The perfect NFC East storm saved Giants

The 5-10 Giants somehow are still breathing in the NFC East with one week remaining.

The late-window NFC East games Sunday broke the right way for the Giants to keep their division title hopes alive. Turnover-prone Dwayne Haskins was benched as Washington squandered a chance to clinch the East with an ugly 20-13 home loss to Carolina.

The Giants also needed the Cowboys to defeat the Eagles, and Dallas overcame an early 14-3 hole to post a 37-17 victory at AT&T Stadium.

The Giants must defeat Dallas (6-9) in Week 17 and have Philadelphia (4-10-1) beat Washington (6-9) next Sunday night to create a three-way tie at 6-10. Under that scenario, the Giants would win the tiebreaker based on a 4-2 division record. Washington still would win its first division title since 2015 with a win over the eliminated Eagles.

Washington wasted its first chance to clinch Sunday at FedEx Field against another eliminated opponent, as Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers (5-10) grabbed a 20-0 lead in the first half and didn’t relinquish it.

“What’s frustrating was we just didn’t play championship-caliber football,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said. “We still control our destiny. That’s the truth of the matter.

“We have one more game to play, and it’s a very important game.”

The Washington Football team fell to the Panthers on Sunday, helping to keep the Giants' playoff hopes alive.
The Washington Football team fell to the Panthers on Sunday, helping to keep the Giants’ playoff hopes alive.
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Haskins, who was fined $40,000 last week for partying without a mask in violation of COVID-19 protocols, was a mess in his second straight start in place of Alex Smith (calf).

Washington’s 2019 first-round pick was intercepted twice, fumbled once and finished 14-for-28 for 154 yards before he was benched in favor of fourth-stringer Taylor Heinicke with Washington trailing, 20-6, in the fourth quarter.

“We just weren’t clicking. Very disappointing,” Haskins said, calling the past week “the hardest” of his life. “I wish I could go back and change something, but it’s over now.”

Heinicke, an Old Dominion product who appeared in six games (one start) for Carolina in 2018, drew Washington within 20-13 with a 29-yard pass to J.D. McKissic with 1:50 to go, but the onside kick was recovered by the Panthers.

Meanwhile, the loser of the Philadelphia/Dallas game faced elimination, and that turned out to be the Eagles (4-10-1).

The Eagles grabbed a quick 14-3 lead, but Andy Dalton (377 passing yards) connected twice with Michael Gallup and once with rookie CeeDee Lamb for touchdowns for a 27-13 turnaround advantage in the third quarter.

Hurts, who finished with 342 passing yards and 69 on the ground, was intercepted at the Dallas goal line by Anthony Brown with 6:42 remaining — his first of two picks in the fourth quarter. He also lost a fumble in Cowboys territory with 3:54 to go.

Lamb scored again on a 19-yard run with 1:53 remaining to seal Dallas’ third straight win and set up Sunday’s showdown against the Giants at MetLife Stadium.

“If you gave up five, six weeks ago, we wouldn’t even want you on our side,” Ezekiel Elliott said. “We’re competitors. The whole team is. We weren’t out of it. Gotta win next week and need a little help from the guys we just played.”

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