One real playoff team took the field Sunday in Baltimore and it was not the Giants.
But, try as they might, the Giants’ postseason chances cannot be killed off.
What went down at M&T Bank Stadium was a flogging, pure and simple. The Giants were thrashed by the Ravens, 27-13, and it was not that close.
The four-game winning streak is far in the rearview mirror, replaced by a three-game losing streak (by a combined score of 73-26). That the Giants (5-10) limped off the field not yet dead in the NFC East chase for first place was nothing more than assessing the company they keep in the division.
Remarkably, the Giants are alive. Washington and Philadelphia both lost later in the day, leaving the Giants still in contention for first place. If they beat the Cowboys in Week 17 and the Eagles defeat Washington, the Giants, Washington and the Cowboys all finish 6-10 and the Giants win the division based on having the best (4-2) division record.
Imagine that, especially given what has transpired the past few weeks.
Given the late-season slide, first-year coach Joe Judge was asked how an argument can be launched that the Giants are making progress.
“I don’t have to make an argument on that,’’ Judge said. “I can turn the tape on every week, I can watch with our players, I can see what we improve on every week and I can see what we are deficient on. I’m not trying to make an argument for anything.’’
Judge has sprinkled in many positive ingredients that should benefit the franchise in the near future, but he has not ushered in much winning. The Giants for the fourth consecutive season — and the sixth time in the last seven years — have double-digit losses.
“In terms of where this team is headed and what we have been able to accomplish this year, in terms of the foundation, the culture — we have improved a lot of playing across the board,’’ Judge said. “I feel that we are on the right track and moving in the right direction.”
Those onboard continue to remain onboard that the Giants are on the right track.
“I agree with that wholeheartedly,’’ said receiver Sterling Shepard, the team’s longest-tenured player. “We have guys that will fight until the end, no matter what the scoreboard looks like. When you have a close-knit group like we have, you can only think that things will be on the up from here.’’
There was nothing but downs in Week 16 for the Giants. The return of Daniel Jones as the starting quarterback did little to put a jolt in the offense, which failed to score more than one touchdown for the third straight game. Jones (24 of 41, 252 yards) did not run with the ball but did look more mobile operating on a healing strained right hamstring and healing sprained left ankle.
“I think Daniel looked the way I expected him to look out there,’’ Judge said. “He played confidently, didn’t look hesitant with anything he did.’’
Still, the Giants did not reach the end zone until Jones found Shepard in the fourth quarter. By then, the Giants were down 27-6 and the Ravens were coasting.
The Giants on defense could not hold off this avalanche, as the Ravens amassed 249 rushing yards, nearly split evenly between quarterback Lamar Jackson (80 yards) and running backs Gus Edwards (85) and J.K. Dobbins (77). A bloated 155 of those came before halftime.
“Yeah, that’s not us,’’ defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence said. “Not embarrassed, that’s just what we put on tape in the first half. We don’t accept that.’’
If you looked up “domination’’ in the dictionary, the first notation might be “See Ravens vs. Giants, first quarter’’ with Sunday’s date. It was 23-3 in offensive plays for the Ravens in the opening quarter and 13:17 to 1:43 in time of possession.
The Giants got only three series on offense in the first half. The first was short-circuited by not one, but two false start penalties on the offensive line. The second was doomed by a third-down drop by rookie Austin Mack. The third resulted in a Graham Gano field goal after a penalty flag for pass interference by the Ravens was picked up.
Down by 14 points, the Giants got their only three-and-out on defense, handing the ball to their offense with 6:17 remaining and a glimmer of hope. Jones was sacked on third down and had no chance on a fourth-down pass and the glimmer was gone.
“The results of the last three games are what they are,’’ Judge said. “Ultimately, in terms of the character of the team, the work ethic of the team, the toughness of the team, we have the right start to who we are working with and the direction we are going right now. We just need to make sure we do more on the field to get the tangible results.”
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