PHILADELPHIA (AP) — New York rookie Saquon Barkley made his latest 50-yard sprint against the Eagles look easy, bursting through the middle untouched and into the end zone.
Barkley dominated the first half and the Giants seemed poised to extend their improbable turnaround against a depleted secondary and feeble offense in Philadelphia.
But as Barkley’s carries dried up in the second half, so did New York’s faint playoff hopes.
Barkley carried the ball four times in the second half. Odell Beckham Jr. cramped up and stretched out on the sideline. Eli Manning showed little of the mettle from the the last two weeks when he threw for five touchdowns in wins over San Francisco and Tampa Bay.
The Giants blew a 16-point halftime lead, seemed more in the hunt for the No. 1 draft pick than a wild-card berth in the playoffs, and trudged out of Philadelphia with a 25-22 loss on Sunday.
The defending Super Bowl champion Eagles (5-6) have new life in the NFC East.
The Giants (3-8) could truly start thinking about the offseason. They have lost five straight games to the Eagles and nine of 10 overall in the series, this one a tough blow to an already unlikely scenario for making the playoffs.
“We’re not worried about slim paths,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “We’re not worried about where we need to go.”
Perhaps they should have been, long before a two-game winning streak put a glimmer of postseason ambitions in front of them. Manning threw a critical interception to Malcolm Jenkins at the Eagles 2 just before halftime. How Barkley was used — he sat out a series in the third quarter — was the most puzzling part of New York’s collapse.
Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, was a force in the first half. He had a 51-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter to give New York a 19-3 lead.
The running back had a 55-yard gain on a screen pass and a 50-yard rushing TD in the first game this season between the NFC East rivals. Barkley had 130 yards rushing and caught nine passes for 99 yards in that game last month, and he had 94 yards rushing in the first half Sunday.
He fell out of the rotation and faded to just 7 yards rushing in the second half.
“We’re going to spell him a little bit as we go,” Shurmur said. “That had nothing to do with the outcome of the game.”
Barkley, who held his helmet as he stood on the sideline, refused to second-guess the play-calling. Barkley also touched the ball four times on New York’s opening drive and scored on a 13-yard shovel pass from Manning.
“The offensive coordinator and head coach are the coach for a reason,” Barkley said. “I know everyone wants to be a coach and think what we should call. But they know what we’re doing and they put us in the right position to win.”
Beckham also missed the first series of the second half when he needed intravenous fluids to help with a cramp that sent him back to the locker room and forced him to lay face down on the turf.
“We’ve seen it happen a couple of times this year,” Shurmur said. “He does fine getting himself prepared. I can’t tell you why it happens.”
Beckham had a similar problem against Jacksonville and the first game against Philly and insisted he was always “ready to go every single Sunday I come out here.”
Beckham had just five catches for 85 yards and seemed poised to explode for so much more against an Eagles defense missing three-fourths of its starting secondary, their starting nickel cornerback and their top backup. The Eagles had to count on three guys with limited experience: Cre’Von LeBlanc, De’Vante Bausby and Chandon Sullivan. It should have meant a big day for Sterling Shepard and Beckham.
The Eagles instead held the Giants to just 56 yards in the second half after posting a whopping 346 in the first.
“Knowing they struggled in the secondary, personally I would’ve loved to attack them,” Beckham said. “But that wasn’t in our game plan.”
The Giants are 0-4 in the NFC East and still play co-leaders Dallas and Washington over the final five games.
“We can’t cry about it, we can’t complain about it,” Barkley said.
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