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Giants end mistake-filled 6-10 season with loss to Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles' Nolan Carroll tackles Rueben Randle near

Philadelphia Eagles' Nolan Carroll tackles Rueben Randle near the end zone during the first half of a game on Dec. 28, 2014, in East Rutherford. Credit: AP

The season ended as it began, with a series of mistakes and inefficiencies undermining the Giants. And almost as if to remind us of those frailties, Eli Manning threw what had become a rare interception late in the fourth quarter to seal their demise.

In between that opening loss to the Lions and Sunday's 34-26 loss to the Eagles at MetLife Stadium, the Giants suffered through a seven-game losing streak, found a superstar in Odell Beckham Jr. and managed to win six games in a pair of three-game winning streaks.

They also had an embarrassing loss to the Jaguars in which they blew a 21-0 lead and had heartbreakers against the Cowboys, Seahawks and 49ers that came down to a handful of plays that could have turned their season around.

Remember how bad last year seemed? When the owner of the team said half of it was "broken?'' The Giants (6-10) finished with a worse record than last year, had a longer losing streak than last year and were eliminated from playoff contention earlier than last year.

All arrows should be pointing down, yet Tom Coughlin stood in front of the media Sunday and said otherwise: "I think we're headed in the right direction.''

How all of that weighs in the minds of John Mara and the rest of the team brass in charge of making necessary changes to the organization will be sorted out in the coming days and weeks.

It seems as though Coughlin will return for a 12th year with the team -- Mara is expected to address the media Tuesday; Coughlin said he will "go about my business until I'm told otherwise'' -- and the Ben McAdoo-led offense that led to several record-setting outings by Beckham and Manning should be around for a second season.

But everything and everyone else seems to be on the table after the Giants failed to make the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six seasons.

Asked to summarize the 2014 season, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins needed just two words: "A failure.''

By all accounts, it was a colossal one. And in case winning three straight games against fellow sub-.500 teams had put that out of everyone's thoughts for a few weeks, Sunday's game was a reminder of the issues the team faces.

The Giants had defensive breakdowns that allowed big plays, including a 44-yard touchdown reception by Jordan Matthews in the first quarter. They were unable to score from close range, settling for field goals on two first-and-goal opportunities, and were unable to run the ball in key situations. Just so the special teams would not be without blame, Steve Weatherford even had a punt blocked and returned 27 yards for a touchdown.

"It's kind of a long-playing album,'' Coughlin said of the recurring problems, an analogy that is as dated as the problems themselves.

Not even the magic of Beckham could help the Giants. He was targeted 21 times and caught 12 passes for 185 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown that cut the Eagles' lead to 31-26 with 11:47 remaining.

An Eagles field goal with 7:56 left made it an eight-point game, and when the Giants got the ball with 3:45 remaining and a chance to tie the score with a touchdown and two-point conversion, Manning (28-for-53, 429 yards) threw his first interception since Dec. 7 while trying to connect with Rueben Randle down the left sideline. "Very untimely,'' Coughlin said.

Everything about this season was, from the injury that kept Beckham on the sideline for the first four games to the ones that put Victor Cruz, Jon Beason, Prince Amukamara and about 20 others on injured reserve by the time it ended.

Just as untimely: the ticky-tack pass-interference penalty against Chykie Brown that negated an interception by Stevie Brown in the first quarter Sunday and the holding penalty against Will Beatty that took a TD pass from Manning to Randle (158 yards on six catches) off the board late in the third.

Despite his rosy outlook on the future, Coughlin summarized the 2014 season with appropriate disgust. "Disappointing,'' he said. "Not enough wins. Too many losses.''

That usually would be a good argument to get rid of a head coach, especially when it's accurate for a second straight season. Whether Mara sees it that way will determine if Coughlin gets one more chance to rectify the situation.

New York Sports