Giants close dismal season with 18-10 win over Washington
By TOM CANAVAN
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) There was a sense of uncertainty as two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning jogged off the field at MetLife Stadium, clinching a game ball in his left hand and waving to fans and friends in the stands with his right.
Was Sunday's 18-10 win over the Washington Redskins his last game as a Giant after 14 seasons? He's going to be 37 years old in January and New York has concluded a disastrous 3-13 season.
"It's probably been my toughest year of football I would say with the losses, the injuries, the benching and coming back and everything going on, the losses more than anything," said Manning, who threw a touchdown pass on a day the Giants rode a season-high 260-yard game from their running attack.
Manning is under contract for a couple of seasons, but the decision whether he returns rests with new general manager Dave Gettleman, who was hired Thursday.
Manning wants to be back.
"This is where I want to play," he said. "This is like my family, the New York Giants has been. Hopefully they feel the same way and we can make that work out."
Manning threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Sharp and Orleans Darkwa rushed for a career-high 154 yards, including a 75-yarder on the second play from scrimmage, as the Giants snapped a five-game losing streak and gave interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo his first win since taking over from the fired Ben McAdoo on Dec. 4.
Spagnuolo hugged Manning (10 of 28 for 132 yards) on the field after the final gun, and asked a team photographer to take a picture of them.
"We've both been through a lot and none more than him with this season, but he never changed," said Spagnuolo, who has been promised an interview for the head coaching job.
"I value that in people that can stay that balanced through ups and downs. He's had the highest of highs and this was certainly very, very low, but he's a tremendous competitor and I appreciate him greatly."
Coupled with Indianapolis' win over Houston, the Giants will have the No. 2 pick overall in the draft.
Kirk Cousins, who also might be playing his last game for the Redskins, scored on a 12-yard run for Washington (7-9), which has missed the playoffs the past two years. He was 20 of 37 for 158 yards and three interceptions.
"We have to have stability at that position, somehow, some way. Not everybody has it," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.
"That's the way it is in pro football nowadays. If you've got one, you'd like to keep one. We'll have to make that decision here pretty soon. Kirk will also. It's not totally up to us. Kirk's got to buy in also."
Cousins, who finished with his third consecutive 4,000-yard passing season, sidestepped questions about his future.
"I need to catch my breath. We'll have plenty of time," he said, adding he might have more to say on a radio show Friday.
Dustin Hopkins added a season-long 49-yard field goal for the Redskins, who were looking for their third straight .500 or better finish since 1999-2001.
The win capped a horrid season for the Giants, who were expected to compete for a Super Bowl after making the playoffs last season. Injuries, penalties, blown fourth-quarter leads and a failure by fired general manager Jerry Reese to fix the offensive line led to a disaster.
It culminated with McAdoo's decision to bench Manning for a Dec. 3 game against Oakland. The fan uproar was so great Reese and McAdoo were fired the next day.
Spagnuolo returned Manning as the starter the following game and the two were rewarded.
The Giants scored touchdowns on their first two possessions. Darkwa had a team-high 75-yard run on the second play from scrimmage and Manning found Sharp for his first career TD two plays after linebacker Sheppard intercepted Cousins' first pass.
Darkwa said the feeling of winning was amazing.
"It feels great to end the year with a win," said Darkwa, who will be a free agent. "Obviously there are a lot of changes coming this way, but I could not be more happy for the players and the coaches. We battled our tails off this season. There was no quit in this team and it showed today."
New York botched both touchdown conversions. The PAT on the first one was blocked and the 2-point attempt after Sharp's catch failed, leaving New York ahead 12-0.
Washington linebacker Preston Smith got the Redskins back in the game, intercepting a screen pass and returning it to the Giants 20. Cousins scored on a 12-run two plays later.
Rosas added a 23-yard field goal for the Giants later in the first quarter and Hopkins hit a season-high 49-yarder on the final play of the half, cutting New York's lead to 15-10.
Rosas had the only points of the second half, a 29-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
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Updated December 31, 2017