It was perhaps the most predictable moment of the season.
The Giants had let their 19-3 lead disappear, and the Eagles had come all the way back to take a 22-19 lead in the fourth quarter. The Giants got the ball back midway through the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead.
I suppose they deserve some credit for going on an eight-play, 56-yard drive that resulted in a tying chip-shot field goal by Aldrick Rosas.
But the instant that kick went through the uprights at Lincoln Financial Field, it was clear what would happen next: the Eagles would win the game.
Philadelphia got the ball back with just under six minutes to play, and there was no chance that the Giants defense would make a play to stop the drive or take the ball away from Carson Wentz. The only possibility is that the Eagles would hit a couple of big plays that would keep them from running out the clock and perhaps the Giants would get the ball back with nearly two minutes left and at least one timeout.
But the Eagles and Wentz were not about to hit a big play. They knew better and Doug Pedersen realized all his team had to do was hold onto the football, and work it into reasonable position. Jake Elliott was not about to miss a chance to beat the Giants, just as David Akers would not have missed against the Giants in a previous chapter in the rivalry.
Elliott had basically triggered the Eagles Super Bowl run a year ago when he beat the Giants with a 61-yard field goal at the gun in Week Three, and this time he had a much easier 43-yard field goal attempt to win the game.
He split the uprights with ease, and the Giants were left with just a few seconds left to do nothing.
So, if anyone believed the Giants would run the table – as Odell Beckham Jr. suggested – they know now it was folly. Actually, no thinking Giants fan believed that it was going to happen.
Beating the Niners and Bucs is one thing, but beating the Eagles is quite another.
The idea that the Giants would jump out to a fairly sizable first-half lead was surprising in the first place. The fact that Eli Manning was getting enough time to hit a few throws, Beckham was making plays and rookie Saquon Barkley was running well was encouraging.
Barkley’s 51-yard TD run late in the second quarter was particularly encouraging. The problem is, the Eagles woke up after that and responded with their first touchdown of the game, and the message was sent that the second half would be a much different story than the first 26 minutes of the game.
Now the Giants face a Chicago Bears team with a ferocious defense, multi-faceted offense and is looking to lock down a playoff spot. The Giants can learn something from the way the Bears organization has conducted its rebuild.
When Chicago general manager Ryan Pace sent old-school head coach John Fox packing and brought in Kansas City offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, the Chicago culture changed. Suddenly, Chicago took the offensive and started playing creative football for the first time since … ever.
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky took three steps up and the Bears added wideouts Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. They were going to be better no matter what, because the combined weight of Marc Trestman-John Fox regimes were dead and buried, and Nagy brought a winning personality as well as a sharp offensive philosophy.
Then the Bears got lucky and added a game changer on defense in Khalil Mack.
The Bears are in first place this year and a football burden has been lifted in the Windy City.
The lesson of this week’s opponent is clear. If a team has one great offseason, especially when some pieces are already in place, it can lead to a turnaround.
That’s the way the NFL is built. No team is supposed to be bad forever and no team is supposed to win forever (Bill Belichick didn’t get that memo). The Giants can turn this around, but it will have to happen in the offseason.
There will be no 2018 miracle finish.