The Giants’ offense is playing slightly better, and there were more signs of progress — mostly during the first half — in a 25-22 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. But while blowing a 16-point lead, there were more than a few hints as to why the Giants remain in the running for the No. 1 overall pick rather than a playoff berth. They need to upgrade their roster, top to bottom, to get better as a team.
Right now, the Giants (3-8) are simply not good enough to compete for a playoff spot, even in a down NFC East. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. set the goal at 1-7 to win the final eight games of the season. It was more dream than achievable reality.
Three weeks later, the dream is dead because the Giants couldn’t put away an injury-ravaged Eagles team at Lincoln Financial Field. They were ahead 19-3 in the first half and 19-11 when quarterback Eli Manning threw a game-changing interception deep in Philadelphia territory late in the first half. Then their defense wilted throughout the final 30 minutes.
“Just a bad decision. One hundred percent bad decision on me,” Manning said moments after coach Pat Shurmur took the blame because he thought the defense the Eagles were playing made that thrown downfield impossible.
“They were playing soft and I just have to throw that away and try for a long field goal.”
The Giants were in position for a 44-yard field goal and maybe shorter, had Manning checked down to an open Saquon Barkley. Those are the kind of mistakes that bad teams make.
Failing to score left the door open for the Eagles. In the second half, the Giants offensive line had its problems and the offense stumbled. They made costly mistakes such as wasting a timeout on third-and-18 in the third quarter and taking a delay of game on a third-down play in the fourth. No wonder the Eagles outscored the Giants 14-3 in the second half.
“They just made better adjustments than we did. Ran better plays,” Beckham said. “They made the plays.”
The Giants remained winless in the division. They have lost all four games to the Eagles, Cowboys and Redskins this season. That will need to change if they expect to compete any time in the near future.
That would be just a start. The Giants should’ve done more damage Sunday against an Eagles defense that was down to practice squad and street free-agent defensive backs. Cre’Von LeBlanc was guarding Beckham. LeBlanc was claimed off waivers earlier this month.
“Coming in, knowing that they’ve struggled in the secondary, personally, I would’ve loved to attack [their secondary],” Beckham said. “But it wasn’t in our game plan.”
Especially not in the second half when the Giants threw 12 times and netted 61 yards passing.
The Giants defense also looked overmatched in the second half. They allowed the Eagles to march down the field at will. Their final scoring drive went 10 plays and 50 yards before being capped by a Jake Elliott 43-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining. Philadelphia even converted a key fourth-and-1 with just over two minutes remaining when Carson Wentz hit a wide-open Nelson Agholor in the middle of the field for a crushing first down.
The Giants have safety Landon Collins, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and not much else in terms of difference-makers. Outside linebacker Olivier Vernon’s struggles continue. There are young players such as B.J. Hill (who had three tackles, one for loss and a pass defended in a strong effort) who can help moving forward. But they need more.
They have the offensive weapons — Saquon Barkley scored two more touchdowns, Beckham had 85 yards receiving — but they need better quarterback play and improved protection. Barkley and Beckham had seven total touches in the second half. Manning was sacked two times. They need to learn how to win close games. The Giants are 1-3 in games decided by three points or less this season.
“We’re back to the drawing board,” Shurmur said.
There is work to be done. The second half Sunday against the Eagles was evidence.