PHILADELPHIA -- The Giants truly, seriously envisioned their season ending on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis, in a storm of confetti at the end of Super Bowl LII. At the very least they expected a deep run into the playoffs in January.
Never in their wildest nightmares did they consider their season would end this soon.
It's hard to see it any other way, though, after they fell to 0-3 on Sunday with a 27-24 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Yes, anything's possible, even though history suggests otherwise. Only three 0-3 teams have made the playoffs in the last 27 years, and none since 1998. And sure, they are only two games back in the NFC East race.
But what they showed on Sunday was that they are a deeply flawed team with far more problems than just their struggling offense. There are too many leaks to plug, and it's hard to argue they have the players or coaches to do it. They are not the Super Bowl contenders they looked like they could be last season.
Instead, they are one of the most disappointing Giants teams in many, many years.
"A lot of guys are disappointed right now and rightfully so," Ben McAdoo said shortly after Eagles kicker Jake Elliott's game-winning 61-yard field goal squeezed through the uprights. "The game continues to teach us tough lessons that we have to learn from and learn from in a hurry and fix."
True. But fix, how? McAdoo tried desperately to fix his ailing offense by rolling out a no-huddle, up-tempo offense that was moving faster than any offense the Giants have ever shown before. The result, for the first three quarters, was zero points. And while the offense finally clicked in in the fourth quarter -- with the help of a huge Eagles turnover -- the overall results were still less than stellar. The self-destructed with four offensive penalties on their final two drives.
Overall, the Giants had 10 penalties for 137 yards, showing a startling lack of discipline. Seven of those came in the fourth quarter. That included Odell Beckham Jr.'s immature unsportsmanlike penalty for celebrating a touchdown by pretending to pee like a dog. That, by the way, was the Giants' second such penalty in their first two touchdowns, joining the Evan Engram celebration from last week when he grabbed his crotch.
Factor in an offensive line that still can't run block. (The Giants gained 49 yards on the ground on 2.9 yards per carry.) Add in a secondary that committed two costly pass interference penalties (both by Eli Apple) and couldn't stop the Eagles' final play that put them just barely in field goal range. Add in a punter that shanked a punt out of bounds at the worst possible time, setting up that field goal drive. And add in a defense that stunningly gave up 193 yards on the ground.
Fix all that? Where, exactly, are they supposed to begin?
"We are not playing well enough to win as a football team," McAdoo said. "We are irritable and we need to find a way to win a game. It's not going to get any easier."
"Yeah, we're in a tough spot," receiver Brandon Marshall said. "We're all kind of in shock a little bit. We've got to pick ourselves up quickly, get back to work and try to build off of whatever little victories we had today."
The little victories were definitely savored in the Giants locker room. They were particularly encouraged by their 24 fourth-quarter points and a passing attack that generated 204 yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone. Outside of two ugly interceptions, Eli Manning played well (35-of-47, 366 yards, three touchdowns). Sterling Shepard had a 77-yard touchdown catch, which almost made up for his drop in the end zone and inability to get the ball over the goal line on the play before. And excluding his peeing dog act, Beckham played well (9-79, two touchdowns) and even made a one-handed catch in the end zone.
Beckham even called the game "a step in the right direction," as hard as that is to believe.
But he believes.
"We've got 13 games left," Beckham said. "If we win 13 games we're 13-3, that's the bottom line. History really was meant to be rewritten and broken in every single way. So I'm not going to sit here and panic."
It's probably too late to panic anyway. It's really too late for anything. Yes, miracles can happen. The Giants haven't been mathematically eliminated yet. It just feels that way and looks that way, because there's been no signs of any reason to expect a miracle from this team.