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Giants fall to Eagles; playoff berth still possible

New York Giants' Odell Beckham (13) tries to

New York Giants' Odell Beckham (13) tries to slip past Philadelphia Eagles' Jordan Hicks (58) and Connor Barwin (98) during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, in Philadelphia. Credit: AP / Michael Perez

PHILADELPHIA — Sometimes it feels as if the Giants’ offense is banging its head against the wall in futility. On Thursday night, Odell Beckham Jr. took that to a literal level.

Moments after a disheartening 24-19 loss to the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, a loss that at the very least delayed the Giants’ clinching of a playoff spot, Beckham was so emotional and frustrated that he had to leave the locker room. He walked into the tunnel that leads back to the field, leaned up against a steel door face-first, and banged his head against it while grunting loudly.

Team security gently ushered Beckham back into the team’s private confines along with co-owner John Mara, who gave him a pat on the back on his return to the locker room.

It was, Victor Cruz told Newsday, the most frustrated he had ever seen his young teammate, who has been known to fly off the handle at times. Told about the head-banging display, Cruz merely nodded.

“He’s a passionate player. We all are,” he said. “We all show our passions differently. He shows his passions in a certain way and he wanted to win this game as much as anybody else.”

Perhaps the source of the outburst was that he had a chance to do just that. On the Giants’ next-to-last pass, Eli Manning threw the ball toward Beckham in the end zone. It seemed as if the pass was overthrown, but Beckham said he did not have enough gas to get to where he needed to be. He had been cramping during the game and, playing for the second time in five days, was about as spent as he’d ever been on a field by the time that last-chance play occurred.

“I was definitely tired at the end of the game and I put that on me,” he said. “I should be better. I should have been able to burst under that ball and score. That’s something that I have to go home with and sleep on.”

To his credit, Beckham’s postgame meltdown seemed short-lived. After he showered, he went around to just about every teammate in the locker room, shook their hands and told them that they still had next week. He also spoke calmly and measuredly to the media, although he declined to answer any questions about his tunnel tantrum.

The Giants were so ill-prepared to lose to the Eagles that guard Justin Pugh had to poke around about the various ways they still can get into the playoffs this weekend. “It [stinks] that I have to ask that question,” he said.

For the record, they need a loss or tie from the Lions, Packers, Bucs or Falcons. Beyond that, they can get in by beating Washington on Jan. 1.

“We weren’t coming in here expecting to lose,” defensive end Olivier Vernon said.

The Giants trailed 14-0 after less than seven minutes of play, thanks to a 78-yard drive by the Eagles to open the game and a pick-6 thrown by Eli Manning to safety Malcolm Jenkins, who brought it back 34 yards.

They settled down, though, had a goal-line stand at the 1 and cut their deficit to 24-19 with 5:17 left in the game on Robbie Gould’s fourth field goal.

The defense forced a three-and-out and the Giants seemed to be marching toward a game-winning touchdown when on third-and-4, Beckham caught a 4-yard pass with 2:00 remaining. But the Eagles challenged the spot and the Giants were pushed back a yard after the review.

On fourth-and-1 from the Eagles’ 32, John Jerry jumped offsides. On fourth-and-6 from the 37, Manning tried to find Sterling Shepard for a first down, but the pass was incomplete. Nolan Carroll appeared to hook Shepard’s arm before the pass arrived, but there was no flag. (The Giants threw 63 passes in the game and there were no flags.)

“Nothing’s changed,” Cruz said. “It’s the same kind of coverage, the same kind of physical play. And to go along with it, we get the same no-calls. Nothing has changed.”

The Giants forced another punt and took over at their own 15 with 1:31 remaining, but after the incomplete pass intended for Beckham, Manning threw his third interception when he lofted a pass for Will Tye in the end zone. Terrence Brooks picked it off with five seconds left as Tye failed to attack the ball or at least break it up to allow one more shot at a TD.

While the Eagles weren’t penalized much — just once in the game on special teams for 5 yards — the Giants had their share of questionable calls go against them. Eli Apple was flagged for making contact with a sliding Carson Wentz to help set up an Eagles touchdown in the second quarter and Vernon was penalized for roughing the passer when he buried Wentz as he threw an incompletion on third down late in the third quarter.

“I don’t know what they want me to do,” Vernon said. Asked what he could have done differently, he offered a few options: “Stop in mid-air? Freeze time?”

That’s where the Giants’ playoff hopes stand, though. Frozen. Hovering. Waiting.

New York Sports