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Giants' big opportunity in second half turns into another big letdown

Olivier Vernon of the New York Giants runs

Olivier Vernon of the New York Giants runs with the ball after recovering a fumble by Adrian Peterson of the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 28, 2018. Credit: Mike Stobe

It could have been a huge turning point for the Giants. But in this season of disappointment, it ended up being nothing more than a cruel tease in their 20-13 loss to the Redskins on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

After Landon Collins forced a fumble by Adrian Peterson late in the third quarter, Olivier Vernon picked it up at the Giants’ 18-yard line and rumbled down the right sideline. Forty-three yards later, Vernon was forced out of bounds by Redskins quarterback Alex Smith.

Too bad for the Giants that Vernon didn’t run it all the way for a touchdown.  “One of my teammates made a good play,” he said. “I was just there to scoop it up. Tried to make something happen with it. I was just trying to make a play.”

He did, but the offense couldn’t on the subsequent drive. It was a theme of the day and has been most of the season for the Giants’ defense, which was without three starters in the traded Eli Apple and Damon Harrison and the injured Alec Ogletree but still gave the team a chance to win.

“I think the guys stepped up,” Vernon said. “The guys that had to step up stepped up and made the plays that we needed to make. We just came up short.”

Trailing 10-3, the Giants took over at the Redskins’ 39-yard line after Vernon’s return with a chance to tie the score.

Except:

On first down, Eli Manning threw an incomplete pass.

On second down, Manning completed a pass to Odell Beckham Jr. for a 2-yard loss.

On third down, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Manning completed a 9-yard pass to Bennie Fowler.

On fourth-and-3, Manning threw to a wide-open Evan Engram, and the ball went through Engram’s hands.

On the sideline, Giants coach Pat Shurmur doubled over in anguish.

The defense couldn’t help but sag after Washington took over on downs.  The Redskins drove and took a 13-3 lead with a field goal. After a Giants field goal made it 13-6, Washington put the game away when Peterson broke off a 64-yard touchdown run with 3:16 left. A garbage-time touchdown reception by Engram produced the final margin.

“The defense played lights out today,” Engram said. “We’ve just got to play better as an offense. Definitely some opportunities I left on the table.”

Rookie Tae Davis started at inside linebacker for Ogletree, the Giants’ signal-caller and second-leading tackler, who was out with a hamstring injury. Nate Stupar also saw time at the position, and Ogletree’s absence was felt when Peterson shrugged off Stupar’s waist-tackle attempt on a 7-yard touchdown catch-and- run in the first quarter for the game’s first points.

The trade deadline is Tuesday, and the Giants could decide to deal away more defensive players for draft picks.  Collins and Vernon would be attractive to contenders, as would cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

When asked about trade possibilities, Collins expressed his love for the Giants and Vernon said he doesn’t worry about things he doesn’t control. Jenkins repeated the same mantra over and over.

“Business is business,” he said. “Business is business.”

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