*The Giants were shutout by the Cardinals, 23-0, Sunday in Arizona: *
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Seldom has one game served as a microcosm of an entire football season as purely as the Giants' 23-0 loss Sunday to the Arizona Cardinals in University of Phoenix Stadium.
Virtually all of the flaws and issues that have doomed the Giants to what is inescapably one of the worst seasons in the 93-year history of the franchise were on display on a cloudless day in the desert.
There was the sputtering rushing attack, which averaged 2.2 yards a carry and had no run longer than seven yards. Eli Manning again searched long and hard for open receivers, and while his numbers were respectable (27-for-45 for 263 yards), he threw two interceptions and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
In addition to the three turnovers, the Giants matched their season-high with 10 penalties, for 101 yards. The defense played reasonably well, but couldn't keep up with Larry Fitzgerald (nine catches for 119 yards and a touchdown), though covering the third-leading receiver in history has long been a problem for those who try. There was Aldrick Rosas' seventh missed field goal attempt of the season, in perfect conditions from 33 yards out.
The Giants had 14 third-down conversion attempts. They succeeded just once, a dismal 7% success rate.
And we can't forget the injuries, which first hit in training camp and have never subsided. On Sunday, two-time Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins, who has started every game in his three-year career, left the game with a fractured forearm suffered when he tackled running back D.J. Foster in the second quarter. "That streak's over," Collins said. Leading receiver Evan Engram, the team's top draft choice this season, left the game in the first quarter with a rib injury, after catching one pass. Wideout Sterling Shepard, the second-leading receiver, was removed from the game in the fourth quarter with a neck injury.
Add it all up, and the Giants became the Cardinals' first shutout victims in 25 years (19-0 on Dec. 12, 1992 against, yes, the Giants). They were blanked for the first time since Oct. 12, 2014, 27-0, in Philadelphia. The Giants now have a franchise-record 13 defeats, against only two victories. They are 1-7 on the road and are 0-11 vs. the NFC. Mercifully, the season ends next week at home against Washington.
"It was a simple message to the team afterwards," interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "In this league, you can't win games if you beat yourself, and that's what I thought happened today. Penalties certainly killed us in all three phases. All three phases had penalties that resulted in bad situations for us, the field position, etc, etc. It really begins and ends there, to be quite honest with you."
But penalties alone can't account for an offense that did not have a drive longer than 45 yards, thrice lost the ball on downs, committed those three turnovers and punted six times. And this was one week after the Giants scored a season-high 29 points in a loss to Philadelphia.
"Pretty frustrating," Shepard said. "You go from a week of putting up the highest points that you put up and then go to putting up a goose egg, which is pretty frustrating."
Although he was without Engram for most of the game, Shepard late, and Tavarres King, who scored two touchdowns against the Eagles for the entire game (inactive with a concussion), Manning was characteristically blunt in critiquing his own play.
"We didn't score any points, so I didn't play well enough," he said "I obviously had the interception early, kind of hit Evan (Engram). We got to look at it. I don't know if I overthrew it or left it inside, the guy made a good play. I think he had hurt his ribs on the play before, and then had the one before half just trying to make a play. I got some pressure. But obviously, hey, we didn't covert on third downs, didn't score, so obviously, I didn't play well enough."
In case anyone is wondering, Spagnuolo said Manning will start the finale.
The Cardinals scored once in each quarter to easily dispatch the Giants. Phil Dawson's 21-yard field goal gave Arizona an early 3-0 lead.
Early in the second, Rosas had a chance to tie the score, put pulled his relatively short kick wide left.
"You don't want to let it affect you, certainly, because it's early enough in the game," Spagnuolo said. "But it would have been nice to be 3-3. He didn't miss by much, but it was a miss. We need to make that."
Late in the quarter, Stanton found Fitzgerald in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown pass. Manning's last pass of the half was intercepted by Antoine Bethea, who had two picks. Arizona soon took the second-half kickoff and marched 75 yards in 11 plays, the last a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown (Dawson's extra point try was wide right).
Late in the third quarter, cornerback Ross Cockrell stopped a potential Arizona scoring drive when he intercepted Stanton in the end zone. But on the first play of the fourth, Manning fumbled when he was sacked by Deone Buccannon. The ball was recovered by Robert Nkemdiche, who returned it 21 yards for the final score.
By then, Collins was sitting in front of his locker in street clothes, his forearm fracture having been confirmed by X-ray.
"It's the worst feeling in the world to not be able to play with my boys," Collins said. "That's what hurt me the most. I came in here and I was crying. That will hurt me the most. It's not just the injury, because I mean I can try to fight through an injury. But not being able to play because it's broken, that's what hurts me the most.
"I don't even remember the last time I cried. As soon as I saw the picture on the X-ray, man, I just broke down. I couldn't hold it in, I broke down."
Asked to summarize his season, Collins said, "It was definitely tough. Just trying to play through injuries and trying to be on the field with my guys as much as possible and just try to make a difference in some kind of way. I tried my best and I can hold my head up high for that. I tried my best."
As with so much else in this forgettable Giants season, it wasn't good enough.