Eli Manning and Giants look equally miserable

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It happens virtually every week and so there is no shock or even surprise when another loss is tacked onto the burgeoning list of them. But when the Giants are forced to look back on their body of work and compare it to what they expected out of 2017, there is, if they are honest with themselves, a feeling of disbelief.

After a 23-0 beatdown at the hands of the Cardinals, the Giants are 2-13 and, well, no one would have imagined anything close to that.

“I would have looked at ’em crazy,’’ Sterling Shepard, the second-year receiver, said Sunday. “Especially at the beginning of the season, going into the season, I thought we had a perfect squad to make a run in this thing and it’s just been frustrating.’’

Yeah, it’s been frustrating for the Giants, and then some.

It went from bad to sad for Eli Manning early in the fourth quarter of another desultory loss. The game was already gone when Manning was hit from behind for a strip-sack by linebacker Deone Bucannon with 14:50 remaining. The ball sat there on the grass for a moment, next to the fallen Manning, before defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche picked it up and ran 21 yards with the fumble return for a touchdown.

That capped the scoring at University of Phoenix Stadium, a Christmas Eve trip to the desert that sent the Giants home as the greatest losers in franchise history.

“No one wants to lose as much as we have,’’ Manning said after yet another offensively challenged outing. “It’s obviously been tough all year. Nothing has come easy. We’ve lost heart-breakers and we’ve lost some like this as well, where we just could not get much going.’’

Eli Manning gets sacked.Getty Images

This was the first time the Giants were shut out since Oct. 12, 2014 (a 27-0 loss to the Eagles) as the hits keep coming. After a one-game rejuvenation in last week’s 34-29 loss to the Eagles, Manning and the Giants on offense reverted back to a non-functioning mess. Manning threw two first-half interceptions and added a third-quarter fumble the Giants recovered, part of a dismal showing. He lost the fumble in the fourth quarter for his third turnover.

“You go from a week of putting up the highest points you’ve put up and then go to putting up a goose egg,’’ Shepard said, his voice trailing off.

Interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo said he never considered taking Manning out. Rookie quarterback Davis Webb was inactive for the 15th consecutive game.

Never before had the Giants ever lost 13 games in a season. They lost 12 games in 1966 (1-12-1), 1974 (2-12), 1980 (4-12), 1983 (3-12-1) and 2003 (4-12), so this represents a new low in terms of losses for this woebegone franchise.

“Yeah, definitely shocking, but it happens, though,’’ said safety Landon Collins, who went down and out with a fractured right forearm in the second quarter. “I mean, definitely not for the Giants. It’s just bad, I guess, bad voodoo.’’

At least the Giants moved ever closer to what should be a worthwhile reward for all this losing. The Giants cannot get the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft — the Browns (0-15) clinched the top spot for the second consecutive year. The Giants can clinch the No. 2 slot in the draft with a loss in the regular-season finale against the Redskins at MetLife Stadium on New Year’s Eve or a Colts loss against the Texans in Indianapolis. If the Giants and Colts (3-12) finish with the same record, the Colts will get the No. 2 pick because of the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker.

The Giants cannot drop any lower than No. 3.

It was painful to watch Manning try to rise above the slop around him and his own hesitancy. At times, the ineptitude was almost laughable. Ross Cockrell’s second interception of the game gave the Giants the ball on the Arizona 26-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Could they actually score? No chance. Penalties by center Brett Jones and left tackle Ereck Flowers pushed the ball back to the 41-yard line.

Everything is devolving from bad to worse. The Giants could not get out of the first half without losing their leading receiver, rookie tight end Evan Engram (ribs) and Collins, their leading tackler. Late in the fourth quarter, Shepard was forced out with a neck injury.

On defense, the injury-ravaged Giants were far more competent than their counterparts on the offensive side of the ball. Still, they had few answers for receiver Larry Fitzgerald and put too much marginal NFL talent on the field to do any real damage.

The closest the Giants came to scoring was a 33-yard field goal attempt for Aldrick Rosas in the second quarter. The rookie kicker missed it badly, the ball sailing wide left.

“It’s been tough, obviously,’’ Manning said. “I think for probably older players, it’s tougher to go through a season where you’ve been out of the playoffs for a while and the team is struggling. You know you only have so many more opportunities left.’’