By Ernie Palladino
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It’s all busted now.
The Giants were supposed to win the NFC East.
They were supposed to make noise during the playoffs.
They were supposed to go to the Super Bowl. On rollerskates. Don’t even bother with the season.
It’s all gone now, thanks to five straight losses. And the ugly truth about Sunday’s 27-22 setback against the previously winless Chargers is that things could even get worse for this floundering squad.
Much worse. Maybe oh-and-8 worse.
They were losing with a full receiving corps as it was. Now they’ll proceed, probably for the remainder of the season, without Odell Beckham, Jr., the most dynamic of the group.
And they’ll probably lose Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, and Dwayne Harris for extended periods, too, with two sprained left ankles and a broken foot, respectively.
But Beckham, he’s another story. He was the explosive one, and no practice squad player or waiver pickup is going to make up for his dynamic, if often grating, playing style. He was the one guy who could break a long one and change the complexion of a game.
That’s gone now. It went away with four minutes to go Sunday. Beckham went up for a high throw, and once he came down his weight pinned an already tender left ankle to the ground. The entire crowd could surmise something was wrong immediately as Beckham covered his face with his hand and writhed in agony.
The cart took him to the x-ray room where it was confirmed the ankle was broken. He’s probably headed for surgery. And if that happens, he’s probably done for the year.
For all the Giants’ troubles in protecting Eli Manning this season — he was sacked five times, twice each by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram — at least he could look to Beckham on a short route. And he was a prime target in the two-minute drill, a tactic that never had a chance as Manning tried to bring his team back from five points down late with Roger Lewis, Jr. and three tight ends.
Throw in the defense’s continued inability to make a tackle, and the Giants are looking at a hopeless situation right now. They consistently let the Chargers off the hook on third-and-long, allowing Philip Rivers to work himself into scoring range even after the Chargers looked completely inept the whole first half.
At least the Giants ran the ball a little. More than that, actually. They compiled a season-high 152 yards for a 6.1-yard average, with Orleans Darkwa gaining 69 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
But even that’s not going to get the Giants much if they have no one to throw it to. It’s significant that Beckham was gone just seven seconds before Ingram stormed in on Manning for a strip sack that wound up in his own hands at the Giants’ 11.
Three plays later, Melvin Gordon found himself on the good end of a 10-yard pass that produced the winning points.
Even without Manning’s game-ending interception, the two-minute drill never had a chance without his receivers.
The wide receiver/tight end combination of Lewis and Evan Engram won’t scare Denver next week, Seattle the week after, or the Rams following the bye.
In other words, the road was getting rockier, anyway.
Without Beckham, it becomes that much harder.
Without Beckham, Marshall, Shepard, and Harris, it looks downright impossible. Promotions from the practice squad won’t scare a soul. And unless Jerry Rice’s name magically appears on the waiver wire, an 0-8 start looks absolutely possible now for a team many penciled in for a variety of hardware before they kicked it off in Dallas back in Week 1.
If the Mets were the area’s biggest baseball disappointment this year, the Giants could make their downfall look like a dream season.
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