The Giants will face a long-time rival Sunday when the Eagles come to MetLife Stadium:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –With just three games remaining in a dreary season, the Giants have begun fielding the standard query of players in their predicament at this time of year: what, exactly, are you still playing for?
"I love answering that question," safety Landon Collins said this week. "We are playing for this organization for one, the tradition here, and for yourself. At the end of the day, you're playing for this game, you love this game, you come out there and play each and every down. This game is not for long, so why not give it every best chance you get? Because any given day it could be taken away from you."
Collins and the Giants are still fighting, the former despite an ankle injury he aggravated last week, and the latter with the weight of a dismal 2-11 record on their backs. Tomorrow, they can create a season highlight, and enjoy payback for perhaps their toughest defeat of the season, when they host the 11-2 Philadelphia Eagles, who have already clinched the NFC East title and have their eyes on securing the top seed in the conference playoffs.
The Giants would love to derail those plans, even temporarily. Particularly since the turning point for each team might well have occurred in their first meeting on Sept. 24 in Philadelphia. Shutout for the first three quarters, the Giants scored 24 points in the fourth to take a three-point lead. But rookie Josh Elliott tied the game with a 46-yard field goal with 51 seconds remaining.
An almost unbelievable succession of events then took place. Eli Manning completed a 14-yard pass to rookie Evan Engram on third down – but the Giants needed 15 yards for a first down. Brad Wing, who had averaged 42 yards on his first three punts, miss-hit a ball that traveled just 28 yards. On second down, cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple collided, enabling Carson Wentz to complete a 19-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery with one second remaining. That was enough time for Elliott, playing in his second NFL game, to nail a 61-yard field goal, the longest ever vs. the Giants and the longest game-winning in league history.
That kick sent Philadelphia on to a nine-game winning streak. The Giants lost the third in what became a season-starting five-game losing streak, from which they never recovered.
"Man, that just goes to show what's happened to us this year with some of the losses we've had," linebacker Devon Kennard said. "I feel like that game when I think back – that one hurt. And, it'll be nice to pay them back this week."
"I guess you can call them the best team in the NFL," defensive tackle Damon Harrison said. "They play really, really good defense, and they're really, really good on offense. So I think they're one of the best teams if not the best team in football."
What would it mean to beat that best team?
Five players to watch as the Giants get set to take on the Eagles
"It would be a win," Harrison said. "It's a division opponent, a rivalry game just like with Dallas, which we didn't get the job done last week (in a 30-10 loss). But any win that we get at this point would be good. We just need a win, man."
Despite the disparity in the team's records, the Giants will enter the game confident, in part because of their performance in Philadelphia. The Giants amassed season-high figures of 415 total yards and 366 passing yards. They did not allow a sack, the only game this season in which the Eagles did not have at least two. Of course, that was back when the Giants still had Odell Beckham, Jr. and Brandon Marshall in the lineup.
"I thought we played well against them the first time, made some nice plays, hit some big plays," Manning said. "I thought we had a good plan to try to slow down their pass rush. They're very talented, their front seven is as good as it gets, their D-line and their front four especially, and they've got good players in the secondary. We've got to find ways to slow them down a little bit, get the ball out on time, get completions."
So the Giants have plenty to play for tomorrow. It's an opportunity to walk off the field happy for just the third time this season, win a game few expect them to win, and temporarily slow down the playoff express of an ancient rival. More than that, they have an opportunity put their professionalism on display by playing their hardest and their best under challenging circumstances.
"We've got some men of integrity," Harrison said. "It means a lot to them. It doesn't always show on the scoreboard. We've had some bad breaks, some really bad breaks to be honest. We got some guys that really care, it means a lot to them. We're still trying to win games and help us.
"I love the game of football. The reason why I started playing football is still the reason why I play today. It's not for the money, it's not for the glory or any of that. Obviously, I want to be a great player. I want to be one of the best players to ever play when it's all said and done. There's a lot of pride in this building and I just want to help restore that."
No better time than tomorrow.
*The Giants and Toyota, in partnership with the United States Marines, will hold their annual Toys for Tots drive at MetLife Stadium when they host the Eagles tomorrow. Fans are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys to any of the collection vehicles and volunteers located at each entrance to the stadium prior to the game. Uniformed Marine Corps Reserves will be on hand to assist in collecting these gifts.
Modell's Sporting Goods has donated $2,500 worth of sports equipment to the cause and will hand out coupons for select Nike products to all fans who donate a toy. Coupons are redeemable at Modell's locations only. All gifts collected during the drive will be donated to Toys for Tots, the premier community action program of the United States Marines. Over the last 50 years, the Marines have distributed over 272,000,000 toys to children across the country during the holiday season.
Since the late 1970's, the Giants have participated in this program and hosted an annual Toys for Tots drive, helping to bring the joy of Christmas to children across the tri-state area. Once again, the Giants ask their friends and fans to join the team as we assist our neighbors in need.