Giants’ dream first season under Brian Daboll ends in nightmare loss to Eagles: ‘Crash landing’

Minutes following a season-ending throttling at the hands of their regional rivals, New York Giants coach Brian Daboll strode to the podium at Lincoln Financial Field and tried to sum up what just happened.

“Well,” the first-year boss began, “crash landing here.”

New York crashed out of the playoffs, indeed, in a 38-7 loss to the NFC East champion and top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles, a defeat so definitive that it seemed assured by the end of the first quarter when Philly had compiled a 14-0 lead. By halftime, it was 28-nil, and the writing was on the wall for Daboll and Big Blue.

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“I’d say anytime teams get a jump like that it’s always, you know, to have the lead at halftime is a pretty high percentage of having a chance to win,” the coach told reporters. “I appreciate our team. I told those guys I appreciate their effort. The entire year, their work ethic, people in the organization.

“But Philly deserved to win that game. It’s a crash landing in the playoffs. Losses hurt. These losses hurt even more.”

Daboll, a Coach of the Year candidate, if not favorite, turned around the Giants franchise in his first year at the helm, alongside general manager and fellow Buffalo transplant Joe Schoen. By maximizing the under-regarded talent on the roster, New York surprised most prognosticators by winning seven of its first nine games and making its first postseason appearance in six seasons on the back of a 9-7-1 campaign. The Giants’ wild-card victory in Minnesota was their first postseason win since their triumph in Super Bowl XLVI over a decade ago.

But that’s where their dream season ended. In Philadelphia on Saturday night, 95 miles south on I-95 from their team facility, the Giants looked far from title contenders.

“I’m disappointed,” Daboll said. “I wish we could have done a better job. I wish I could have done a better job. I feel like crap. That’s as honest as you can be.”

New York never recovered from its slow start against the Eagles, racking up just 227 total yards of offense and 13 first downs in under 25 minutes of possession. Meanwhile, Jalen Hurts and Philly’s attack started hot and never cooled, totaling 416 yards and 26 first downs, converting 10 of 14 third downs and scoring touchdowns on four of its five first-half drives.

The division champs were in a different weight class.

“Give Philly credit. They did everything better than we did today,” Daboll implored. “Tough game. We really got beat in all facets, so it wasn’t one thing in particular. It was a team game and we just didn’t get it done. Congratulations to Philly. They get to move on and unfortunately we don’t.”

What’s next for Big Blue is gray. The Giants’ backfield duo, Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, are both slated to be free agents, though New York is expected to attempt to sign both of them to extensions. The star running back said Saturday night he couldn’t envision the Divisional Round drubbing as his final game with New York. The quarterback put off any talk of re-signing, telling reporters, “We will cross that bridge when we get there.”

Even if Jones and Barkley return, that doesn’t make up the talent gap between the Giants and the cream of the NFC East crop in Dallas and Philadelphia that was on display Saturday evening. New York’s leaders are optimistic they have what it takes in the locker room to improve next season.

“I think the future of the team is bright,” Jones said after the loss. “We have a lot of young core guys that made a lot of plays and stepped up and have been huge all year. There is certainly a bright future here.”

As for Daboll, the defeat was a learning experience from which it will be hard but necessary to bounce back.

“I told them to keep their heads up,” Daboll said of his message to his Giants. “They competed hard. It’s a crash landing in the playoffs. Anytime you lose it hurts because of the amount of effort and energy you put into it each week. And when you lose this time of year, it hurts even more. You work extremely hard to get to this point. You’re blessed to get to this point. It’s hard to do.

“Give Philly credit. They did everything better than we did tonight.”

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