It seems almost predictable that Eli Manning would lead the New York Giants on another game-winning drive.
He’d done it in two Super Bowls and 24 other times in his career entering Sunday night’s contest against the division rival Philadelphia Eagles. The momentum built even before the Eagles were called for pass interference twice on the would-be last-second clincher.
Then, almost as quickly, the drive scuffled, the potential game-winning field goal fell short and the Eagles held onto a 19-17 victory at Lincoln Financial Field.
“We were in a bunch last year,” said Manning, referencing the Giants’ eight fourth-quarter comebacks last season. “We had a few we didn’t win. That’s why you don’t want to be down in the fourth quarter and have to find a way to fight back.”
Manning referenced a couple of games last season — a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 10 and another a week later to the Eagles — as a couple of instances where, like Sunday, the Giants didn’t break through with a comeback victory. Those sorts of shortcomings get obscured when, just a few weeks later, he led the Giants past the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl — something Manning has done twice in his career.
“We work on those situations,” Manning said. “We like the opportunity to at least have a chance. We want it to fall on us as offense so we can go out there and win the game. We didn’t quite finish our job.”
The Eagles took a lead with 1 minute, 49 seconds remaining on a 26-yard Alex Henery field goal. Giants kick returner David Wilson returned the ball 37 yards — a tad less than what New York averaged on their six kickoff returns against the porous Philly special teams — to set the ball at the 35.
The drive was buoyed by two pass interference calls against the Eagles, the first against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on fourth and 1 and the second against Nnamdi Asomugha — who left the game previously for a stint after he was poked in the eye — on third down.
That had the Giants down to the Eagles’ 27, well within kicker Lawrence Tynes’ range. After a 1-yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw came the rub: a pass interference call against Ramses Barden, a gutsy (and replay showed correct) flag by the regular refs who officiated their first weekend of football since the lockout ended.
“I wanted to make a play,” Barden said. “It might have been pass interference. What’s done is done.”
From there, it all fell apart. Manning failed to connect with receiver Domenik Hixon and Giants coach Tom Coughlin decided to not take any chances with 15 seconds left. On third and 19, he sent out Tynes, who appeared to miss wide before it became clear Eagles coach Andy Reid had called a timeout. Tynes lined up for a second attempt and that kick had no chance, coming up short.
“It’s always woulda, coulda, shoulda, you know?” Coughlin said when asked about whether the Giants, despite having no timeouts, should have run a play before the field goal attempt.
The fact the Giants were in the game late also hid just how horrible the Giants — well, both teams — were for almost the entire first half on offense. There were nine punts before the Eagles put the game’s first points on the board with 1:47 left in the first half. The Giants didn’t break past the Eagles’ 49-yard line until the final drive of the first half, which resulted in a 25-yard Tynes field goal.
Manning, again without much of a running game to back him up (Ahmad Bradshaw had a team-high 39 yards) and minus injured receiver Hakeem Nicks, finished with 309 yards on 24-of-42 passing with one interception and a pair of touchdowns.
The loss puts the Giants at 2-2 overall and 0-2 in the division, not that this veteran-laden team is panicking much heading into Week 5.
“There’s a lot of football left,” Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. “If we win out in our division, I think that puts in the playoffs, right?”
Asked if he thinks the Giants can do that, Tuck responded: “Can I walk out of here?”
As the Giants have shown with regularity in recent years, it’s about how you finish. This time, it was Tuck grasping his rollaway bag and Beats Audio headphones successfully fleeing the news conference on foot.