EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — As a fourth-down pass from Eli Manning fell to the turf, Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. recognized the game was lost and let his helmet fly.
The rookie is learning quickly and painfully about losing in the NFL.
New York dropped its fifth straight game Sunday, falling 16-10 to the San Francisco 49ers. The Giants (3-7) were doomed by five interceptions, although Manning wasn’t to blame on all of them.
Beckham, becoming a force after missing the first four games with a hamstring problem, had six catches on 93 yards including a spectacular 37-yard reception along the sideline to get his team in position for a late go-ahead touchdown. It never came as the Giants were thwarted on four passes from the San Francisco 4, the final one Manning’s fifth pick.
“That was just the love of the game, the passion,” Beckham admitted. “I shouldn’t have done it, but it happens.”
Interceptions didn’t happen much for Manning this season, with only five in the previous nine games; he had a league-high 27 in 2013. But on Sunday, under constant pressure from the 49ers (6-4), he was plagued by them.
And surprised by them.
“Yeah. No one was planning on it,” said Manning, who finished 22 of 45 for 280 yards. “I have to make better throws. It’s no one else’s fault. I’ve got to protect the ball and not turn it over. I turned it over close a couple of times and that can’t happen.”
“He got happy feet,” 49ers linebacker Chris Borland said. “He’s still a great quarterback, but we were able to rattle him a little bit.”
It should have been a lot easier for San Francisco, which had almost 35 minutes in time of possession and five takeaways, but had to sweat out that first-and-goal from its 4 to win.
Blame that on the 49ers’ offense. Its contribution against a Giants defense that had given up 136 points in its last four games was a 48-yard touchdown pass from Colin Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree and three first-half field goals by Phil Dawson.
A possible fourth field goal was lost when holder Andy Lee could not catch a snap on a day that 49ers special teams also allowed New York to recover an onside kick.
“It was a spectacular performance by our defense today,” San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said. “So many guys stepped up and played great, living in the moment and competing like the dickens and making tremendous and athletic football plays.”
The game also marked the return of 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith, who was active for the first time after missing the first nine games because of a suspension.
“There’s no give-up in our guys,” said Borland, who had two of the five interceptions. “We have guys, veterans, who have been there a lot. When it was going tough, we just pressed on and kept looking forward. Back-to-back wins on the road, we’re all excited.”
Manning threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Larry Donnell on New York’s opening possession, but the Giants only got a field goal from Josh Brown the rest of the way.
In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, Manning drove the Giants from their 35 to the San Francisco 4. Three fade patterns to Beckham, Rueben Randle and Donnell fell incomplete. Manning tried to force a pass to Preston Parker on fourth down, but Dontae Johnson tipped the ball and Borland came up with his second pick.
“Four shots from the 4-yard line – it’s inexcusable that we didn’t score,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
“In hindsight, we should have run the ball,” he added.
New York had a chance to take the lead earlier in the quarter, driving to the San Francisco 32. But Chris Culliver intercepted near the 10.
Michael Wilhoite and Eric Reid also intercepted Manning.
“It’s frustrating,” Randle said of Manning’s five interceptions. “I’m sure it’s frustrating for him, as well. We have to put it behind us and move forward – correct those mistakes and try to make those plays.”
After the Giants recovered a fumble by Frank Gore (19 rushes for 95 yards) at the Giants 37 on the opening series, Manning threw his 19-yard touchdown pass to Donnell — the first time in 20 games that New York scored a touchdown on its opening drive.
After three field goals by Dawson, San Francisco stretched the lead to 16-7 early in the third quarter. Kaepernick (15 of 29 for 193 yards) found Crabtree across the middle and the receiver outran five defenders for the score.
“It’s tough to lose a game,” Manning said. “It’s tough to lose this many in a row, especially one like this where you felt like you were right in it. The defense played well, the offense did some good things. Get down three yards away from taking the lead and can’t execute in that moment, so that’s going to be hard to swallow but we’ve got to bounce back and figure out a way to get a win.”
NOTES: Randle led the Giants with seven catches for 112 yards. … Giants halfback Rashad Jennings played for the first time since spraining his knee in early October and had 59 yards on 18 carries. … Giants LB Jameel McClain had a game-high 14 tackles.
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