The Eli Manning mistake that put final nail in Giants’ coffin

PHILADELPHIA — The fire is out. The flickering flame of an Impossible Dream has been extinguished.

There will be no Night of the Living Dead redux.

Buried once and for all instead.

No running the table. No Mara Christmas for the New York Football Giants.

It was only a tease, a two-game tease from 1-7 to 3-7 that gave them the illusion of hope that they could rise from the rubble of a garbage season in a garbage division.

Woedell Beckham Jr. instead.

In truth, the 3-8 Giants, 25-22 losers to the Eagles, proved one last time they do not belong anywhere near the playoffs.

When both your offense and your defense are offensive in winning time, you deserve to lose.

You can point your finger at Big Blah, which could not stop the run or make stand in crunch time; you can point to Saquon Barkley being reduced to an afterthought (one catch for 4 yards; four carries for 7 yards) in a second half that saw the Giants possess the ball for only 10:17 following his huge first half (51-yard TD run, TD catch, 131 total yards); you can question why Odell Beckham Jr. keeps cramping up and requiring IVs, this time costing him the first series of the second half.

There is no margin for error on teams like these, and despite all the other issues, it was Eli Manning who made the one costly fatal error that the Giants could not afford.

Manning had already thrown for 236 yards, including a 13-yard TD to Barkley, in the first half on his way to a 19-3 lead against a depleted Eagles secondary when his underthrown heave from the 27 for Beckham into double coverage was intercepted at the 2 by Malcolm Jenkins at a time when a field goal would have given the Giants an 11-point lead at intermission.

Pat Shurmur took the blame and shouldn’t have.

“Just a bad decision,” stand-up Manning said. “One hundred percent bad decision on me. They were playing soft and I just have to throw that away and try for a long field goal.”

Better yet, he should have checked down to Barkley, wide open in the sunshine in the left flat at the 25-yard line.

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“Yes, I should have gone to him,” Manning said.

Eagles DT Fletcher Cox: “I think the biggest turning point for our defense was that pick by Malcolm.”

That wasn’t Manning’s only bad call. He also burned a timeout with 5:16 left in the third quarter … before third-and-18.

“I just kind of screwed up the call a little bit there,” Manning said. “In hindsight, maybe just run it and I could have gotten a completion. We’re trying to take a shot, just had some guys lined up in the wrong spot. So it’s on me.”

That doesn’t mean it was on him, of course. Manning always takes one for the team.

“You never want to take a timeout when you don’t have to,” Shurmur said. “That’s the reality.”

It is inexcusable that against a secondary such as this one — at times the NFL equivalent of The Three Stooges — Manning and Beckham (5-85) could not torch it. Manning in the second half: 7-for-12, 61 yards. Beckham in the second half: 2-22. Sterling Shepard: 2-8 in the second half, 4-37 overall.

“They just made better adjustments than we did,” Beckham said.

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PHILADELPHIA — On paper, it was a mismatch. Odell Beckham…

Outplayed and out-toughed and outcoached.

“I would have loved to attack ’em, but it wasn’t in our game plan,” Beckham said.

Clinging to a 19-14 lead as the third quarter became the fourth, Shurmur called three consecutive passes: two incompletes and a third-down sack.

Shurmur preferred to talk about penalties (4-for-25 yards in the second half and 11-for-91 overall) and sacks allowed (two) instead of the play-calling: “You get off schedule trying to get the ball to Saquon and Odell and the guys that need to touch it.”

If ever there was a time for Barkley to touch it, that was it. You see, the Giants would run only nine offensive plays in the fourth quarter before Manning had one last feeble chance from his 34 with 16 seconds remaining.

The only drama left is when and where Manning takes a seat for rookie Kyle Lauletta. The light at the end of this Big Blue tunnel is, sadly, a train.

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