PHILADELPHIA — Three weeks ago, Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman was spotted on, of all places, a sideline in Salt Lake City. Oregon was there playing Utah. And the Ducks feature a junior quarterback, Justin Herbert, who is talented, mobile, and expected to be in demand among the N.F.L.’s rebuilding franchises.
Hence, Gettleman’s visit. His Giants, for a second year in a row, appear to be on their way to another premium draft position. A 25-22 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday largely confirmed the G.M.’s instincts to begin scouting for the future.
After winning two in a row coming out of the bye week, the Giants (3-8) had started entertaining the idea that they could somehow right the ship, run the table and contend for a playoff berth. And in a race-to-the-bottom N.F.C. East, that idea was not completely naïve.
A win over the Eagles (5-6) on Sunday would have brought them to two games behind the Dallas Cowboys, who lead the division at 6-5. But after going ahead, 19-3, in the second quarter on Sunday, the Giants sputtered in the second half. A 43-yard field goal by the Eagles’ Jake Elliott with 22 seconds remaining was the difference.
“We wanted to win this game and keep things going and stay in the hunt,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “I’m disappointed we didn’t take advantage of this one.”
The race to win the N.F.C. East has become something like climbers scrambling up a muddy slope — no one can maintain a footing, and everything is a mess. An optimist might credit the division’s parity. A realist might point out the division’s mediocrity.
Either way, it had at least breathed hope in the Giants late in November, when on Halloween, at 1-7, they shared claim to the league’s worst record.
They had traded two focal defensive starters — tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Eli Apple — ahead of the Oct. 30 trade deadline, a white flag of sorts. Then they won two games, against the mediocre San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was enough to add life to a rivalry game that the Giants had not won in Philadelphia since 2013.
The Giants came out aggressively, scoring on their opening drive and attempting a two-point conversion, which failed. But they outgained the Eagles, 167-42, in the first quarter. A 51-yard touchdown run by the Giants’ rookie running back Saquon Barkley made it 19-3 four minutes before halftime.
After gashing the Eagles for 346 yards on 36 plays in the first half, the Giants allowed Philadelphia back in by gaining just three yards in the third quarter.
Inexplicably, they went away from using Barkley as they had earlier in the game. Coach Pat Shurmur, who handles the play calling, suggested the issues were more self-inflicted.
“We knocked ourselves off with penalties and sacks and got behind the chains,” Shurmur said. “We didn’t get a chance to do some of the things that we wanted to do.”
The defending Super Bowl champion Eagles have been so banged up in the secondary that they have had to use wide receivers as defensive backs in practice. On Sunday, Rasul Douglas was the only active cornerback that had been on the active roster at the start of the season.
But the Giants could not exploit the weakness. An interception thrown by Manning with the Giants in striking distance 17 seconds before halftime was a killer. And the Eagles’ defenders were hardly tested in the second half.
Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (five catches, 95 yards) had just two catches for 22 yards after halftime.
“Knowing that they’ve struggled in the secondary, personally I would’ve loved to attack them,” Beckham said. “But it wasn’t in our game plan.”
The Eagles took the lead, 22-19, with 10 minutes 11 seconds remaining on a 1-yard touchdown run by Josh Adams. After the Giants tied the game with a field goal, the Eagles moved down the field. A fourth-down conversion by Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz to Nelson Agholar put them into position for Elliott’s winning kick.
The Giants had 22 seconds left with no timeouts to march back downfield, but with their season on the line, the game ended after three passes failed to cross midfield. Manning finished with 297 yards and a touchdown to go with the costly interception.
“When you’re 3-8, that’s not something to be happy about,” Barkley said. “We work our butts off every single week.”
He added: “We can’t cry about it, can’t complain about it. We’ve got five more games to get better.”
Or get worse. For the future, that might be a better strategy given that Oakland, Arizona, San Francisco and the Jets are also jostling for the league’s worst record and the coveted No. 1 draft pick.
This year’s draft is considerably less hyped than last year’s, but the Giants have plenty of holes to fill. Their offensive line has been horrendous. The defense has struggled; it is second to last in the N.F.L. in sacks.
The primary concern, however, has been quarterback. For Trent Dilfer, an N.F.L. analyst who runs a college quarterback competition, the heir to Manning is a player who could already be in Gettleman’s sights.
“Herbert’s a great talent,” Dilfer said in a phone interview last week. “I’m afraid the Giants are going to do just enough damage in the second half to lose the chance to draft him.”
The loss Sunday helped get them a little closer.
Source : https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/25/sports/giants-eagles-nfl-draft.html