It was an illusion, of course, and a delusion that the Giants could stage a miracle run into the playoffs, a pipe dream that they can now stop smoking, because they do not belong in Roger Goodell’s postseason.
They were Dead On Arrival long ago and didn’t know it, they are officially dead now and they know it, and so does everyone else.
“Obviously it hurts,” Eli Manning said. “You want to try and make the playoffs and obviously we didn’t play well enough early in the year to put ourselves in a good position.”
Zero hour for Manning, zero hour for the New York Football Giants.
The notion that Eli Manning, a 17-0 loser to the Titans, is better off without Odell Beckham Jr. was exposed as folly when it rained on Manning’s parade and he could not get his team in the end zone.
Just because Manning’s Giants can score 40 points against the Redskins without Beckham doesn’t guarantee they can score a single point against the Titans.
Tennessee took away Saquon Barkley (14-31 rushing, 4-25 receiving) and dared Manning to beat them with Sterling Shepard, Russell Shepard, Bennie Fowler and Evan Engram. And Corey Coleman and Jawill Davis.
Manning’s wing-and-a-prayer offense couldn’t avoid the ignominy of a shutout with three cracks from the Tennessee 4 in late Garbage Time.
Manning’s offense on this miserable day: The Titanic.
The Captain of the Titanic cannot be counted on to steer clear of the iceberg with his right arm anymore unless Beckham and/or Barkley are there by his side. Manning had neither on Sunday.
“We gotta run the football,” Russell Shepard said. “Last week we ran the football and you see what happened. When you can run the football, and run it well, especially in these type of conditions, it’s huge. We play in New York, in December and November, so you gotta be able to run the football.”
Beckham gives Manning a chance to make up for a multitude of sins — and an interception and lost fumble that would gift the Titans a 14-0 lead proved sinful.
“When you don’t have guys like 13 out there, things like that, the run game becomes really that much more important ’cause the play-action sets up the passing game on the back end,” Shepard said. “Even if Odell played today, we needed to try to run the football.”
Manning’s interception came from the Tennessee 29 when Kevin Byard darted in front of Russell Shepard on a corner route.
“He must have just read and it and jumped it,” Manning said.
Why not stay conservative and run it and kick a field goal?
“I wanted to throw it there, that’s why,” Pat Shurmur said.
Manning’s strip-sack fumble third-and-10 at his 17 positioned Marcus Mariota at the Giants 14, and six plays later, following a Josh Mauro facemask penalty, Derrick Henry was in the end zone.
“Right there, backed up, just hold onto the ball, take a sack or do whatever you have to. You can’t turn it over and give ‘em that good field position,” Manning said.
The Longest Four Yards following the two-minute warning:
Incomplete to Coleman.
Incomplete to Fowler.
Incomplete in the right corner to Engram, blanketed by Byard.
“Poor throw by me on that one,” Manning said.
On a day when Manning threw a high, wet ball on an elementary screen over Engram’s head, when there were several dropped balls, Barkley was losing 10 yards on this carry, 4 yards on that carry. He was targeted 10 times out of the backfield.
“They gave us some different looks, different movements to try to create movement up there to try to confuse us,” Barkley said.
And: “They had a great game plan over there.”
The last time Manning suffered a shutout was last Christmas Eve against the James Bettcher Cardinals in Arizona.
“When you don’t get in the end zone,” Shurmur said, “you can’t win.”
And if you can’t win, you don’t make the playoffs, and don’t deserve to.
The Good Ship Eli has sunk again, and you are the Titanic.