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Growth of young Giants provides silver lining in disappointing season

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The final game was a microcosm of the entire season. The Giants stayed close to their opponents for three quarters. They were boosted by outstanding or gritty individual performances and made some big plays. It even rained, which was a semi-regular occurrence in Giants games this year.

Unfortunately, the outcome was all too familiar. Tied after three quarters, the Giants were shut out in the final 15 minutes while their opponents put 17 points on the board. The result was a 34-17 loss to the 9-7 Philadelphia Eagles, who clinched the NFC East title with their seventh consecutive victory against the Giants and fourth in a row to close the season.

The Giants finished 4-12. They were outscored in the fourth quarter this season, 127-58.

"End of a long year," coach Pat Shurmur said. "I think you watched all our guys fought and battled. We had a couple of mistakes there in the second half that kind of let the score stretch out, but they continued to battle. I've talked about that all year. We're not a good enough team yet to win those close games, but someday we will be. I'm proud of those guys."

The Giants stayed close largely because of the efforts of two of their brightest young stars, quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley.

Jones threw a career-high 47 pass attempts and tied a career best with 28 completions. Jones threw for 301 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown to Golden Tate in the Giants' 14-point third quarter.

Barkley rushed for 92 yards and added 25 yards on three receptions for 117 yards from scrimmage. His 68-yard touchdown tied the score at 17-17 with 2:05 remaining in the third.

"My thoughts were when we scored, Saquon had the long run, we scored and went 17-17, 'Okay, how are we going to win this thing at this point?'" Shurmur said. "That's where I'm at."

But the Eagles dominated the final period from the very first play, when Carson Wentz's 41-yard pass to Deontay Burnett gave them a first down at the Giants' 32. They didn't gain another yard, so Jake Elliott kicked a 50-yard field goal for the lead they never relinquished at 20-17.

Three plays into the Giants' next possession, the Giants faced a second-and-eight when Jones initially couldn't secure a shotgun snap from Jon Halapio. He regained control just as he was hit by safety Malcolm Jenkins, forcing a fumble that Fletcher Cox recovered all the way back at the three-yard line. Cox gained a yard and on the next play, Boston Scott scored his second touchdown on a two-yard run to make it 27-17.

"Just dropped the snap and then, yeah, fumbled," Jones said. "Costly mistake at a key point of the game."

Later in the quarter, Barkley was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-two from the Giants' 39. Three plays later, on third-and-13, Wentz connected with Scott for a 29-yard gain. On the next snap, Scott – who carried 19 times because of injuries to Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders – scored his third touchdown of the game.

The Giants' bid for a miracle comeback ended when Darius Slayton slipped on the wet turf and Jones was intercepted by cornerback Sidney Jones at the six-yard line with 3:09 left.

"It sucks," Barkley said of the Giants' disappointing season. "You don't want to be 4-12, but no matter if we were 4-12 or 8-8, at the end of the day, we're not going to the playoffs. That's your whole (goal) of a season. In the offseason, that's what you train for, to compete for a championship. It sucks but you have to let this stuff burn and fuel your fire, learn from it and hopefully it helps build us and helps build character for us to compete next year."

The Giants will quickly turn their attention to the 2020 season. Perhaps the most significant positive development they can take from this year is the experience their many young players received. Ten rookies, including eight draft choices, started at least one game. The group of second and third-year players is fronted by Barkley.

"I told the young players that by the way that the roster was structured this year, it was a gift," Shurmur said. "It was a gift to them to be able to, because they were our best players, to be able to play as much football as they did. At some point here in the middle of February, they'll be sitting on their couch and they're going to look back or shake their head and say, 'Holy cow, what happened?' Then they need to use it as motivation to have a great offseason and come back stronger than ever so that in these close games we can find a way to make enough plays to win them.

"I had no problem with the way they trained. All year long, you didn't get a chance to watch these guys practice. They practiced hard, they practiced intentionally. I had no problem with how hard they play. We've just got to find a way to make more plays and win more in the critical situations in games that are critical to winning. I think this group as we come together and add more pieces will be able to do that."

But now they must wait nine months to prove it.

View the best photos from the Giants season finale at MetLife Stadium


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