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You could see Eli Manning pushing his hands down attempting to hush the boos that came raining from the stands as John Mara spoke on the makeshift podium in the middle of MetLife Stadium.
The jeers turned quickly to cheers and a standing ovation when Mara got out of the way for Manning on the day The Pride of the Giants had his No. 10 jersey retired.
By the end of Falcons 17, Giants 14, you would have been hard-pressed to find a Giants fan who wouldn’t have signed a petition to have the numbers of virtually every Giant retired, and certainly every Giant on defense, and of course, GM Dave Gettleman, who was joined on this day by Evan Engram, who lost a fumble in his season debut and was cheered once later on when he trotted to the sideline.
Shame on these Giants. These 0-3 Giants.
It might be a good idea for the Giants to summon Eli back to the field at every opportunity when things go wrong, because things go wrong with these Giants at every opportunity. And maybe instead of the Eli bobbleheads they handed out on Sunday, an Eli Manning Muzzle specially designed to discourage the boo birds might be an option to consider for the marketing people.
It is damning commentary on the players and the organization that they could not summon enough pride on this day to make a stand in their house and win a damn game, for him, for themselves and for their disconsolate, disenchanted fans who are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Giants teams of yesteryear — it feels like an eternity ago — would have turned this into a homecoming game against a team practically begging to leave town 0-3.
If ever Daniel Jones was going to feel the burden of succeeding old No. 10, it would have been here, but to his credit, he seemed as unfazed as Manning always was, forced to throw to the likes of Collin Johnson and C.J. Board and Kadarius Toney and piñata Engram after Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton were lost to injury in the first half.
Whenever Jones watches the replay of the halftime love-in, he will get a better idea how New York honors and embraces its champion icons with all its heart.
And why while there is no greater place to win than in New York, poor Jones is learning that there is no worse place to lose.
“I don’t think it’s one thing or even two things, it’s a combination of a lot of little things we gotta do better,” Jones said. “In this league, these games come down to the fourth quarter, they come down to making plays when you have to, and we’ve gotta do that better and execute and make those plays.”
Jones (24 of 35, 266 yards, 8-39 rushing) enjoyed one shining moment that should have given Manning worshippers flashbacks when he engineered a 10-play, 71-yard drive and pumped his right fist in the air when Saquon Barkley’s 1-yard touchdown leap made it Giants 12, Falcons 7 with 12:53 remaining. And then Jones lowered his shoulder into Grady Jarrett and powered for the two-point conversion.
Manning’s championship defenses would have slammed the door shut on Matt Ryan right there.
This one folded like a Big Blue accordion for the second straight week.
Adoree’ Jackson dropping an interception in the end zone preceded Logan Ryan pass interference in the end zone against Kyle Pitts which preceded the tying TD.
It was time for a fairy tale, right? Manning’s successor, 4:13 and one timeout remaining, leading the Giants into position for the game-winning FG, or maybe a rare TD.
He marched to midfield. He was sacked on second down, recovered his own fumble, for a 9-yard loss.
And of course Riley Dixon’s punt became a touchback.
And of course Ryan found Cordarrelle Patterson out of the backfield for 28 yards on first down, and then Pitts for 25 yards, and then of course another FG kicker, Younghoe Koo, beat the Giants as time expired.
“Ultimately,” Joe Judge said, “we didn’t finish.”
A loser’s lament the last three Giants head coaches have offered us.
There is no defense for the defense playing so defensively in crunch time, but you can expect to beat 2 ¹/₂-year-old Charlie Manning’s first Little League team with 14 points, but not the Atlanta Falcons.
To wit: Second-and-goal at the Atlanta 8 on the opening drive, Jones is sacked by Jarrett for an 11-yard loss. Field goal.
First-and-10 at the Atlanta 17, Jones fumbles the snap, 11-yard loss. Field goal.
Jones on third-and-10 hits Barkley who races down the right sideline for 20 yards … ineligible man (Will Hernandez) downfield.
“We all can do a lot more and we have to,” Jones said. “We believe we have a good football team and we have the guys to make it work.”
The Giants have road games against the Saints and Cowboys next and could be 0-5 again under Judge when they return home to what would be an angry mob.
Barkley was asked about the boos for Mara and he said: “I don’t think that’s fair to Mr. Mara.”
Mara is a big boy and he knows the deal. This losing syndrome pains him as much as it does every other Giants fan. If that was him kicking over a couple of press box trash cans, who could blame him?
“I wouldn’t consider this team a bad team. We just gotta figure it out,” Barkley said.
Barkley conceded it was especially disappointing failing on Manning’s big day. All of them should be similarly disappointed.
“We’re gonna be all right, guys. All right? We’re gonna be all right,” Judge said on his way out of the interview room.
All wrong right now.
Shame on the Giants.