*Three Giants writers debate the top takeways from Thursday's loss to the Eagles: *
The Giants had a simple mentality heading into Philadelphia: win and in.
However, they couldn't lock up a postseason berth on Thursday night, instead falling 24-19 to the rival Eagles. They will now wait to see if they get help from this weekend's slate of games before revving it back up for what they hope isn't their final outing against the Redskins in Week 17.
In this week's "Cover 3" on Giants.com, we asked our staffers what's their biggest takeaway heading into the season finale.
Here's what they had to say:
IMPACT OF TURNOVERS
By John Schmeelk
If watching the Giants lose to the Eagles last night didn't remind you of the importance of protecting the football, I don't know what to tell you. After the Eagles' first touchdown drive, the Giants' defense played extremely well in this game. The Eagles gained 78 yards on that first drive, including 62 on the ground. For the rest of the game, the Eagles managed only 208 total yards and 56 rushing yards. When all was said and done the defense was only responsible for 17 points, which should have been good enough to win this game.
Unfortunately, the Giants' offense did the Eagles way too many favors in this game. It started with the Eli Manning pick-six on the second drive of the game. He threw to a double covered Will Tye who was never really open, which turned into a Malcolm Jenkins touchdown. It gave the Eagles a 14-0 lead, which the Giants could not recover from.
The turnover put the Giants in a hole, which forced them to go away from the running game and throw the ball 63 times in an attempt to comeback. Throwing that many passes eventually led to two more Eli Manning interceptions. Manning's second interception came on a third-and-five, when he underthrew Sterling Shepard on a pass that could have turned into a big play. It gave the ball to the Eagles near mid-field, which led to an Eagles field goal. The Eagles gained only 33 yards on the drive, but they still scored. Manning's final interception was the result of a pass rush, desperation and Will Tye's mistake not to attack the ball. It all but ended the game. All three takeaways had a huge impact on the game and handed the Eagles 10 points. When you are minus-two in the turnover ratio you rarely win and the Giants proved that again last night.
By Dan Salomone
Amid the turnovers and going 1-for-5 in the red zone, two Giants emerged that could be key cogs in what the team hopes is a long run after Week 17. For one, it was a re-emergence. For the first time since it happened, wide receiver Victor Cruz returned to the spot at Lincoln Financial Field where he suffered a career-altering knee injury that set off a 700-day absence from football. He exorcised some of those demons by hauling in eight passes – his highest total since Nov. 17, 2013 -- for 84 yards. Cruz had five receptions in his six previous games, although four of them went for an average of 40 yards.
Meanwhile, rookie Paul Perkins continued to emerge, leading the Giants to back-to-back games with exactly 114 yards rushing in each. The fifth-round pick led the team with 15 carries for 68 yards, picking up five first downs with a long run of 20 yards. He also chipped in one catch for nine yards. If the Giants could have just taken care of the football and converted a few more times in the red zone, the conversation would have been about the offense coming alive at the right time after outgaining Philadelphia 470-286 in total yards.
MAKE MOST OF RED ZONE
By Lance Medow
Entering Thursday night's game, the Giants were ranked 12th in red zone efficiency. They had scored touchdowns on 21 of their 35 trips (60%) inside the opponent's 20-yard line. That trend didn't continue against the Eagles and it was a huge difference maker in Thursday night's loss considering the margin was just five points. Both teams combined to go one for six in the red zone but New York had the bulk of those trips (1 for 5). Moving the ball against the Philadelphia defense wasn't an issue. The Giants outgained the Eagles 470 to 286 in total yards and won time of possession by nearly nine minutes but that production didn't translate into touchdowns.
>> WATCH GIANTS VS, EAGLES HIGHLIGHTS
The Giants put together five drives (three in the first half, two in the second half) that ended inside the Eagles' 20-yard line. In the first half, two possessions stalled at the Philadelphia 17-yard line and New York had to settle for a pair of Robbie Gould 35-yard field goals after failing to convert on a third and eight and third and nine respectively. Their lone touchdown came right before the end of the half when Eli Manning connected with Sterling Shepard from 13 yards out on third down. In the second half, they put together one drive that stalled at the Eagles' 11-yard line and another at the 18. In both situations, the Giants once again faced third and longs (3rd and 9 and 3rd and 10 respectively).
Here are some numbers to put things in perspective. New York ran 16 plays in the red zone against the Eagles. Two runs by Rashad Jennings yielded five yards and Manning was 4/10 for 19 yards with a touchdown pass to Shepard including 0/3 when targeting Odell Beckham. The Giants also had a false start penalty against Brett Jones that backed them up five yards on a field goal attempt. The lack of production and execution in the red zone a big reason why the Giants fell short.