Giants let so much more than a win slip through their fingers

Everything the Giants worked for, everything they’d bled for, and now an entire football game was distilled to the most basic element: a ball in the air. Catch the ball, and the Giants win the game. Catch the ball and they close out a thrilling victory, an improbable climb within sight of first place.

Catch the ball and honor the buzz of the week: Why not us?

Even Engram didn’t catch the ball.

Daniel Jones had lofted a beautiful throw. Engram had a step on safety Will Parks. He extended his arms. Just as his feet crossed the 30-yard line the ball fell out of the sky, into his hands … and through his hands. Fourth down instead of first. Eagles ball following a punt, just before the two-minute warning, instead of Giants ball and victory formation.

Why us?

Instead of Why not us?

The Eagles still had to drive 71 yards with just 122 seconds left. Engram’s drop didn’t lose the game. But there wasn’t a Giants fan anywhere, from Freehold to Freeport and all precincts in between who didn’t know what was coming, who didn’t feel this shattering, 22-21 loss in their bones before they saw it on the scoreboard.

“No excuses from us,” Giants coach Joe Judge would say.

So you can add Engram’s name to Joe Pisarcik’s, and to Matt Dodge’s to the roster of Giants who’ve helped perpetrate this on-again, off-again nightmare against the Eagles across the decades.

It shouldn’t all fall on his shoulders. He wasn’t on the field when the Giants defense — so stout all night, so resilient all year — allowed two Eagles touchdowns in the final five minutes. He didn’t turn the ball over twice, as Jones did, the 11th time in his 20 career starts in which he’s had multiple turnovers.

But that image, that sequence — ball in the air, ball in his hands, ball through his hands — will be the haunting snapshot of the week and maybe the season, if the Giants aren’t able to crawl back into position to play another meaningful game the rest of the year (though, this being the NFC East, you never know).

“We got the look we wanted,” Engram would say, his words heavy with hurt, his eyes fixed in a thousand-yard stare of disbelief. “D.J. threw a great ball. I didn’t finish the play.”

A pause. A sigh. Frustration. Pain.

“One hundred percent, I’ve got to make that,” he said.

A thousand percent, the Giants should have won this game. The Eagles kept trying to hand it to them. Philly led 10-7 at the half, and it could’ve been 24-7. The quarterback, Carson Wentz, made terrible decisions. The coach, Doug Pederson, made puzzling choices.

The Giants hung around, then Jones broke off an 80-yard run that was equal parts comic relief (since he stumbled yards shy of the goal line) and game-changing gem, then added a 97-yard drive that put them up 21-10 with 6:17 left.

It was there. It was right there, even when the Eagles answered with a quick TD. The Giants ran two running plays, got two first downs, and only needed a third to run out the clock. Engram didn’t finish his play, but the Eagles still needed to go those 71 yards to finish the miracle.

They went the 71 yards. Wentz connected with Boston Scott for an 18-yard touchdown. The Giants still had life. A field goal would’ve written a proper final chapter. They never got the field goal. Jones fumbled. The Eagles recovered. Ballgame.

Why not us to Why us in about 10 easy steps.

“This is a tough one to swallow,” Giants linebacker Blake Martinez admitted. “It’s the same thing all over again. Lapses. One guy here. One guy there.”

Tough one to swallow. Tough one to accept. The Giants were in as good a position as a 1-5 team could ever be. They had a meaningful football game on the last Thursday of October, long past the point where a 1-5 team should have anything remotely meaningful to play for. They scratch. They claw. They bleed. They play hard every week.

They are 1-6.

“We’re not going to ask you to be patient,” Judge said, his message intended for Giants fans.

Judge grew up an Eagles fan on the other side of this rivalry. He knows what losing a game like this means. He knows what 0-for-their-past-8 against a bitter foe means. And knows those fans probably didn’t sleep much, visions of a ball slipping through fingertips littering dreams all over town. Why us, indeed.

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