Not now, for sure, but someday, perhaps next season, the Giants might bask in their success and look back on what transpired on a misty Sunday in early December 2018 and credit what happened as the turning point.
Hearing so loudly and clearly chants of “Let’s go Bears’’ inside MetLife Stadium was the clearest signal of all there is plenty rotten with this season. And when the Giants blew a 27-17 lead in the final 1:49 of regulation, a new candidate for “worst loss’’ honors was rising on the charts.
“When you think you clinched it and you don’t, you got to get motivated to finish the game,’’ tight end Rhett Ellison said. “This is a game about resilience for sure.’’
There were moments when the Giants were awful on offense and dominating on defense, moments when they were abysmal on defense and creative on offense. Good and bad. Bad and good. But when Janoris Jenkins finally knocked a pass away intended for Taylor Gabriel, the Giants were exhausted and drained 30-27 overtime winners over a first-place team headed for the playoffs, albeit a team playing without its starting quarterback.
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“This is a game that strengthens the foundation of the team,’’ Ellison told The Post. “This is one of those games, you’re building the groundwork for a team.’’
Time will tell if the Giants moving to 4-8 — and winning for the third time in their last four games — means anything significant for the future. Their first-year head coach believes it is significant.
“The takeaway is, and I told the team this, I’ll keep the swearwords out of it: Some people are fond of talented people, some people are fond of smart people,’’ Pat Shurmur said. “I’m fond of tough, resilient people. When you’re trying to flip culture, when you’re trying to build something you got to really dig in on that and there was some toughness and some resiliency. It would have been easy to cave when they came back, an 8-3 team came back and tied us up.”
There was something for everyone. Odell Beckham Jr. threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Russell Shepard and caught a touchdown pass from Eli Manning, who was so bad in the first half that it was worth noting rookie Kyle Lauletta was in uniform as the backup quarterback for the first time this season. There was the first two-interception outing of linebacker Alec Ogletree’s career, the first a leaping takeaway near the line of scrimmage off Chase Daniel returned 8 yards for a touchdown less than a minute into the game. There was the longest made field goal in Giants history, a 57-yarder by second-year wonder Aldrick Rosas. There was a Bears 332-pound defensive lineman Akiem Hicks plunging in on a 1-yard touchdown run that thrust him into Chicago lore.
“That was ‘the Freezer,’’’ said Bears coach Matt Nagy, who had his five-game win streak snapped.
There was a perfectly executed onside kick, with Beckham frozen and not making a play on the ball with 1:13 remaining in regulation to give the Bears new life.
There was a gimmick play on fourth-and-goal for the Bears, trying to duplicate the Eagles’ “Philly Special’’ Super Bowl highlight and coming close, with running back Tarik Cohen passing to receiver Anthony Miller for a touchdown after the Giants actually covered up Daniel, preventing the quarterback from catching the pass but unable to prevent the Bears from tying the game at 27 as the final seconds ticked off in the fourth quarter.
“We know how to lose these games, we know how to win these games,’’ Beckham said. “As a team we put it all together and found a way to beat a very, very good team.’’
Rosas’ booming kick — made possible by Barkley’s something-from-nothing 22-yard run — brought the Giants within 14-10 at halftime and Beckham had some impassioned words for his teammates in the locker room.
“I feel like I owned them more, to give them all of me and whatever that entails,’’ Beckham said.
Manning shook off a jittery first half — he was given time to throw, with left tackle Nate Solder doing a solid job dealing with Khalil Mack — as the Giants scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half. Beckham threw his second scoring pass of the season, improvising when Shepard, who was supposed to be blocking, instinctively went deep and found himself alone.
“I know all the routes in every play and I don’t know if Russell had that route,’’ said Manning, who leaped for a body-bump celebration with Beckham.
On the Giants’ next drive, Barkley punctuated a 17-yard catch-and-run with a high jump over safety Adrian Amos, who is 6-foot tall and was vaulted over by the Flying Saquon. A pass interference call on old friend Prince Amukamara on Beckham in the end zone gave the Giants a first down on the 1-yard line. On fourth down, Manning was immediately pressured on a blitz by cornerback Bryce Callahan, but did not back away from the hit. Beckham ran free in the left corner of the end zone and Manning, off his back foot, lofted the pass and Beckham corralled it to make it 24-14.
A collapse ensued, but did not stick. Barkley burst for 29 yards on the first play of overtime and Rosas provided the deciding points with a 44-yard field goal. The gasping defense finally got a stop and that was that.
“Toughness and resiliency are demanded in our sport,’’ Shurmur said, “and we have that.’’
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