EAST RUTHERFORD – It’s not often that a 35-point win over a division rival in the final week of the football season ends in disappointment.
In order to enter the playoffs as a wild card team, the the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants needed to win their game Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles and get help in the form of wins from the Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins.
New York took care of its end of the deal, drubbing the lowly Eagles (4-12) by a score of 42-7. But it was a loss by the Lions to the Chicago Bears that put an end to the championship defense for Big Blue.
“It is what it is,” said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul as he walked by reporters after the Lions game went final. The third-year end finished the game with five tackles.
Once the Giants romp over Philadelphia was a foregone conclusion, fans at MetLife Stadium turned their attention to the scoreboard to keep an eye on the game taking place in the Midwest. One of the loudest cheers from the Giants fan base came when the Lions pulled to within two points of the Bears in the fourth quarter.
Giants players congratulated each other on good games and strong seasons, but a 9-7 finish in 2012 won’t open the same doors it did as in 2011, when New York won the NFC East Division en route to its fourth Lombardi Trophy.
“It was a funny year,” said defensive end Justin Tuck. “We have those blowout losses I wish I could get the taste out of my mouth. The cookie crumbled this year.”
“We lost some tough games to good teams,” said quarterback Eli Manning, who had five touchdowns on the day. “We knew what we had to do to get into the playoffs, and we didn’t play well enough under those circumstances at Baltimore, at Atlanta to get a win in either of those spots that ultimately knocked us out of the playoffs.”
Manning’s five touchdown passes – good enough for third most all-time in Giants history, tying a mark set by Phil Simms in 1980 – were no consolation to having his season end Sunday.
“You always want to play well,” Manning said, “but there’s no enjoyment in not going to the playoffs.”
Winning a championship last season won’t eliminate the pain that comes with a lost chance at a title defense either, Manning said, as making the playoffs, regardless of the previous season’s circumstance, is still the ultimate goal.
Prideful End to Season
After blowout losses to the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens in weeks 15 and 16, respectively, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin challenged his players earlier this week to come out and play with pride in the final game of the season.
Despite the winning parlay needed for the team to make it’s way to the NFL’s second season, the Giants competed as if they were in the sandlot for most of Sunday.
The Eagles started the game by recovering an unexpected onside kick, but the momentum was short-lived as quarterback Michael Vick threw an interception to safety Stevie Brown on third down, returning it 48 yards to the Eagles 26.
Two consecutive runs of 10 and 13 yards by rookie David Wilson set up a three yard touchdown pass from Manning to rookie Ruben Randle, and the home team never looked back.
As the first quarter came to a close, the Giants had scrambled out to a 21-0 lead – amassing more points in the period than the previous two weeks combined.
Two of Randle’s four catches on the day landed in the end zone, as he led the team with 58 receiving yards. Receiver Victor Cruz and running back David Wilson also caught touchdown passes, and second-year fullback Henry Hynoski caught the first touchdown pass of his career in the third quarter to cap the scoring at 42.
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw got in on the action with a one-yard scoring run in the second quarter to finish off a 73-yard scoring drive. Bradshaw finished the day with 107 yards rushing on 16 attempts.
The Giants punted just once in the game, hitting the end zone on the first four possession of the game. New York ends the season with a 9-7 record. There has not been a repeat Super Bowl champion since the New England Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles in 2005. It's also the first time a defending Super Bowl champion misses the playoffs since the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers.