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Giants’ playoff dreams end in second-half meltdown

PHILADELPHIA — And so it ends.

Not that there was ever much of a beginning.

Needing to win to keep their faint and flickering NFC East division hopes alive, the Giants on Sunday played long and hard and often not very well. They exited Lincoln Financial Field with a well-deserved 25-22 loss to the Eagles after Jake Elliott hit a 43-yard field goal for the deciding points with 22 seconds remaining.

Now the Giants can look to the future and give up the farfetched notion they could dig out of a 1-7 hole and make anything of this season.

Thus ends the charade that the Giants could somehow overcome their terrible first half of the season and plow back into the fringe of playoff contention. Back-to-back victories — for the first time in two years — to true NFL dregs — the 49ers and the Buccaneers — staved off the inevitable for a couple of weeks, but the margin was far too slim for the Giants and their ability to put together an extended winning streak proved to be implausible and impossible.

At 3-8, the Giants are done, three games behind the Cowboys (6-5) and Redskins (6-5), the co-leaders in the very mediocre NFC East. The Eagles (5-6) snapped a two-game losing skid and kept on the heels of the division leaders, saving their season by ending the faint hopes of the Giants.

The Giants have now lost five straight games to the Eagles and nine of their last 10 in the series. Since 2008, the Giants are 4-17 against their closest (in terms of mileage) division opponent.
The last time the Giants won in Philly? Oct. 27, 2013.

After a first half filled with promise but not enough points (where have we heard that before?) the Giants offensive operation crashed and burned in a listless and wasteful second half. This was bottom of the barrel stuff against an Eagles defense playing with guys off the street at cornerback. Once the Eagles clamped down on Saquon Barkley after his explosive first half, Eli Manning could not get in sync with his receivers, the sacks started sprouting and the points stayed away in a scoreless third quarter. The first 11 plays for the Giants in the third quarter produced minus-7 yards of offense.

The Eagles took their first lead with 10:11 remaining on Josh Adams 1-yard run and his two-point conversion run put the Eagles ahead 22-19. A 29-yard pass to tight end Rhett Ellison set the Giants up to retake the lead, but they settled for a 29-yard field goal from Aldrick Rosas to tie it at 22 with 5:49 to go. Coach Pat Shurmur berated the officials for not calling what appeared to be a blatant holding penalty on cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, who grabbed Odell Beckham Jr.’s jersey on a third-down route that ended with Beckham unable to haul in a pass in the back of the end zone.

The Giants needed a stop, and their defense did not come close. Carson Wentz, on a fourth-and-1 play, found a wide-open Nelson Agholor for 12 yards to put the Eagles in field-goal range at the two-minute warning. The Giants unwisely burned a time out earlier in the quarter and could only stop the clock once. Elliott, who beat the Giants here last season with a titanic 61-yard field goal, this time had an easier time drilling the 43-yarder.

The Giants took a 19-11 lead at halftime after dominating for much of the first 30 minutes, but were unable to open up an even bigger lead because of their mistakes. Wentz found tight end Zach Ertz for a 15-yard touchdown hookup — Ertz shed the tackle attempt of Alec Ogletree — and Corey Clement scored on the two-point conversion to pull the Eagles within eight points with 1:04 left in the half.

Corey Coleman’s 46-yard kickoff return put the Giants in business and they advanced to the Philly 27-yard line. Already in field-goal range, Manning committed the gaffe he has often been able to avoid this season. He had Barkley alone on the 25-yard line, with room to run, and instead tossed up a floater over the middle to a double-covered Beckham. Safety Malcolm Jenkins came away with an easy interception and that ended that.

The game plan was clear from the outset: Feed Barkley, get the Eagles thinking run and then try to exploit the vulnerable secondary. Barkley ran for 31 yards, Manning converted a third-and-9 by finding Ellison for 10 yards and Barkley finished off a 12-play, 75-yard opening drive with a 13-yard touchdown reception, taking a sidearm flip from Manning on a middle screen and easily running it in.

The Eagles were penalized for too many men on the field on the extra point, moving the ball to the 1-yard line and prompting Shurmur to eschew the kick for a two-point try. It failed when Manning’s pass to fullback Eli Penny was well-covered by Jenkins.

On one series, the Giants were called for three penalties (Beckham block in the back, Will Hernandez holding, Bennie Fowler block in the back) and had to settle for a 51-yard field goal from Rosas.

Meanwhile, the Eagles slogged through their ninth scoreless first quarter in 11 games this season. They were outgained 348-159 in the first half and Barkley had 94 rushing yards and 37 receiving yards. The home crowd was getting restless, yet the Eagles were within a score.

Original article: https://nypost.com/2018/11/25/giants-playoff-dreams-end-in-second-half-meltdown/

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