The division rival Philadelphia Eagles welcomed the playoff hopeful Giants and despite their losing record, looked to play spoiler. The Eagles grabbed a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter on the back of a Darren Sproles run and an Eli Manning pick-six. Philadelphia never ceded the lead to the Giants in a 24-19 win.
The Giants now sit at 10-5 on the season and can still earn a playoff berth before the conclusion of Week 16 if other NFC teams fall. However, tonight's loss served to remind the football audience just what kind of a fragile operation New York is, as currently constructed.
There's no question the vast improvement of the Giants' defense has been a major catalyst in bringing a team that was 6-10 last year back into the mix as a playoff contender. The arrivals of Janoris Jenkins (missed Week 16), Olivier Vernon and others, along with Landon Collins making the leap have transformed a defense that was a whipping post last year into one of the few top units to be reckoned with in 2016. This group continues to improve throughout the year, and their play alone might have been enough to get the Giants back to .500.
Yet, the resounding issue for the Giants is their razor-thin margin for error on offense. A unit that was believed to be the strength of the team has disintegrated to the point where the sun rises and sets with Odell Beckham Jr. to a fault. Without an eye-popping moment or two from him, their offense is left out in the cold. Even when he turns in a dominant performance, it's not enough to consistently save them when another portion of the scoring attack falls apart.
The Giants got a vintage dominant performance from Beckham. The team ran 63 passing plays and naturally the Pro Bowl wideout was the engine of the offense. Beckham owned a whopping 40 percent share of Eli Manning's intended air yards. The next largest slice of the pie was Victor Cruz with 20.8 percent. Sterling Shepard checked in third with an 18 percent share. New York's No. 2 and No. 3 receivers, who both turned in solid games, didn't even combine for the total workload of Beckham.
Beckham is the brand of player where with every touch of the football he has us on the edge of our seats wondering with bated breath what he might do next. He has a knack for saving the most outstanding moments for the ones with the most on the line. As a ball carrier, Beckham traveled 360.4 yards of total distance tonight, but 227.6 of that came in the fourth quarter.
Through all that in the final act of the game, we waited for the moment where the Giants would find Beckham to finally earn the late lead. He was successfully getting open all night against the Eagles cornerbacks, averaging 2.9 yards of separation on his 20 targets. Yet, that moment never came as Eli Manning threw his third interception of the game to seal the win for the Eagles. And that brings us back to that razor-thin margin of error on offense.
A heroic 11-catch, 150-yard night from their best offensive player was simply not enough to overcome a disastrous night from the Giants' two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback. Eli Manning managed just 5.7 yards per attempt and consistently put the team behind the eight ball in a game where he threw a 2016 season-high 63 passes. The Eagles didn't even need to do much to force him into those errors.
Philadelphia only blitzed Manning on 6.3 percent of his passes and he only threw two twice with a pass rusher less than a yard away from him. Only one of his interceptions came under that pressure. Of course, that was the final and game-sealing interception. Despite an OK game from his protection unit, this was Manning's worst deep passing game of the season. He threw a season-high 11 passes that traveled 20 or more yards in the air, but registered a lowly 11.6 passer rating.
Beckham's greatness is not up for debate. He's not only without question one of the three best, if not very best, receivers in the NFL, but also a legendary-type player in the making. If you can watch a game and not recognize the premier ability of Beckham, you aren't too good at understanding what you see. Either that or you let the other aspects of his persona affect your judgement of his on-field play.
The question for the Giants is not just how incredible their star wideout is; it's whether that is enough to make noise in a postseason run. Beckham alone has put the finishing touch on several Giants wins that their great defense helped them stay within reach of. However, nights like tonight show that if the quarterback and other pieces of the offense aren't able to at least pick up their small ends of the bargain, New York will struggle to even win games in which they are favored. If the Giants intend to make another wild run to the Super Bowl, they'll need to integrate something closer to the 2011 version of Eli Manning, rather than this broken 2016 product, alongside the consistently dominant efforts of their star receiver.