EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's over, no thanks to the Philadelphia Eagles. The New York Giants' hopes of an unexpected NFC East title ended on Sunday night when the Washington Football Team beat the short-handed and unmotivated Eagles 20-14 in a Week 17 game that left the Giants organization frustrated.
It was a roller coaster of a game; Washington took a quick 10-0 lead, Philadelphia rallied to go ahead 14-10, and Washington went back ahead before Philadelphia turned to its third-string quarterback while it was still a three-point game early in the fourth quarter. Nate Sudfeld finished the game at quarterback for the Eagles rather than promising rookie Jalen Hurts.
It was as if the Eagles didn't care that this game would decide the division. And maybe they didn't.
The wackiness of it all epitomized the NFC East this season. The Giants were left cheering for a Philadelphia team that was clearly more interested in analyzing its players for the future than winning the game. Unfortunately, this is what happens when your fate rests in the hands of others.
Based on social media and text messages with members of the organization, the Giants were left flabbergasted by the Eagles' fourth-quarter approach. Even some prominent former Giants expressed their displeasure publicly.
Washington won the division with a 7-9 record. The Giants (6-10) finished in second place despite a dramatic 23-19 win earlier in the day over the Dallas Cowboys that included a game-saving butt fumble recovery by running back Wayne Gallman.
The Cowboys (6-10) and Eagles (4-11-1) rounded out this sorry division that failed to produce a champion with a winning record.
But the final results are hardly going to put a damper on the Giants' season after they started with five straight losses and at one point were sitting at 1-7 in coach Joe Judge's first year in charge.
This is why we don't like the Eagles. https://t.co/Efe7kEPtES— Eli Manning (@EliManning) January 4, 2021
"Regardless of what happens [Sunday night], I feel like we run the division,” veteran safety Logan Ryan said earlier in the day. "I feel like we swept Washington. I feel like at the first Cowboys game, they had a great play at the end of the game to get them in field goal range and we kind of let that happen. We came back and avenged that [Sunday] with a great play on our end. The Philly game, it was a similar thing; we failed in a dramatic fashion in the end. Our two-minute defense was being questioned. Our third-down defense was being questioned and we came back and pretty much handled Philly the second time."
The Giants undoubtedly made progress in the first year under Judge. That was among his primary goals. He had been adamant that his team concentrate on getting better each week rather than the NFC East title. At times, he even called the standings irrelevant.
Eventually, on the final week of the season, the standings weren't irrelevant anymore. They told the Giants after Sunday night that there would be no more games for them this season. Instead, Washington gets to face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday (8:15 p.m. ET, NBC).
If the Eagles had won Sunday, the Giants would have hosted a wild-card game after winning the division with a 6-10 record and .375 winning percentage. It would have been the worst win percentage ever by a playoff team. It would also have been the fewest wins by a division winner in the Super Bowl era and the fewest wins by any playoff team in a non-shortened season since the 1969 Houston Oilers (6-6-2).
Heck, the Giants were the first team since elimination data was tracked in 1990 to have five wins and still have a chance to reach the postseason in the final week of the season, per ESPN Stats & Information.
No matter. The Giants and their fans wouldn't have cared if they made the postseason with six wins.
"I feel like we deserve it," said defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who did his part with three sacks on Sunday against Dallas and finished with 11.5 this season.
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard said he wouldn't be caught dead in an Eagles hat earlier in the day, but, like the rest of his teammates, he was rooting for them. And the Giants didn't seem to understand what they were seeing.
Let's just say Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson didn't make many new friends on Sunday night. Neither did the Eagles.
It's probably something the Giants won't forget when the teams first meet next season.