The Giants spent the week telling the world they are better than their record. Then they spent Thursday night showing the world they might actually be worse than it.
An abysmal performance that shook MetLife Stadium with boos in the first half and left it to echo with cheers from Eagles fans in the second pretty much ended any hopes the Giants may have entertained about making a run at the NFC East title.
The 34-13 loss to the Eagles (3-3) dropped the Giants to 1-5 and 0-2 in the division. Beyond the standings, though, the Giants just looked like a last-place team with a last-place effort.
“We didn’t do anything well enough to win,” Pat Shurmur said. “There were many moments tonight I was upset.”
Only their brilliant rookie running back, Saquon Barkley, made an impact. He was sensational, gaining 130 yards on 13 carries and 99 on nine catches. He couldn’t have done much more, and it didn’t make any difference.
It was almost as if the Giants were trying to confirm all of the negative things Odell Beckham Jr. complained about — from the quarterback play to the offensive line to the coaching to the heart — in last week’s infamous interview with ESPN. Heck, it was even raining when the game started, and we all know how much Beckham loves the sunshine in Los Angeles.
The Giants fined him for those remarks, as Fox Sports reported in the pregame show Thursday, but they no longer can dispute them.
Beckham didn’t provide much himself. He was held to two first-half catches for 12 yards and finished with six for 44 yards. He also left the field and headed to the locker room before the first half ended to get an IV to deal with a case of dehydration.
Given what was at stake — a chance to join every other team in the division with two wins — many players were surprised by how the Giants played. “I wasn’t expecting this at all,” safety Landon Collins said. “Just not good ball. Not good ball at all.”
The game couldn’t have started worse for the Giants. Well, actually, it could have. Jawill Davis appeared to fumble the opening kickoff to give the ball to the Eagles, but the turnover was overturned. Whew, right? But on the second snap of the game, Eli Manning tried to squeeze a pass in to Scott Simonson that was knocked into the air by Jordan Hicks and intercepted by Kamu Grugier-Hill. Three plays later, Carson Wentz threw across his body while running right, hitting Alshon Jeffery with a 13-yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
They led 24-6 at halftime and went up 31-6 by opening the second half with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ate up 6:18.
There was a moment in the third quarter when things got interesting. Barkley scored on a 50-yard run to make it 31-13 — he also had a 46-yard run and a 55-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass as the only flickers of life from the offense — and Giants tackle Damon Harrison then forced a fumble deep in Eagles territory. Alec Ogletree came out of the pile with the ball and it looked as if the Giants might just be able to make a game of it. But replay showed that running back Wendell Smallwood recovered his own fumble and the drive continued, resulting in a field goal early in the fourth quarter that made it 34-13.
Manning was 24-for-43 for 281 yards with a passer rating of 66.1. He was sacked four times. “Obviously not where we want to be,” he said. “Not happy about it. All you can do is worry about the next game.”
Shurmur insisted he was satisfied with the effort. “I’m concerned about how we executed and how we didn’t get in the end zone and how we let them in the end zone,” he said. “We got beat by a good team and we didn’t play well enough. I don’t think we need to overthink that, right?”
He also maintained his conviction that the Giants are getting “closer” to winning. But if anything, the game illustrated just how wide the gap is between the Giants and the defending Super Bowl champs, not how close they might be.
During the week, Hall of Famer Michael Strahan spoke to reporters about how big this Thursday game was going to be.
“The Giants have to decide,” he said, “are we in it to win it? Or are we just out here going through the season to hope for another high draft pick?”
It seems as if they have provided their answer.