EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - One of the Giants' most inspiring comebacks in recent memory ended with one of their most disappointing defeats.
Faced with a 13-point deficit late in the third quarter, the Giants rallied to take a one-point lead Sunday night in Lincoln Financial Field. But the Philadelphia Eagles scored the go-ahead touchdown on a fourth down, 50-yard run and the Giants' chance to win expired with a crippling turnover by Eli Manning with less than three minutes remaining. The end result was a 27-17 loss to the Eagles.
The Giants lost for the second week in a row and fell to 6-4, one game behind Philadelphia in the NFC East race. They are home the next two weeks, vs. Jacksonville and Washington.
The defense held Michael Vick and the high-flying Eagles in check most of the night. But the unit allowed two big plays in the final minutes and the offense had five turnovers (one with a second left in the game) and totaled just 208 yards and 12 first downs, both season-low totals.
"We fought hard," Coach Tom Coughlin said. "We made very terrible errors that cost us a chance to win a game, but there was no denying the effort.
"The defense played well. Well enough to win. I thought our special teams in the second half came around. But the callous disregard for the ball, which has been going on for probably a year and a half here, no one seems to be able to do anything about it. Again, this cost us a football game."
"I expected to win this game and we lost," defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. "We gave them the game. It's frustrating to lose a game that we should have won and we had every opportunity to win. So we gave them the game. We can't do that. We've been talking about the same things for I don't know how long. It's ridiculous."
The game was essentially decided by two fourth-down plays in the final 4:25.
The Giants led, 17-16, when Philly Coach Andy Reid elected to try for a first down on a fourth-and-one from the 50-yard line. Vick bobbled the snap, regained control, then pitched the ball perhaps two inches past Umenyiora's outstretched fingers to LeSean McCoy on the left side. The second-year running back raced through the Giants defense and didn't stop until he was in the end zone. Vick threw to Jason Avant for the two-point conversion and a 24-16 Eagles lead.
Umenyiora was asked how close he came to the ball.
"It doesn't matter, it's a touchdown," he said. "They scored, so I didn't come close enough."
"It was an all-out blitz," safety Antrel Rolle said. "We have to be more disciplined in gap assignment. We saw him (Vick) start to fumble the ball and we tried to jump over the top. I jumped over the pile. He shows that ability to scoop the ball up and pitch it so fast. And they were able to break free on it. It was just a good call for that situation, for what we had dialed up."
The Giants still had 3:57 and all three of their timeouts when they took possession at their own 39 following the touchdown. On the first play, Manning's pass was intercepted by Asante Samuel (his second of the game), but he was hit by Ahmad Bradshaw and fumbled and the ball was recovered by Rich Seubert at the 40.
Moments later, it was fourth-and-six from the 44. Coughlin elected to go for it and the decision seemed to pay off when Manning scrambled for 16 yards. But instead of sliding feet first, which automatically ends the play, Manning dove head first. When he hit the ground he fumbled and the ball was recovered by defensive end Darryl Tapp.
Coughlin challenged the ruling, but after a review, referee Ron Winter upheld the call on the field. The Eagles, with McCoy contributing a 40-yard run, set up David Akers' clinching field goal.
"We were a slide away from being right in the game," said Manning, who lost the ball on an almost identical play last year against the Eagles in Giants Stadium. "There's no reason (to dive). I have to slide there. Sometimes you have momentum and you're trying to get as much yardage as you can. You're just running and you come to the point where you don't want to slow down. You don't know if it's too late and you go down the fastest way you know how to. You just have to not worry about the yardage and go down. We had the first down. (I should have) gone feet first and moved the chains.
"I didn't think anybody touched me. When I hit the ground, the ball popped out."
Aside from McCoy's touchdown, the Eagles scored on Vick's four-yard run and Akers kicked field goals of 38, 24, 28 and 30 yards. He also had a 42-yard try blocked.
Manning threw touchdown passes of two yards to Travis Beckum and five yards to Derek Hagan and Lawrence Tynes kicked a 24-yard field goal for the Giants.
Both of Manning's scoring throws were within a 2:02 time frame spanning the third and fourth quarters to give the Giants a 17-16 lead.
The first was to Beckum, who got a step on rookie safety Nate Allen and secured Manning's pass about two yards deep in the end zone to successfully conclude a nine-play, 68-yard drive. The Giants had first-and-goal at the two after Eagles safety Quintin Mikell was penalized for pass interference after roughing up Mario Manningham as he went for a Manning pass. Beckum scored on the next play.
Manning had earlier kept the drive moving with a 10-yard pass to Manningham on third-and-seven. He later threw a 15-yard pass to Kevin Boss.
The Giants quickly got the takeaway they needed on the second play of the fourth quarter, when Justin Tuck sacked Vick for the second time and forced a fumble that was recovered by Barry Cofield on the Giants' 27-yard line.
On the next play, the Giants sent Jacobs down the left sideline and the big back hauled in Manning's pass for a 22-yard gain. The Giants took the lead on the following snap, when Manning fired to the back of the end zone for Hagan, who was re-signed last week when Ramses Barden was placed on injured reserve.
Both teams punted before McCoy took off on his game-winning run.
Akers' 28-yard field goal extended the Eagles' lead to 16-3 with 6:38 remaining in the third quarter. The kick ended a 14-play, 82-yard drive that consumed the first 8:22 of the third quarter, the longest opposing possession this season.
Vick was the catalyst on the series, throwing to Jeremy Maclin for 18 yards, McCoy for 17 and Avant for 15. But his eight-yard throw on third down left Philadelphia three yards short of a first down, and Akers came on to kick his third field goal.
The season-long turnover plague – a fumble and an interception just 2:27 apart - surfaced in the second quarter and contributed to the Giants' 13-3 halftime deficit.
They trailed 7-3 when, on the second play of their first possession following Tynes' field goal, Bradshaw was hit by rookie Brandon Graham and fumbled. The ball was recovered by Samuel at the Giants' 23-yard line. Philadelphia gained just three yards in three plays and Akers came on to kick a 38-yard field goal that stretched the Eagles' advantage to 10-3.
The second play of their next possession again proved troublesome for the Giants because of Samuel, who picked off Manning's pass for Hakeem Nicks at the 23 and returned it 10 yards. On third down, Avant was all alone when he dropped Vick's pinpoint pass in the back of the end zone. Akers came on to kick a 24-yard field goal to stretch the lead to 10 points.
The Eagles' veteran kicker had a chance to pad the lead on the final play of the half, but his 42-yard attempt was blocked by Terrell Thomas – the Giants' first blocked field goal since Thomas batted down an Akers attempt in Giants Stadium on Dec. 7, 2008.
Tynes' 24-yard field goal had put the Giants on the scoreboard with 9:10 left in the second quarter. Before the kick, the Giants moved 74 yards in 13 plays and 8:06, the Giants longest scoring drive in terms of plays and time this season. On the drive, Manning connected with Nicks for passes of 15 and 16 yards, and Bradshaw ripped off a 17-yard run.
A 10-yard pass to Nicks gave the Giants a first down on the Philly 10. Two runs by Brandon Jacobs left the ball at the five, but Manning's third-down pass to Boss fell incomplete.
Vick's four-yard run around right end on a quarterback draw gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead with 2:16 remaining in the first quarter. On second-and-four, Vick fielded a shotgun snap, sprinted to his right and just beat safety Kenny Phillips to the front corner of the end zone.
The score concluded a 13-play, 68-yard series that included Vick passes of 23 and 13 yards to Jackson. The second of those passes gave the Eagles a first down on the Giants' 13-yard line. Vick followed with a six-yard throw to running back McCoy, who then ran up the middle for another five yards to the four. After an incomplete pass, Vick ran in for the score.