PHILADELPHIA. There was a lot of nice buzz from the Giants this season, but it ended with a dull thump.
“You lose this time of year, it’s bad,” coach Brian Daboll said.
That sums up what happened Saturday night for the Giants. They were eliminated from the playoffs, rudely and decisively, to bring down the curtain on a season of revival and revitalization. It will be too soon to look back and appreciate the progress Daboll has made in his first year as coach, but for now, the sting of a 38-7 loss to the rival Eagles in a frenzied field at Lincoln Financial Field is immediately nerve-wracking. after a game that was never close.
“Wrong,” Saquon Barkley said in the visitors’ closed locker room. “It was a fun team. The guys here, the coaches, what we were able to build this year, the way we played for each other this year, it was special. Obviously, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to.”
No, it didn’t. In general.
“Yeah, everybody here thought we were either going to play the Niners or the Cowboys next week,” center John Feliciano said. “It is wrong”.
The Giants are done playing for the season. Ending the road and missing the playoffs is never nice for any team, and the Giants certainly believed they had what it took to make a deeper push and keep their season alive for at least another week. That belief has not translated into action. However, over time, what the franchise got will resonate as an overwhelming success, given the (slight) expectations and odds that they’ll put together a winning season and actually make it to the postseason for the first time since 2016.
“I’m proud of where we’ve come from, seeing how much we’ve grown as a team, which has been great to be a part of,” Javier McKinney said. “We’re not there yet and we know it.”
Daboll used a personality and level-headed approach to keep the Giants humming, and their 9-7-1 record was a quantum leap above even the most optimistic projections. Daniel Jones’ ascent as a franchise-type quarterback was made almost official with his performance in a 31-24 win over the Vikings in the first round of the playoffs.
Jones and Barkley are not under contract through 2023, and what comes next for them will shape the franchise. Barkley has made no secret of where his heart and mind want to be, and he did so again after he ran 9 times for 61 yards and wasn’t a big factor in the loss.
“I’ve been vocal about how I feel and where I want to be,” Barkley said. “It’s out of my control. I wanted to show the Giants that the guy they drafted is still here, I hope I did that. Everyone knows I’d like to be a giant for the rest of my life.”
Barkley then paused and said, “I can’t imagine that’s my last time in a Giants uniform.”
Jones endured a rough final stretch, passing for just 135 yards and throwing an interception late in the first quarter when his former teammate, cornerback James Bradbury, intercepted a route run by Darius Slayton.
Jones has steadfastly refused to discuss his future with the Giants and was given two opportunities after this game to announce his desire to return. He refused to reveal his wishes.
“Yeah, I think we’ll get to that down the road,” Jones said. “I think it’s still very fresh right now, this season, this loss. We’ll take some time to regroup and think about it.”
Asked if his goal was to sit out the postseason with the Giants, Jones added: “Yeah, I mean I think, like I said, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. I thoroughly enjoyed playing here. I appreciate all the guys in the locker room, it’s a special group of guys and I’ve really enjoyed being a part of it, so we’ll see where it goes.”
No one around the Giants was in the mood for much reflection after this dreadful display. The Eagles were 14-3 and No. 1 in the NFC and had beaten the Giants three times this season, twice by a landslide.
This was a mismatch. The Eagles led 14-0 after one quarter and 28-0 at halftime. The Giants were outgained 258-64 in the first half. The Eagles had 18 first downs, the Giants three. Jalen Hurts, showing no ill effects from the sprained shoulder that kept him out of the final two games of the season, passed for two touchdowns and ran for a third time before halftime.
Down 7-0, the Giants managed two first downs, but came up empty when Daboll rolled the dice, as he usually does. Jones was picked off by Hasson Reddick on third down, setting up a fourth-and-8 from the Eagles’ 40-yard line and pushing the Giants into a field goal position. Dabol did not invite a field team. Jones was sacked once again by Redick to set up the Eagles at their own 48 yard line.
They did not waste the position of the golden field. Hurts threw a screen to DeVonta Smith, who outran Nick McCloud for a 9-yard score to make it 14-0.
It’s never been better for the Giants.
“I’m disappointed,” Daboll said. “I wish we could have done a better job. I wish I could do a better job. I feel stupid. That’s as honest as you can get.”