LANDOVER, Md. — The Giants played 14 previous games on Thanksgiving Day, the first 11 before 1939. Perhaps it was in homage to that long-ago tradition that they played the kind of offensive football Thursday night that would have been recognizable to those pre-war audiences.
That’s not entirely fair. The Giants haven’t scored an offensive touchdown on Thanksgiving since 1938, when Ed Danowski hit Dale Burnett, so maybe this was more a continuation of present-day holiday blues.
Not that it matters much. The Giants’ inability to move the ball doomed them in a 20-10 loss to Washington at FedEx Field. Eli Manning, who was sacked four times, threw for only 113 yards and the team totaled only 47 offensive yards in the second half — 27 on a garbage-time pass — for one of the biggest clunkers in a season stuffed full of them.
“It wasn’t very good,” Ben McAdoo said of his offense.
The final sack of Manning came on a fourth-and-3 with 2:19 left and the Giants trailing 17-10. After a Washington field goal, Manning was intercepted by Kendall Fuller with 1:08 left to officially seal the misery.
Thus ended the Giants’ second one-game winning streak of the season as they fell to 2-9, securing a losing season for the fourth time in the past five years.
Even the one touchdown that the Giants did score, a 53-yard interception return by Janoris Jenkins that tied the score at 10 with 2:52 left in the third quarter, came with a cost. Jenkins injured his ankle on the pick-6, and although he returned to the game, it was he who was in coverage when Kirk Cousins threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Josh Doctson with 3:31 left to give Washington its 17-10 lead.
“I couldn’t explode,” Jenkins said of being unable to leap to contest the pass along the side of the end zone.
That go-ahead drive would have been stopped near midfield on a third-down sack, but cornerback Ross Cockrell was flagged for holding to give Washington (5-6) an automatic first down. Cockrell also was in coverage against Jamison Crowder when he caught a 17-yard pass on third-and-6 two plays before the TD.
The loss, however, was more about the Giants’ continued offensive inability. While it is true that they had only three players start on offense Thursday where they were projected to be at the beginning of the season, the woes go back beyond the rash of injuries that have crippled the team. Since the start of the 2016 season, they are the second-worst scoring team in the NFL; only the Browns are worse. They are near the bottom in nearly every offensive category this year.
The injuries only magnify how slim the margin of error is for this team. So when Manning’s third-down pass to a wide-open Shane Vereen in the red zone in the second quarter is overthrown and goes off his fingertips, and the Giants have to settle for a field goal, it is magnified. When Manning’s third-down pass for Travis Rudolph in the fourth quarter is low and incomplete, its significance is compounded exponentially. When tight end Evan Engram drops three passes, it’s impossible to overcome.
“You can’t afford to have missed throws on third downs or have drops or miscommunication,” Manning said. “You only get so many opportunities to make plays, and we have to make them. We have to play better.”
In the first half, it was the Giants’ inability to gain a measly first down that cost them their 3-0 lead. After receiving a punt at their 3 with 1:30 left, they took only 26 seconds off the clock before punting it back. That left Washington with enough time to tie the score. On the first play, a 37-yard penalty on Cockrell for pass interference against Doctson brought the ball to the 11. Four plays later, Washington kicked a 28-yard field goal with 13 seconds left in the half.
“We had plenty of opportunities, especially in the first half,” McAdoo said. “On offense, we didn’t capitalize on the opportunities. Give Washington credit, they beat us today.”
With the offense scoring only three points, it didn’t take much to do so.
Notes & quotes: WR Sterling Shepard missed a second straight game because of a migraine that appeared last weekend. He made the trip and was listed as questionable . . . CB Eli Apple was inactive for the second week in a row. He missed practices last week when his mother underwent surgery, but McAdoo had said this would be a normal week for the second-year cornerback. The Giants said Thursday’s inactivity was a coaching decision . . . Jon Halapio and Chad Wheeler started on the right side of the offensive line for the Giants. It was Halapio’s first NFL start and Wheeler’s second . . . Also inactive for the Giants were LB B.J. Goodson, G D.J. Fluker, OL Justin Pugh, QB Davis Webb and LB Calvin Munson . . . LB Curtis Grant was carted off the field with a right knee injury and LB Deontae Skinner left in the first half with a hamstring injury.