MINNEAPOLIS — The Giants were 30 minutes from the playoffs.
When they headed into the visiting locker room at U.S. Bank Stadium, they were trailing the Vikings 10-7 … while the Lions were down 21-7 at Carolina on their way to 24-7 at the half, and the Seahawks were down 17-0 at Kansas City on their way to 17-3 at the half.
All the Giants needed was 30 minutes of smart, tough, dependable football and a stirring upset of the home team, and losses by the Lions and Seahawks, and they would have been in the postseason for the first time in six years, because they would not have needed the Commanders to lose to the 49ers.
Just 30 minutes from the playoffs.
After five stinking years watching the playoffs … 30 stinking minutes.
But after Vikings 27, Giants 24 ended on a 61-yard field goal by Greg Joseph, was no celebration in the visiting locker room, no dancing from Brian Daboll, only the bus ride in the arctic cold from U.S. Bank Stadium to the charter flight back just in time for Christmas Day.
No playoff berth waiting for the Giants under the Big Blue tree.
Not yet, anyway. Beat the Colts on New Year’s Day, and they will be a playoff team again.
“I’ve been in the playoffs,” Jon Feliciano told The Post. “I know what a playoff team looks like.”
The Giants will continue to keep the blinders on and close their ears to the outside noise, and if they are the only ones who believe they are a playoff team, so be it.
They won’t let this bah-humbug heartbreaker ruin their Christmas, nor should they.
They fought to the bitter end, sometimes fighting themselves — with a Daniel Jones fourth-quarter interception and a Jamie Gillan blocked punt that set up Kirk Cousins’ 17-yard touchdown toss to Justin Jefferson that looked to be the final nail in the coffin.
The Giants wouldn’t let it be.
An explosive Saquon Barkley (14-84, 8-49 receiving) raced 27 yards for a TD, and it was 24-22 with 2:01 left.
Jones (30-42, 334 yards, one TD, one INT, 4-34 rushing) hit tight end Daniel Bellinger for the 2-point conversion and it was 24-24.
“I think he kind of balled out today,” Feliciano said. “He was throwing the ball all around the field and picked up some big first downs with his legs. I think he put us in position to win.”
Until Cousins and Jefferson combined on a 17-yard screen that got Joseph close enough.
The Seahawks lost. The Lions lost.
“Our focus was on today and winning the game today, so the fact that we didn’t do that is certainly disappointing,” Jones said.
But the Giants held their heads high just the same.
“They were nervous ’cause we were comin’,” Jihad Ward told The Post.
“That is the definition of playoff football right there. That s–t is beautiful!”
Barkley wasn’t even aware that he had missed his first postseason opportunity. He talked about the fight and the heart of the Giants instead.
“We made more mistakes than them,” he said. “Big games, gotta make more plays.”
It was early in the fourth quarter and it was 17-13 Vikings, and the Lions were still losing big and the Seahawks were still losing big when Jones began driving for the playoffs, to the playoffs. There he was, 32 yards from the playoffs when he looked for new best friend Isaiah Hodgins over the middle and was intercepted by Patrick Peterson.
“Just threw it behind him,” Jones said.
Then Richie James dropped a first down pass from Jones at the Minnesota 27.
Vikings 17, Giants 16.
6:24 to the playoffs.
The Giants’ defense forced a three-and-out. Jones had it back at his 25.
4:24 to the playoffs.
Josh Metellus blocked Gillan’s punt. Cousins had it at the Giants’ 29.
4:02 to the playoffs.
Cousins-to Jefferson, 17-yard TD against Fabian Moreau and Jason Pinnock with three minutes remaining.
I asked Darius Slayton if he was aware that the Lions and Seahawks had lost.
“I am now,” he said.
“It’s hard to even think about the playoffs right now just ’cause that was a helluva football game out there, you know?” he said.
Sixty more minutes to the playoffs.
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