New York Giants' Sterling Shepard, top, makes a catch during the second half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)
New York Giants' Sterling Shepard, top, makes a catch during the second half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The New York Giants had the NFC East lead and control of their playoff chances, and lost it with one bad game.

It's not a situation where the Giants (5-8) let it slip through their hands. New York was beaten badly by the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The 26-7 margin was not indicative of the one-sidedness of the game.

Arizona was a better team all around and it made no difference that Daniel Jones was limited by an improving but not healthy hamstring injury in his right leg. It certainly prevented him from running, and led to many of the six sacks he sustained. There were eight overall that the Cardinals got, including a franchise-record five by Haason Reddick.

The loss ended the Giants' four-game winning streak and allowed streaking Washington (6-7) to take over first place in the tight division after its win over San Francisco. Philadelphia (4-8-1) and Dallas (4-9) also won, so not a lot separates the four teams with three games left in the regular season.

The Giants' schedule is not easy, with contests at home against Cleveland, away at Baltimore, and home the final weekend against Dallas.

Coach Joe Judge said Monday the goal for the team has not changed. It's the same as it has been since Day 1. Come to work, get better and play well on Sunday.

“So in terms of all the division standings, look, it's the same as last week when everyone talked about being in first place," the rookie coach said. "That wasn’t the focus of the week and, being in second place, that’s not the focus of the week, either. The only thing that’s going to help us right now is playing our best game against the Browns.”

The Giants have not been to the playoffs since 2016, the only year they made the postseason since winning the Super Bowl in February 2012.

“The playoffs are everything because, you know, as a team that’s what you want, to go to the playoffs and go to the Super Bowl and win a Super Bowl,” defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson said Monday. That’s the biggest thing across the board for teams in the NFL. We have to take it one week at a time, and just take it step by step. We look too far ahead and you miss out on that moment now."

Today, it looks less likely the moment will come this year.


The defense gave up 390 yards, but it was the only reason New York was in the game at halftime, trailing 13-0. The Cardinals forced a turnover on the opening series and got the ball at the Giants 9. The D forced a turnover on downs to escape that situation. The Cardinals used a short field to score on a field goal early and got a touchdown midway through the second quarter on a fumble on a kickoff return. It could have been much worse.


The offensive line, again. New York saw its streak of rushing for at least 100 yards in seven straight games snapped, and the line did nothing to protect Jones and backup Colt McCoy during the game. A Giant step backward. The line needs to improve quickly.


Rookie linebacker Carter Coughlin has been getting more playing time on the outside. He's got speed and had seven tackles Sunday.


For the first time this season, Judge has to take a hit. His decision to start Jones knowing he would not be able to run the ball was wrong. The way the Cardinals' defense played, starting Colt McCoy would not have changed things. The Giants were outclassed. But Jones would have had another week to heal his hamstring.

“We knew that there are things that come up in the game and some limitations that he was going to have throughout the game,” said Judge, who expects Jones to start Sunday if he practices the same way he did last week. “We’re willing to live with those. But in terms of the question, do we feel like he moved the same, you know, in practice and in the game? I’d say the answer to that is yes.”


Jones was limping late in the game and did not take part in the final series. Judge had no update Monday. No other injuries were announced


8 — You can't let your quarterback get sacked eight times and expect to win.


The Giants stay home and play host to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night in what would have been the return of Odell Beckham Jr. , until a knee injury ended his season. The game was flexed from the afternoon to prime time.


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