NFL

NFL AM: Giants Blow Chance To Clinch Playoff Berth Against Eagles

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Eagles 24, Giants 19

In a game which would have secured a playoff berth for the New York Giants and keep them in the hunt for not only the NFC East title, but the No. 1 overall seed, the G-Men led by quarterback Eli Manning fell flat in their 24-19 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Manning set a franchise record by attempting 63 passes, but only completed 38 of those to his team, and three more to the Eagles.

“We wanted to get the win tonight but we obviously didn’t,” said Manning.  “I got off to a bad start with the interception and spotting them a 14-0 lead.”

As we discussed yesterday, Manning is somewhat of an enigma.  He has played his best football in some of the biggest spots, but in those intermittent “small spots,” he’s cost his team.  Perhaps if his last name wasn’t Manning and if he didn’t have No. 1 overall pick pedigree, we might be talking about him being benched more than his Hall of Fame candidacy.

The “Bad Eli” showed up on Thursday night as he was visibly erratic throwing the football.  The final stat line of 38 for 63, 356 yards doesn’t look bad, but when you finish with one touchdown and three interceptions, it’s pretty clear why the Giants lost against the now 6-9 Eagles.

“We did some good things, we moved the ball, made some plays and got down into scoring position a bunch but we had too many field goals,” Manning explained as the Giants offense went just 1 for 5 in the red zone.  “That’s really what it came down to and we had to settle for field goals.  We made some plays, but we didn’t quite make enough.”

Philadelphia didn’t have much to play for on paper other than pride, as Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins explained.

“As a team, we wanted to make sure we went out the right way, said Jenkins, who stuffed the stat sheet with six tackles, three passes defended, a pair of interceptions including a 34-yard pick-six.  “We weren’t going to let the Giants come in here and clinch a playoff berth on our field, so we had a lot to play for.”

Jenkins went on in front of the NBC cameras after the game.

“We’re at home, we’re very prideful about playing in front of this crowd in this building,” the former Ohio State Buckeye turned first-round pick said.  “We all have names on the back of our jerseys.  We play for pride in this league, everybody’s being evaluated.”

Are the Giants a real contender?

With a 10-5 record, it’s more than likely that they’ll get into the playoffs and will most certainly have the No. 5 seed.  Right now they would be matched up with the Atlanta Falcons, and despite going on the road New York would likely be a favorite.

“The most important thing is that it’s in our hands,” All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. said about his team’s playoff chances.  “We had a couple opportunities to make some plays and we just didn’t come up with it.  It’s not the end of the season.  We still have another game to play and we’ll wait and see what happens this weekend.”

The same thing that makes them a contender is the same reason why nobody can fully embrace this team.

Their quarterback.

Manning is money when it really counts, but he’s been inconsistent and they don’t seem to have the playmakers (outside of Odell Beckham, Jr.) or offensive line to make a deep playoff run if the very good Giants defense has a bad day.  Manning has the most multi-interception games in the NFL this season with six such contests, more than Ryan Fitzpatrick, Blake Bortles and Brock Osweiler.

Not exactly the company you want to keep.

It’s difficult to say that Manning’s counterpart, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz thoroughly outplayed him.  Wentz was finally asked to do less and what do you know, the game plan worked.  Instead of throwing 63 times like Manning did, Wentz only threw 24 times and completed 13 passes.  His 152 yards passing with one touchdown and an interception were pedestrian, but Wentz led the team down the field for what proved to be a game-clinching field goal late.

Although the Eagles have struggled since their 3-0 start, Wentz has made a believer out of not only the coaching staff, but the locker room.

“It’s phenomenal,” Jenkins told NFL Network about watching the development of Wentz.  “We’ve been able to watch him and understand what he’s done this entire season.  He got thrown into the fray a week before opening day.  He didn’t know he was going to be a starter, probably on the bench the whole year and he was the starting quarterback Day 1.  We had some struggles at the receiver position.  Jordan Matthews was banged up, Lane Johnson was out; He’s done nothing but show up every day and prepare and make plays.  He’s given us chances to win week in and week out.  When you watch him, obviously the offense has struggled a little bit but he’s having a phenomenal year and I can’t wait to watch him as the years grow.”

Philly Finally Gets A Close Win

Generally speaking, most NFL games are close and the difference between wins and losses usually comes down to a play or two.

Anyone who watched Philadelphia’s 24-19 victory over New York Thursday night wouldn’t have thought that there was a great deal of talent disparity between the two clubs.

Why are the Giants 10-5 and why are the Eagles 6-9?  

Close games.

Entering Thursday, New York had an 8-2 record in one-score games while Philadelphia was 0-6.

It’s such a fine line in this league,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson explained. “You are a play or two away from your season being totally different. Of the thousands of plays that you execute throughout the year, it’s going to come down to just a handful of those plays. And that’s the difference. Like I tell the guys all the time, there’s no magical defense or magical offensive play that’s going to get things done. It boils down to your players and how well they fight and scratch and do whatever it takes to win football games. It’s a great opportunity, again, for our guys. Again, it just shows how close we have become to winning and really flipping our season.”

Big plays have been what the team was lacking, up until Thursday night where the defense forced three turnovers.

“I think everybody understands where we’re at,” Jenkins explained.  “We don’t have the results that we want but if you look at every game, we’re in the game.  We’ve had close losses and we know we’re not far away from where we want to be.  Nobody’s pointing fingers, we go to work every day knowing that we’re going to compete and have a chance to win.  We know that we’re building something.

“We’ve been in a slide and things haven’t been going our way, but we just wanted to show up, compete and get together.  We knew we were getting some guys back and we were real confident playing in front of this home crowd and it took everything we had to beat this Giants team that’s a really good team.”

The Eagles season is certainly lost, but they’re not playing for a draft pick.  Philly owes their 2017 first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for quarterback Carson Wentz, so losing really doesn’t help them.  The Eagles close their 2016 season on New Year’s Day against the Dallas Cowboys, who will have virtually nothing to play for.

Considering they started a rookie quarterback from North Dakota State, a 7-9 record would be something that should be looked at as a positive for Philly fans.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.