PHILADELPHIA — If the Giants have their way, Sunday’s 22-16 loss to the Eagles won’t be the last time they play at Lincoln Financial Field this January.
Brian Daboll’s No. 6-seeded Giants will open the playoffs in next weekend’s NFC Wild Card round with a rematch at the No. 3 seed Minnesota Vikings.
If they win, it’s possible they could return down I-95 to South Philadelphia to face Jalen Hurts’ 14-3 club, provided the No. 2 seed San Francisco 49ers win in the opening round.
Wink Martindale’s hard-nosed Giants defense served notice on Sunday with tons of starters sitting that the Giants might be a harder out down the road than previously expected, limiting Philly to just one touchdown and five Jake Elliott field goals.
It was a stronger showing than the Giants’ 1st-stringers had put forth in their 48-22 Week 14 loss at home to Nick Sirianni’s team on Dec. 11.
The Giants (9-7-1) and Vikings (13-4) will be squaring off in the postseason for the first time since a 41-0 Giants beatdown of Minnesota in the 2000 NFC Championship Game.
The Vikes, led by fellow first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell, beat the Giants on Christmas Eve, 27-24, in a thriller at U.S. Bank Stadium.
So now Daniel Jones, who did not play Sunday, and the Giants will head back to their dome looking for their franchise’s first playoff win since Tom Coughlin’s second Super Bowl run in 2011.
The 49ers were a potential opponent, as well, entering Sunday’s Week 18 regular season finale slate. But the Niners smoked the Arizona Cardinals in the 4 p.m. window simultaneous to the Giants’ meaningless result.
That pushed Minnesota back down to the No. 3 seed despite an earlier win over the Chicago Bears.
Daboll played only two weekly starters — rookie right tackle Evan Neal and corner Nick McCloud — in Sunday’s final game of the regular season, even though an Eagles win clinched the No. 1 seed for the Giants’ hated division rival.
It was a sensible call to keep players fresh for this unexpected trip to the postseason and to give the Giants the best chance for an upset next weekend in the Midwest.
Daboll gave sixth-year quarterback Davis Webb the first start of his NFL career, and the offense predictably struggled early with tons of players sitting.
But Webb did score his first NFL touchdown on a 14-yard designed QB run with 10:04 left in the game, lowering his shoulder and trucking Eagles safety Reed Blankenship to get into the end zone.
The two-point conversion failed, leaving the Giants down, 19-9. But it was a special moment for Webb, the 2017 third-round Giants draft pick who waited a long time to find pay dirt in a real game.
The Giants would have been within a touchdown of the Eagles at that point, but Daboll had oddly faked a field goal in the first half that was blown to pieces by the Eagles defense.
Daboll also tried for an onside kick to open the second half that Philadelphia recovered. Fortunately, a TD pass to DeVonta Smith was disallowed due to a penalty, and safety Dane Belton intercepted Hurts in the end zone to limit the damage.
Webb then capped the night with a 25-yard TD pass to Kenny Golladay with 1:38 to play. It marked Golladay’s first TD as a Giant, a difficult catch in the back right corner of the end zone.
The Giants’ offense was anemic until the late part of the game. They trailed 16-0 at half. But that was still fewer points than the 17 they trailed by at halftime of their previous meeting when the starters played.
Webb was elusive, avoiding several sacks when protection broke down, and tight end Lawrence Cager had a strong night. He came into the game with seven career catches for 84 yards, and he had eight grabs for 69 yards on the night.
Daboll healthy scratched RB Saquon Barkley, LT Andrew Thomas, DT Dexter Lawrence and S Julian Love. And several players dressed but didn’t play.
That group included Jones, center Jon Feliciano, right guard Mark Glowinski, wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins, edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, inside linebacker Jaylon Smith, TE Daniel Bellinger and backup QB Tyrod Taylor.
Corner Adoree’ Jackson (knee), edge Azeez Ojulari (ankle) and DT Leonard Williams (neck) also didn’t play.