The Giants got back one of their top offensive playmakers Thursday night, as wide receiver Sterling Shepard made his return after missing the previous four games dealing with a turf toe injury.
Shepard had a positive impact, seemingly make the play that steered his team to victory. In the end, the Giants again went down to the Eagles, losing 22-21 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Shepard was not expected to take a full workload and he did not.
Shepard was on the field with the starting lineup. He picked up his first reception on a third-and-5 pass in the second quarter that gained 7 yards. His best moment in the first half came when he spun away from a tackle attempt by Nickell Robey-Coleman for a 29-yard pickup later in the quarter.
Shepard beat Darius Slay for a 2-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. He finished with six catches for 59 yards.
Early in the afternoon Shepard was activated off injured reserve, where he had been since the Week 2 turf toe injury that hit him late in the first half in a loss in Chicago. Given the progress Shepard made recently, removing him from IR was a given. To play against the Eagles, though, Shepard first had to prove he could withstand the pounding of a strenuous pre-game workout. He did that to the satisfaction of the coaching staff and medical staff.
The Giants failed to find anyone remotely able to replace what Shepard brings to the offense. Darius Slayton was productive in Shepard’s absence. Golden Tate was not. The other alternatives given a shot, Damion Ratley and C.J. Board, did not make any sort of positive impact. Ratley (four receptions for 63 yards) was released and Board (6-58) went down with a concussion suffered last week against Washington.
Shepard, 27, is in his fifth year with the Giants. He had eight catches for 76 yards in six quarters this season before landing on IR.
To add insurance at receiver, Alex Bachman was elevated to the roster off the practice squad.
There were no changes on the offensive line, with Andrew Thomas and Cam Fleming starting at the tackle spots. Rookie Matt Peart came on the field early in the fourth quarter on a tackle-eligible play.
Devante Downs returned to the starting lineup at inside linebacker.
The Giants in the first half were dominated in time of possession, 20:24-9:36. They also were outgained (222-124) and in first downs (15-5).
RB Devonta Freeman was forced out in the second half with an ankle injury.
Rookie Darnay Holmes, who had played in every game, often as the slot cornerback, was inactive with a neck issue. Also inactive for the Giants: WR C.J. Board, FS Adrian Colbert, OT Jackson Barton, TE Eric Tomlinson, DE RJ McIntosh and DE Jabaal Sheard.
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