter made it 16-7.

The Giants responded with a field goal, and that's when things started to get interesting.

The Giants used an onside kick to regain possession, with kicker Josh Brown forcing a fumble by Bubba Ventrone that was recovered by Mark Herzlich. It was their first successful onside kick since Nov. 7, 2004. They couldn't capitalize, though, as Manning threw his third pick. The 49ers had a chance to kick a field goal off that takeaway, but a low snap resulted in an incomplete pass by holder Andy Lee.

That gave the Giants the ball. But after a third-and-7 pass to Odell Beckham Jr. in which the rookie receiver tried to dangle the ball out far enough for a first down, the Giants faced that defining fourth-and-an-inch.

Coughlin challenged the spot but was rejected: Referee Gene Steratore actually said the ball was "half an inch'' short of the first down. They handed off to Rashad Jennings on the right side with fullback Henry Hynoski in front of him, but safety Antoine Bethea sliced in and made the tackle for a loss of a yard. "The ball is in my hands and I have to make the play,'' Jennings said.

Even with that change in momentum, the Giants still had chances. They forced the 49ers to punt and were driving when Manning threw his fourth pick on second-and-5 from the 49ers' 32. The pass was intended for Rueben Randle and intercepted by Chris Culliver after Manning was sandwiched by pass rushers Aaron Lynch and Aldon Smith.

When the Giants got the ball back, they reached the 4 on a beautiful 37-yard catch by Beckham, who tipped the ball in the air and caught it while falling on his back. That set up first-and-goal and a chance for the Giants to take the lead, end their losing streak and at least temporarily save their season.

Instead, Manning threw three incomplete fades to Beckham, Randle and Donnell and an interception on a pass intended for Preston Parker.

"You have four downs from the [4]-yard line, you expect to be able to score in that scenario,'' Manning said. "Disappointed. We could have made a play and gotten the lead right there.''

They didn't. Which may wind up as the epitaph for this season.

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