PHILADELPHIA - Eli Manning has built his career on storybook endings. But he couldn't do it one more time.
After 11 weeks of standing on the sidelines watching his successor in his old job, the 38-year-old Manning showed everyone on Monday night that there's still at least a little life left in his right arm - but just not nearly enough to give the Giants a much-needed victory. After a red-hot first half he cooled down considerably in the second.
That opened the door for the Eagles to rally from a 14-point halftime deficit and send the game into overtime. And when Carson Wentz hit Zach Ertz with a two-yard touchdown pass at the end of their first possession, the Eagles had a 23-17 win.
Manning finished 15 of 30 for 203 yards and two touchdowns, but that hardly tells the story of his Jekyll and Hyde night. He was 11-of-19 for 179 yards in the first half, when he threw both of his touchdown passes.
In the second half he went just 4-of-11 for 24 yards.
And that led to Manning's sixth straight to the Eagles and 10th in his last 11 starts against them. The Giants are now 2-11 on the season and just tied their franchise record with their ninth straight loss.
Remarkably, they haven't won since way back on Sept. 29.
Before the sad ending, it looked like it was going to be a wonderful night for Manning at first. He showed almost no rust at all at the beginning, despite the first prolonged absence of his career. And Giants coach Pat Shurmur helped him out by directing his offense to attack downfield. That didn't happen in his first two starts, or most of last season, when he spent much of his time dumping off or throwing short behind an offensive line that had him under siege.
But not Monday night. Manning had time in the pocket and didn't look skittish at all - especially in the first half when he did all of his damage. He also quickly developed a chemistry with rookie receiver Darius Slayton, who became his favorite target and caught two touchdown passes in the first half. The second was one of two outstanding passes Manning threw to the rookie, dropping it right into his hands as he streaked down the field.
And he wasn't the only one who rose to the occasion of Manning's return. The defense played with a fire it hasn't shown in weeks in the first half. Even Saquon Barkley looked better than he has in recent weeks, even though he only rushed 17 times for 66 yards overall.
Manning really slowed down in the second half, though, as the Giants' offense stalled on a rainy night at Lincoln Financial Field. That opened the door for the Eagles to mount their comeback and ruin Manning's return.
Still, the first half was quite a throwback for the franchise icon, who will likely get a chance to do it again on Sunday in front of his home crowd against the Miami Dolphins. Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones is still nursing a high ankle sprain, which is normally a 2-4-week injury. The Giants haven't ruled him out of the next game, but sources have said all along that Manning likely would get a couple of games as Jones' replacement. There's at least a chance he'll finish the season in his old job if the Giants decide to shut Jones down.
But that's for later. For now there's just the disappointment over what could've been for Manning. He had a couple of shots at a storybook ending in what surely was his final start ever in Philadelphia. In the end, though, it was just like all the rest.
Here are a few more takeaways from the game …
- WR Darius Slayton is going to be a weapon for the Giants for many years. The rookie made his mark early in this game, catching a short, 6-yard pass on the first play of the second quarter, putting a move on Eagles corner Ronald Darby, somehow maintaining his footing on a wet field, and taking off for a 35-yard touchdown. And he got wide open behind the Eagles defense in the second quarter for a 55-yard touchdown. He's been one of the Giants' most reliable receivers over the last month and finished this game with five catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns. The fifth-round pick was an absolute steal.
- Manning clearly still has a few tricks up his sleeve, and the Giants had him run a beauty in the first quarter. He took a shotgun snap and just as he faked a throw to his left, he slipped the ball into his left hand and handed it off to Sterling Shepard on the reverse. It went for 8 yards and it was a tremendous sleight of hand.
- LB Markus Golden was a force in this game, especially early. He had a sack on the first series, and almost had two, plus was close to another one on the second. And he had a hand in forcing a Carson Wentz fumble. He now has 8 ½ sacks on the season and has consistently been one of the Giants' best defensive players and easily their best pass rusher. He is one of Dave Gettleman's best signings, here on a one-year, $3.75 million deal. Now the Giants need to keep him. It won't be cheap, but if they're smart they're already working to lock the 26-year-old pass rusher up.
- This was a typical Leonard Williams game. He was really active, collapsed the pocket a few times, made running backs change directions, but didn't show up much on the stat sheet (five tackles). Coaches love that "hidden production". But the question is still going to be: Will the Giants pay big money for it? Will anyone? The big money usually goes to the big sacks guy. Williams still doesn't have a sack on the season. He has value. But how much value?
- The Eagles only dressed three receivers, and then Alshon Jeffery got hurt early, so this wasn't the hardest assignment. Still, the Giants got a strong game from the young players in their secondary - particularly cornerback DeAndre Baker and safety Julian Love (although a couple of late penalties on cornerback Sam Beal spoiled the performance a little). They want to see more of that over the last month to give them a little boost of confidence heading into next year.
- RB Wayne Gallman, who was in line to be the starting running back last year before the Giants drafted Saquon Barkley, was a surprise inactive on Monday night. Maybe it's not too much of a surprise. He carried 18 times for 63 yards in a win over Washington on Sept. 29, the week after Barkley sprained his ankle, but the following week Gallman suffered a concussion. He returned on Oct. 20 but touched the ball just four times in the next five games. He did not play last week against the Packers, when Buck Allen (1 carry, 4 yards) and fullback Eli Penny (2-2) got the only non-Barkley carries. Allen was Barkley's primary backup Monday night.
Look at the bright side. The loss helps the Giants in the race for the No. 2 overall pick in the draft and the chase for Chase Young.