The Giants carried a torch for the postseason as they headed into their Sunday matchup in San Diego, but following their 37-14 defeat, their playoff hopes were officially doused.
And with that reality now staring them in the face, Big Blue knows all they have left to play for is pride as they finish out their schedule.
“We have to deal with reality. Like I told the team [Sunday], the biggest disappointment was we had a chance to try and remain in the playoff hunt,” said head coach Tom Coughlin. “We're gonna try to play and coach as hard as we can. We played pretty well five or six weeks in a row and then had a very, very poor performance. ... It’s disappointing, for sure.”
Unfortunately for Big Blue and the ardent fanbase, all that’s left is to try and finish .500 and gain back some of the “respectability” that Coughlin cryptically said the team lost in the aftermath of the Chargers game.
That task will be daunting, however, considering the Giants must win their final three games, with two of them against teams currently in first place — the Seahawks (11-2) and Lions (7-6). The finale, against NFC East-foe Washington (3-10), might lack in aesthetics but any time divisional rivals match up, records won’t matter much.
Coughlin noted there will be no letup in the waning weeks of what’s now a meaningless regular season stretch, as the grizzled coach noted he expects his players to play as if the games have meaning.
“Sure, there’s still lots to play for. There’s pride to play for. There’s the fact that we’re competitors, we play for the New York Giants and we’re expected to go as hard as we can. And no question we'll be motivated by the nature of the team [the Seahawks] that's coming in here,” Coughlin said. “We created our own situation here. No one else did but us. ... It’s our responsibility to finish. We have a three-game schedule to go. We have three games to work as hard as we can and prepare as hard as we can.”
Quarterback Eli Manning agreed there’s still plenty to play for, even though he admitted he’s very “disappointed” the Giants won’t get the chance to play the Super Bowl in their own stadium.
“It’s tough. You get used to winning. It’s tough to take that we’re not going to compete for a championship. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” Manning said. “But you’ve just got to be a man about it and accept it.”
Wideout Victor Cruz said his pride is wounded about not making the playoffs, but that won’t stop him for preparing for Seattle as if there’s playoff implications for Big Blue.
Just don’t call the Giants spoilers.
“I don’t know if we want to call ourselves a spoiler team or in a spoiler role. But at this point, it’s all about who you play for, your pride [and] your character,” said Cruz, noting it’ll be bittersweet should the Giants win. “It would put a smile on our faces, but at the same time it would make me more disappointed.”
Big Blue notes ...
»Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s shoulder is feeling better, according to Coughlin, and hopes the team doctors allow him to practice this week.
»The Giants can finish no better than .500, which means it’ll be their first season without a winning record since 2009, when they were 8-8. They must win their final three games to avoid their first losing record since 2004, when they were 6-10 in Coughlin’s first season as head coach.
»San Diego’s 37 points was the second-highest total allowed by the Giants this season. The Panthers scored 38 points in a shutout victory on Sept. 22. It was the fifth time this season the Giants gave up more than 30 points in a game.
»The Giants trailed at halftime, 24-0. It was their largest halftime deficit since Jan. 3, 2010 (the 2009 season finale), when they trailed after two quarters at Minnesota, 31-0.
»The Giants did not score a point in the first half for the second time this season. They trailed the Carolina game, 17-0, on their way to a 38-0 loss.
»The Chargers’ 24 first-half points were tied for the most allowed by the Giants this season. Chicago also scored 24 points in the first half on Oct. 10.
»San Diego rushed for 144 yards, the second-highest total by a Giants’ opponent this season. Carolina ran for 194 yards.
»The Giants committed three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble) to increase their NFL-high total to 34. The Chargers scored touchdowns after the first two giveaways, increasing to 116 the number of points opponents have scored off Giants turnovers this season. The Giants have committed at least one turnover in every game this season.
»Coughlin is 0-3 against San Diego. The only teams he has not beaten in his 18-year career as an NFL head coach are the Chargers and Colts.
Manning is also winless against the team he shunned before the 2004 NFL Draft.
»Manning now has 20 interceptions. It ties his 2007 total as the second-highest in his career. He threw 25 interceptions in 2010.
»Manning was sacked twice, extending his career-high to 32 sacks this season.
»Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn returned a kickoff 13 yards when the Chargers deliberately bounced a kick after scoring with 19 seconds remaining in the first half.
»Right guard David Diehl played in his 162nd regular-season game, tying him with Hall of Fame tackle Rosie Brown for 13th on the Giants’ career list.
»San Diego’s Ryan Mathews rushed for 103 yards on 29 carries. He was the second opposing back to exceed 100 yards against the Giants this season. Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams ran for 120 yards. A Coughlin-led Giants team is 16-26 when the opposing team has a 100-yard rusher.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.