The Giants did their part in keeping their slim playoff hopes alive, as they thrashed the Eagles, 42-7, in their season finale.
Unfortunately for Big Blue, they didn’t get the necessary help to be able to defend their Super Bowl title, as the Bears knocked off the Lions. The Giants (9-7) not only needed a Bears’ loss, but also losses by the Vikings and Cowboys to sneak into the playoffs. But all their hopes were dashed as Chicago was concurrently beating the Lions in Detroit.
Nevertheless, at least the Giants enjoyed plucking the hated Eagles’ feathers to finish their season on a high note.
“We did a lot of good things as far as executing today, which is a good way to end the season. [Running back] Ahmad [Bradshaw] went over 1,000 yards today, and that’s a good thing,” said head coach Tom Coughlin. “We got a lot of contributions from a lot of different people, [and] I’m very proud of our team.”
Eli Manning certainly made his coach proud and went out in style, as he went 13-of-21 for 208 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Manning got the avalanche rolling when he connected with rookie wideout Rueben Randle for a 3-yard touchdown on the team’s opening drive.
That followed a Mike Vick interception on the Eagles’ opening drive when safety Stevie Brown snagged an overthrown pass intended for tight end Brent Celek. The Eagles (4-12) looked as if they were ready to shock MetLife Stadium when they came out with a surprise onside kick to start, but Vick gave it up three plays later. Brown returned it 48 yards to the Eagles’ 26-yard line to help get the Giants on the board first — and for good.
Manning then hooked up with Randle again, this time on a 38-yard touchdown, following an Eagles’ three-and-out on their second possession, to go up 14-0 with the first five minutes of the opening quarter. When Manning hit Bradshaw on a 41-yard wheel route on third down to set up a 15-yard scoring toss to David Wilson, the rout was on.
Even though Manning had a special game, he said he’d have traded Sunday’s performance for a special season. He acknowledged his afternoon was bittersweet because it ultimately did Big Blue no good.
“You always want to play well, and we played really well today, so I guess it’s good. But there’s no enjoyment from this,” Manning said. “You play football for a shot, and that’s all you want, a shot at the playoffs. … Nine-and-7 was good enough last year [to qualify], but 9-7 wasn’t good enough this year.”
The Giants’ running game was good enough against the putrid Eagles’ defense, as Bradshaw rushed for a game-high 107 yards. The Giants collectively had 188 rushing yards — not including the minus-three yards from David Carr’s three kneel-downs to end the game — which is ironic considering the once-dormant run game woke up only to be on the shelf as the postseason begins. Had the Giants qualified again, Manning thought they could’ve rode that momentum into the postseason, but he lamented that they waited too long to get everything clicking.
“Every season our mindset is to not make it so close and to not leave it ‘til the last two [or] three games to make it in the playoffs, because last year might not happen again,” Manning said, adding he didn’t think the Giants’ uneven play in the final stretch lacked desire. “It wasn’t a lack of hunger or focus, we just got beat [by the Falcons and Ravens in two of the last three weeks]. We got outplayed and we didn’t give ourselves a chance [to get in the playoffs].
“It comes down to us not accomplishing [goals]. You don’t know how many more opportunities you’ll have to get in the playoffs, or if you’ll still have the talent to make it a special season. We feel like we have that special talent and the ability to make the playoffs, so we’re disappointed.”
Big Blue notes
» Coughlin noted how painful the offseason will be: “We had it in our grasps and knew what we had to do today but we didn’t get it done. I’m sure it’ll be first and foremost on our minds as we head into the offseason.”
One of the first questions Coughlin said he’ll ask his team is what happened down the stretch: “It goes without saying, but the first thing you do is you don’t rely on anyone else. You take care of your own chances, [and] one of the first things I’ll ask them at our exit meeting is, ‘What in the world happened those last two weeks?’ Because I don’t have ay answers. It’s not to say those teams [Atlanta and Baltimore] weren’t good teams, but we could’ve been a whole lot more competitive.”
»Wilson continued his strong play as a backup running back, as he tallied 75 yards on 15 carries. Mostly known for his kickoff return prowess, Wilson finally started showing flashes of brilliance as a running back, and displayed the talents that made him a first-round pick.
»Fellow rookie Randle (four catches for 58 yards) had the first two-touchdown performance of his career.
»Brown put his stamp on his Pro-Bowl alternate season with his eighth interception.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.