EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Whatever good feelings there were inside the Meadowlands at the start of Sunday's game were completely gone by the end of it. The fans that bothered to stick around were either booing or cheering the Cowboys. For the Giants, it was just another miserable loss.
But they've reached the point in their season where they can win for losing, and on Sunday they did. Their 30-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, plus the San Francisco 49ers' 26-16 win in Houston, helped solidify the Giants' position in the 2018 draft, where right now they'd have the second pick.
That is all that really matters this season, no matter how much co-owner John Mara refuses to tank or how much interim coach Steve Spagnuolo just wants that winning feeling. They can't gain anything by winning -- not with a new GM and coach on their way in for next season. If they secure the No. 2 pick, they are almost certain to be in position to grab their next franchise quarterback on draft day.
Losing their next three games could easily set them up for success in the next 10 years.
Deep down, they know it. Even if they don't lose on purpose the rest of the way, they'll be happy in the end that they did.
That said, here's a look at their 11th loss of the season, the latest stop on their way to 2-14:
- It's hard to truly evaluate Eli Manning's start, which wasn't much different from the rest them. He completed 31 of 46 passes but for only 228 yards, mostly because they almost never asked him to throw more than five to 10 yards down field. When he did, it usually didn't end well. Don't get caught up in his two fourth-quarter interceptions, either. At that point, he was just forcing passes he probably shouldn't have, and otherwise wouldn't have thrown. But the Giants have turned him into a game manager. It's somewhat understandable, too. Sterling Shepard (two catches, 16 yards) clearly wasn't himself, and the other Giants receivers were Roger Lewis (7-46), Darius Powe (2-13) and Kalif Raymond (0-0). There really isn't anything to work with there.
- Making Manning a "game manager" was "somewhat understandable" given the talent around him. However, given the Giants' circumstances, it's kind of inexplicable. Going ultra conservative is an odd choice for a 2-10 team and a coaching staff that probably needs something bold to happen to keep their jobs next year. Maybe they have no choice but to run a bunch of short passes. But on their first offensive series, they made it to the Dallas 20 and then ran the ball six straight times (one which was negated by a penalty. They ran on first-and-20, second-and-19, and then ran a shotgun draw on third-and-14, all within the Cowboys 23. Unless Manning was secretly hiding a shoulder injury, that's insane. In the second quarter they punted on fourth-and-3 from the Cowboys 37? Almost anything other than a sack or a pick-6 is a better outcome in that spot than what happened: a punt that bounced into the end zone. The whole motto for the rest of this season should be: Go for it! What do you have to lose?
- Finally, the Giants' four-year, $18 million investment in tight end Rhett Ellison (which included $8 million in guarantees) paid off! (Yes, that was sarcasm.) After having a remarkably low impact for most of the season in just about every way, Ellison suddenly became a key component in the Giants' offense. He caught four passes for 20 yards and made a nice grab of a terrible pass from Manning at the goal line in the second quarter for a 1-yard touchdown. Not bad for a guy that had 11 catches in the first 12 games.
- Wayne Gallman is giving everyone hope that he can be a valuable weapon next season out of the backfield. He ran 12 times for 59 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and caught seven passes for 40 yards. I still think Orleans Darkwa is their best running back (though he only had 10 carries for 29 yards in this game) but Gallman is testing my theory and could replace Shane Vereen as the third-down back. He deserves a long look the rest of the way.
- Maybe it's injuries (because they are all banged up), but there is just not much of a pass rush anymore from the Giants' defensive line. Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul get close occasionally, but not often. They were officially credited with just two hits of Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
- Odell Beckham Jr. was on the sidelines for the first time since his injury. It didn't help.