At the end, there wasn’t enough energy left in the season to boo anybody, mostly because there weren’t enough people left at MetLife Stadium to hold a quorum, let alone a revolt.
(Although the Giants WERE decidedly revolting all day … )
At the end, there was one last flutterball from Eli Manning in the rain, a ball intended for Evan Engram that never had a chance to reach Engram, dying a few yards shy of where Engram was standing in the end zone, hitting the back of the helmet belonging to Kevin Byard of the Titans.
Out of habit, a few dozen people started to protest, because it looked like there might have been a touch of face-guarding on the play, but those folks caught themselves and moved along. What was the point? The game was over. The season was exhausted. The parking lot beckoned.
“We didn’t do anything well enough to expect to win,” was the way Giants coach Pat Shurmur would put it a few minutes later, after the Giants walked off the field 17-0 losers, guaranteed at last a second-straight playoff-free season (and six out of seven, and eight out of 10).
You have to hand it to Shurmur: He seems to enjoy these postgame press conferences about as much as a vegetarian likes veal scallopini, but he generally does lend the wisest (if edgiest) voice of all the postgame analyses week after week. It has yet to be proven if he can coax good football out of his team, but he can absolutely identify bad football. He’s seen enough of it all year.
“There’s a long list of things that we didn’t do well,” he said.
Let that be the title of the official Giants highlight video this year, because there’s never been a more perfect marriage of slogan and slog. We all did a fine job of fooling ourselves into believing these Giants were capable of pulling off one of the greatest football stories ever told, mostly because to believe otherwise was to simply throw up your hands, lay down your arms, and meekly count the days to pitchers and catchers.
The list? You can start with the quarterback. You have to hand it to Eli Manning; in the morning it was Phil Simms who guaranteed on CBS that Eli will be the quarterback next year (and old No. 11 said he expects old No. 10 to still be on the job in 2020, too), which certainly had to delight the stubborn, ardently pro-Eli faction of Giants fans.
Then he went out and solidified the stance of the other half of the Giants fan base, the one that’s grown weary of Manning’s inconsistencies, the one that is absolutely ready to thank him for his service and for his matching Lombardi Trophies and welcome a new franchise quarterback, whoever that may be.
There was actually a touch of momentum going the Giants’ way. Despite being manhandled in the first half, they were only down 7-0 and were driving on their first possession of the second half. The out-of-town scoreboard brought hopeful news from Minneapolis, where the Dolphins, once down 21-0, had crept to within 21-17 of the Vikings, with the ball.
For an instant, the rain seemed less miserable, the cold less paralyzing, the gray less depressing. For a moment it looked like the Giants could wiggle out of this morass and buy another week’s worth of fool’s gold …
Except Eli threw an inexcusable interception.
And on the very next drive, fumbled deep in New York territory.
(And, yes, because when it rains it pours — especially on a day when it alternated raining and pouring — the Vikings halted their slide and began re-pounding the Fish.)
And, well. That was that. It wasn’t just Manning, of course. The defense was gashed by Tennessee’s Derrick Henry all day (33 carries, 170 yards) and committed too many ghastly penalties. Saquon Barkley picked a lousy day to look like a rookie (14 carries, 31 yards). There was no shortage of culprits.
But, then: That’s what the whole season has been about, an ensemble of awful, a team that started the season flat and never actually gained any traction until the Giants started playing teams in worse shape than them. Our standards are such that until the Titans slapped them silly — and dunked icy water on the rest of us — we actually thought they had a sliver of a shot at some magic.
Shame on us for being taken in. Shame on the Giants for taking the day off. At the end, the smartest of the bunch were the 69,538 or so of the 74,538 who allegedly bought tickets for this mess and were gone by the end. Even the Turnpike was a better alternative than what was happening at MetLife. Fifty-eight days till pitchers and catchers.