LANDOVER, Md. — The New York Giants cannot win when they turn the ball over more than their opponent does. Their plus-12 turnover differential on the season was the second-best in the league coming into the game and the main reason they were 5-5 and not much worse. They’ve had a positive turnover differential in four of their losses this season.
So on Sunday, they couldn’t overcome Eli Manning‘s three interceptions. They didn’t collect any from Washington, either. And even a fourth-quarter rally that featured another dazzling Odell Beckham Jr. touchdown catch wasn’t enough. Down three starting interior offensive linemen once Geoff Schwartz got hurt, the Giants’ offense was sluggish until it was too late, and they lost 20-14 to Washington — a division rival against which they’d won their previous five games.
What it means: The Giants fall to 5-6 and into a first-place tie with Washington with five games left in the season. The Philadelphia Eagles are only a game behind at 4-7. The Giants’ chances to win the NFC East remain strong, but they’d have been a lot stronger had they managed to complete the season sweep and build a full two-game lead on Washington. Now it’ll be a messy scrap to an ugly finish.
What were they thinking? The Giants punted in the first half on fourth-and-7 from the Washington 39. Now, they almost looked like geniuses when it appeared Dwayne Harris had downed the ball at the 1-yard line. But it was ruled on review that Harris’ foot was on the goal line when he touched the ball, so it was a touchback that gained the Giants only 19 yards.
One reason to get excited: Well, it’s far from over, right? At this point, the chances are strong that the NFC East champion will have only seven or eight wins, and the Giants already have five. If they get their act together the next two weeks against the Jets and the Dolphins, they could be back over .500 and possibly back in command of their own destiny. It won’t take much.
One reason to panic: The way Manning has played this year, it’s easy to chalk this up as one bad game and not fear that it lingers. But the persistent inability to run the ball — in short-yardage situations, at the goal line or really in any way that helps fuel and sustain drives — is a killer for this offense. The Giants had 33 yards on 13 carries Sunday.
Fantasy watch: The only Giants you’re starting in fantasy at this point are Manning and wide receiver Beckham, who had nine catches for 146 yards and an incredible diving touchdown catch.
Ouch: Schwartz left the game in the first quarter with a lower-leg fracture and obviously did not return. With starting center Weston Richburg (ankle) and starting guard Justin Pugh (concussion) already out, this was a brutal injury for the Giants to try to overcome. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury. He returned to the game but had to go in and out the rest of the way. DeSean Jackson beat Rodgers-Cromartie’s replacement (Jayron Hosley) for a 63-yard touchdown catch.
Bad Eli: According to ESPN Stats & Information, this was Manning’s 20th career three-interception game. Since Manning’s rookie year of 2004, no other quarterback has more than 13 such games.