EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters) - The New York Giants’ season lay in ruins, while the Philadelphia Eagles climbed into the thick of the NFC East division race on Sunday as they won their Desperation Bowl showdown at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
The Giants, winners of the Super Bowl two seasons ago, sank to 0-5 for the first time since the strike-interrupted 1987 season in which replacement players were used, while the Eagles reached 2-3 by ending a three-game losing skid.
Three fourth-quarter interceptions by two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, caused as much by bad decision-making as by poor throwing, left Giants head coach Tom Coughlin questioning his field general.
”It all comes down to the interceptions,“ a subdued Coughlin told reporters. ”Two of them were just almost unbelievable.
“I honestly believe that he’s trying so hard to get us a win, he’s almost put too much on himself.”
Philadelphia overcame the loss of their starting quarterback Michael Vick, who hurt the Giants with several long-gaining scrambles before injuring his left hamstring while converting a third down with an 11-yard run late in the second quarter.
Back-up Nick Foles filled in admirably, throwing for 197 yards and two touchdowns, and gave the Eagles a 2-0 record within the mediocre division that gives them hopes of making a playoff run under new head coach Chip Kelly.
New York, whose long injury list grew to include running back David Wilson who left the game with a neck injury, rallied to overcome a 19-7 halftime deficit with a pair of third-quarter touchdown passes from Manning to second-year receiver Rueben Randle that gave them a 21-19 lead.
But Manning, the MVP of the Giants Super Bowl triumphs in both 2012 and 2008, was intercepted on three successive series in the fourth quarter leading to 14 points that lifted the Eagles to victory.
Worst of the ill-advised passes was one he tried to squeeze in to Victor Cruz on a third-and-10 with more than 10 minutes left in the game with the Eagles leading 29-21. It was picked off by Brandon Boykin on the New York 38.
“You’re trying to make plays, you’re trying to win,” said Manning, who has thrown a league-leading 12 interceptions.
”Fourth quarter, still a game, down by eight, we had a third down, felt pressure. I thought I could get the throw in to Cruz there. Got guys grabbing me, so I probably need to be smart there and tuck that one away or throw it into the ground.
“Obviously that was a costly one.”
Four plays later Foles hit DeSean Jackson for a five-yard touchdown pass that put Philadelphia comfortably ahead 36-21.
“I’ve got to be smarter,” said Manning, who was also flagged for three flagrant intentional grounding penalties in the game that hurt the Giants’ chances, and on one occasion took them out of field goal range.
“You’re in those situations a number of times. You have to make that final decision, can you get it in or is it too risky. Unfortunately I made the wrong decision there.”
The defeat may well have buried any chance of the Giants getting back in the race.
The New Yorkers had hoped to make a splash this season by getting back to the Super Bowl, which will be held at their home stadium in the first wintry setting for the NFL’s title game.
”Very, very demoralizing,“ said Coughlin. ”I didn’t think they stopped us, I thought we kind of stopped ourselves.
“He’s way, way, way too good a player to have these kinds of things happen.”
Editing by Frank Pingue