The scores indicate it might be so, but just like objects in the rearview mirror may be closer than they appear, so, too, can the Giants’ record be deceiving.
The Giants have earned their way to 5-10 but also specialize in losing in close and agonizing fashion. They were beaten 33-31 in the last second by the Panthers on a 63-yard field goal. They were beaten by three points by the Falcons, lost by three points on a late field goal by the Eagles and, most recently, left Indianapolis on the wrong end of a 28-27 loss to the Colts after allowing a touchdown with 55 seconds remaining. That is four losses by a combined nine points. In three of the Giants’ road losses, the winning points were scored by the opponent in the final minute.
This is doing just enough to lose.
“We’re super close,” receiver Sterling Shepard said. “We’re there. We just got to find out what the little things are and correct them.”
Is it little things holding the Giants back? Their defense engenders little or no confidence with the game on the line. Their offense line, although improved, needs further revamping. The running game, much better the second half of the season, is too reliant on waiting for Saquon Barkley to turn nothing into something big. It is fair to question Eli Manning’s ability to string together excellence game after game.
After going 1-7 in the first half of the season, the Giants are 4-3 after their bye week heading into their finale Sunday against the already-clinched, NFC East-champion Cowboys. Better, yes. But hardly good enough.
“There’s definitely positives and, hey, it’s tough circumstances,” Manning said. “No one wants to be in a position where you’re not in the playoffs, but you kind of get questioned how you’re going to play, but there’s a lot of heart.”
There has never been a hint of the players not giving effort or quitting after losing seven of its first eight games. It is not a question of attitude, which means it is all about talent. The roster was overhauled aggressively, and the Giants underwent the most extensive makeover of any team in the league. Some of what coach Pat Shurmur, in his first year with the Giants, has installed has worked, but the foundation is not yet laid down. Barkley maintains someday soon, when winning kicks in, the Giants will look back at this losing and all the growing pains and laugh.
“I believe the future’s bright, but we got to start executing better,” Barkley said.
The Giants were 3-13 last season, meaning they are 8-23 since the start of the 2017 season. The last time the Giants lost 23 games in back-to-back seasons was 1973-74, truly the bad old days. With the 1978 advent of the NFL’s 16-game schedule, bad teams have the indignity of losing more games. The Giants have never lost 24 games in consecutive seasons, but that is a reality that could play out Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
“You can see the second half of the season has been completely different than the first,” Shepard said. “When you really look at the season, we’ve only lost a couple of games, we only let one game get away from us. That shows you this team is fighting, we’re pretty close. We just got to figure out what it is to get over that hump.”
More that came out of loss No. 10 for the Giants:
– B.W. Webb started 10 games in his first five years in the NFL, playing for the Cowboys, Steelers, Titans, Saints and Browns, bouncing from team to team. An undersize cornerback from William & Mary, Webb is best suited as a slot cornerback, but after the Giants traded away Eli Apple, Webb became a starter on the outside. He already has started more games (12) for the Giants than he did in his first five seasons. He was called for a key pass interference penalty on the Colts’ game-winning touchdown drive.
Webb might or might not be back in 2019, but he is a feisty player who competes hard on every play and takes a serious approach to everything he does, which has impressed the coaching staff.
“It hurts a lot,” Webb said. “I hate losing, I’m sure everybody else in this locker room hates losing, too. It sucks. It’s just not fun. I know outside looking in, people don’t think we have anything to play for but, man, we’re playing for each other here, we’re playing for jobs next year, everybody here is playing for their families. It hurts.”
– Remember when Manning was renowned for his fourth-quarter comebacks? They are few and far between nowadays. Andrew Luck certainly qualifies as a quarterback a defense does not want to see with the ball late in a game. Manning sensed that down the stretch in Indianapolis.
Coping with a Giants loss as crushing as it is encouraging
INDIANAPOLIS — Look, we get it. As Pat Shurmur put…
“You know they’re a good team and they have a good quarterback who can kind of score late on teams,” Manning said. “So I knew we’re going to need to score more points.”
That is the pressure a player of Luck’s expertise can put on an opponent. It is the type of pressure Manning and his offense have too infrequently applied to defenses.
– Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. usually breaks down the team huddle with some loud words of inspiration after the pregame warmups. With Beckham missing two games with a quad injury, linebacker Alec Ogletree replaced Beckham as a motivational sparkplug. Ogletree is currently in the concussion protocol and he and Beckham were not on this team, meaning someone else needed to break down the huddle.
Evan Engram, the second-year tight end, volunteered.
“I’ve always been a vocal guy and I just kind of had something on my mind,” Engram said. “We have other leaders who could have done the same thing. I was in the moment and tried to get the guys going. We had some key guys down on all phases of the ball, and it was a big day for some guys to step up as leaders and playmakers and teammates.”
Engram then went out and had an impressive game, catching all six passes thrown his way, for 87 yards.
– This has not happened in longer than a calendar year. For the first time this season, the Giants did not allow a sack of Manning, who helped himself by moving crisply out of the pocket on bootlegs after play-fakes to Barkley. The last time Manning was not sacked in a game was Dec. 10, 2017, against the Cowboys.
– Will Manning ever get another shot at beating the Colts? He is now 0-4 against the franchise that his older brother, Peyton, spent 14 years with in fashioning a Hall of Fame career. The only other team Eli Manning has never beaten is the Chargers, the team that made him the No. 1 pick in the 2004 draft.