The Giants said they’re playing for pride now that their playoff dreams are officially over. But if their 23-0 defeat to the Seahawks was any indication, they’ll need to find a better cause.
Head coach Tom Coughlin seemed as distraught and embarrassed as any time during his Big Blue tenure as he tried to explain what happened — particularly on the offensive side of the ball.
“[It was a] pathetic offensive performance. I told them just now that those that gave their all I appreciated it and those that didn’t I told them I felt sorry for them, because they’re missing the whole point,” said Coughlin. “The [Saturday night] meeting was intense and positive. I’m not taking anything away from Seattle’s defense, as they’re the No. 1 team in the league, but for our offense to keep giving it back to them with turnovers over and over again is unacceptable.”
The main culprit, Eli Manning (18-of-31 with 156 yards and no touchdowns), threw a career-high five interceptions and actually connected with Seattle defenders more times than he did with his “Big Three” wideout corps of Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle. That trio only combined for three receptions for 30 yards — with Randle getting blanked.
Starting cornerbacks Richard Sherman and reserve cornerback Byron Maxwell — who was replacing the suspended Brandon Browner — each had two picks.
Manning rightfully took his share of the blame, but was as perplexed as his coach as to the offense’s malaise, explaining that despite his team’s current situation, he was excited to challenge the vaunted Seahawks’ defense.
“You look forward to playing those three hours on Sunday, so it’s no fun getting beat like that. It’s tough to deal with. It’s not what we’re used to around here. It’s been a tough year, especially these last two weeks when our offense hasn’t played well at all,” said Manning, adding he hopes no one in his locker room has mailed in the season. “I can’t call anybody out and do anything like that, but you can maybe look at the film and see [quitters]. I hate to think that guys weren’t prepared or didn’t come out to play. I think they [Seattle] just wanted it more and were playing for bigger things [homefield advantage] than we were and simply outplayed us.”
Big Blue’s defense played as well at it could, which is alarming for Coughlin because despite the gritty way his defense played, the offense was a no-show.
Coughlin said that’s unacceptable and won’t relent on pounding home his message, just because the Giants only have one more game left in its season.
“The message is you can’t turn the ball over,” said Coughlin. “We’re depending on our best people to win [individual matchups] and we didn’t win. We got out-fought for the ball many times as well. ... There’s concern, obviously, when you perform that way and have those kinds of results.”
Big Blue notes ...
»The Giants only mustered 181 total yards of offense on 53 total offensive plays.
»The Seahawks’ offense didn’t fare much better, as they rode the excellence of their defense. Seattle had only 327 total yards on 67 plays, but they lacked the explosiveness they usually have. Star running back Marshawn Lynch had 47 rushing yards on 16 carries, while the top Seattle receiver was also Lynch with 73 yards out of the backfield.
»Big Blue’s pass rush continued its torrid pace as they battered the suspect Seattle offensive line, sacking quarterback Russell Wilson three times.
»Safety Antrel Rolle has a new single-season career high as he picked off Wilson for his sixth interception of the season.
»The Giants (5-9) will now have a losing season for the first time since 2004, Manning’s rookie campaign, while the Seahawks have moved one step closer to locking up homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs — meaning their next road game may not be until the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, seven weeks from today.
»Manning continued his inglorious streak of throwing at least one interception in every game this season. He now has a league-high 25 interceptions. Manning’s afternoon got him in the Giants’ record book — for the wrong reason — as he surpassed Chuck “The Rifleman” Conerly for the franchise lead in career interceptions. Sherman’s second pick helped Manning tie Conerly and Maxwell’s second pick put him in sole possession of the mark.
»Cruz’s rough day ended on a sour note when he was knocked out of the game early in the final quarter after being slammed to the turf. He suffered a concussion and a sprained knee and did not return.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.