From Jon Wagner / SNYGiants contributor
Eli Manning threw some costly interceptions, the New York Giants allowed over 30 points while hurting themselves with too many penalties, and their defense couldn’t make stops when it had to — even with Michael Vick sidelined for the entire second half.
So, what else is knew during the Giants’ worst start in a non-strike season since 1979?
After yielding 19 straight points to trail by a dozen, New York (0-5) rallied to take a late-third quarter lead on the first two touchdown catches of the season for wide receiver Reuben Randle (six catches, 96 yards, two touchdowns), but the Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) scored the last 17 points to leave MetLife Stadium with a 36-21 win on Sunday.
The final 14 of those points came off of Manning interceptions, as the two-time Super Bowl MVP raised his league-leading total to 12 picks this year, with seven of those coming in the fourth quarter — a period of a game that in earlier years, was a time when Manning (24-for-52, 334 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions) would shine and lead his team to improbable comeback victories.
Not so, this season, and once again, not the case on Sunday.
Trailing 22-21, after the Eagles used a field goal to answer Manning’s two touchdown throws to Randle, Manning was picked off on three consecutive fourth-quarter possessions, with Philadelphia quickly cashing in on the first two of those breaks with touchdown passes from backup quarterback Nick Fowles (16-for-25, 197, two touchdowns) — who replaced starter Michael Vick (6-for-14, 105 yards; seven carries, 79 yards) shortly after Vick pulled up with an injured left hamstring following a 13-yard first-down run late in the first half.
Manning’s first interception, off of a poor decision, effectively ended the Giants’ day. Under pressure, he brought the ball in toward his chest, which would have been fine under the tuck rule. But trying too hard to force something good to happen, Manning was slapped on the side of the helmet (with no penalty called) as he tried to throw.
He then accidentally threw the ball off of the helmet of center Jim Cordle on his follow-through, which sent the ball high in the air for an easy interception for linebacker Mychal Kendricks (four tackles, one interception, one pass deflection).
Cornerback Brandon Boykin made an incredibly athletic play to intercept Manning the next time the Eagles were on defense, as he dove to his left and managed to wrestle the ball from wide receiver Victor Cruz (five catches, 48 yards) on his way to the ground.
Those scenarios were a huge departure from how the game began.
New York’s defense came out with a type of energy and sense of purpose that it had shown only on an inconsistent basis this year, as it flew around the field and forced a three-and-out on the game’s first possession.
And the Giants’ offense picked up from there with a five-play, 62-yard drive that accounted for as many points on its first trip of the game as the entire team produced over its previous two games, with running back David Wilson’s five-yard touchdown run putting New York up 7-0, just 3:23 after the opening kickoff.
But the Giants (who were flagged 12 times for 136 yards) punted on their next three trips and lost a fumble by running back Brandon Jacobs (11 carries, 37 yards) before punting again on their next two drives.
Jacobs’ miscue, in addition to Manning’s three interceptions gives New York a league-worst 20 turnovers. That number also represents the average per game that the Giants (outscored 182-82 this year) have lost by.
As New York’s offense sputtered, Philadelphia, starting with its second possession, scored on five of six drives to end the half, going 58, 51, 36 and 75 yards for field goals by Alex Henery, while mixing in a 56-yard pass from Vick to wide receiver DeSean Jackson (seven catches, 132 yards, one touchdown) that set up a one-yard touchdown run by running back LeSean McCoy (20 carries, 46 yards, one touchdown).
Those scores accounted for a 19-7 Eagles lead as New York was booed off the field while heading to the home locker room at halftime.
Although Randle interestingly has four of his five career touchdowns against Philadelphia, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks led the Giants with nine catches for 142 yards. But his poor body language and lack of hustle on Manning’s last pick typified some of the issues New York has dealt with during their nightmarish start.
With the Giants in hurry-up mode near midfield, and time still left to get a couple of scores to tie the game, Nicks casually jogged onto the field, around Manning and to his spot on the left, to the point where Manning had to wait for him before the snap. Nicks then seemed to stop his route on what should have been a quick slant, which helped cornerback Cary Williams (11 tackles, one interception, one pass deflection) get an easy pick.
To make the playoffs, New York would have to make history as the first NFL team to reach the postseason after starting a season with five losses.
They’re certainly in the right division to do so, as NFC East leaders Philadelphia and Dallas (2-3) sit atop the league’s only division without a team playing .500 or better.
However, before the Giants can even dream of winning the NFC East, they first have to figure out how to win a game, and their next chance to do so comes up very soon, with a Thursday night trip to Chicago (3-2), where the Bears, losers of two straight after a 3-0 start, will be waiting.
Trying to keep his players as positive as he can, head coach Tom Coughlin said, “I’m not concerned about me. I’m concerned about those players in the locker room. Whatever I can do to defer whatever to myself. I lose the games and they win them. The disappointment is very obvious and it’s very frustrating. We didn’t expect to be in this situation. We dug our own hole and here we are.”