Not even Tom Coughlin could provide much optimism about the Giants making the playoffs after the team's latest desultory loss, a 33-14 defeat to the Baltimore Ravens Sunday in M&T Bank Stadium.
"That's very remote right now," Coughlin said.
The Giants, who once led the NFC East by 2.5 games, lost control of their playoff fate when they suffered their second lopsided loss in as many weeks and fell to 8-7. To reach the playoffs, they must defeat the 4-11 Philadelphia Eagles at home and hope Minnesota (home vs. Green Bay), Chicago (at Detroit) and Dallas (at Washington) all lose on the regular season's final Sunday.
"I'm not concerned about it, really," Coughlin said. "I want to see us play well. That's always been my thing. If we play well, give great effort and play well, everything else takes care of itself. That's not the case right now. We're not playing very well."
That's an understatement. This defeat followed a 34-0 thrashing at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons, putting the Giants in 67-14 hole the last two weeks.
"This is disappointing," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We knew we had to play our best football to win and get in the playoffs. We didn't do that, and when that happens, teams in this league will embarrass you."
The Giants were outgained, 533-186, including 224-67 on the ground, finished with only 11 first downs to 25 for the Ravens, owned the ball for just 20:34 and saw Baltimore convert 11 of 18 third-down opportunities, including two third-and-19s. The Ravens, who broke a three-game losing streak and improved to 10-5, clinched the AFC North title.
What's most baffling to Coughlin is that these defeats immediately followed a 52-point outing in a rout of the New Orleans Saints two weeks ago.
"What has happened over the course of the last couple of weeks is very difficult to explain," Coughlin said. "We had a resounding win against New Orleans and felt real good about ourselves, and then I have no explanation as to why we're in the position that we're in. … But to go and score 52 points, and then turn around and get shut out, and then to score 14, it's difficult to explain. You would think that when you score those kinds of points, that would build great confidence."
The Ravens scored on Joe Flacco touchdown passes to Torrey Smith and Ray Rice, Flacco's one-yard quarterback sneak and Justin Turner field goals of 23, 21, 30 and 29 yards.
David Wilson scored on a 14-yard touchdown run, and Manning threw a late 13-yard touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon.
The Giants fell into an early 14-0 hole and never climbed out as the Ravens scored touchdowns on their first two possessions.
Smith got the first score on a six-yard pass from Flacco with 7:38 remaining in the first quarter. On third down, Smith filled a hole left by blitzing linebacker Michael Boley and got a step on Corey Webster to catch Flacco's quick pass.
The Ravens drove 73 yards in 14 plays, the longest an 18-yard run by rookie Bernard Pierce. Three plays later, Boley appeared to recover a fumble at the seven-yard line. All turnovers are automatically reviewed and this one was overturned, giving the Ravens a first down at the Giants' five.
After the Giants punted, Flacco's scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak, which was set up by a 43-yard pass up the right side to Smith.
The Giants cut their deficit in half on Wilson's 14-yard touchdown run with 1:30 remaining in the quarter. On second-and-six, Wilson took a handoff and used a tremendous burst to zip through the left side of the line and into the end zone.
The score capped a five-play, 77-yard drive that began with Manning's 43-yard pass down the center of the field to Rueben Randle, which gave the Giants a first down at the Baltimore 34.
Tucker's 23-yard field goal increased Baltimore's lead to 17-7 with 6:05 remaining in the second quarter. The Ravens thought they had a touchdown on a nine-yard pass to Jacoby Jones, but it was ruled incomplete after a review. The score was set up by Flacco's 39-yard pass to Anquan Boldin – on third-and-19.
Rice's 27-yard touchdown reception with 1:04 remaining in the first half increased the Ravens' halftime lead to 24-7 – the second week in a row the Giants trailed by 17 points at the half. Baltimore outgained the Giants in the half, 289-109.
On second down, Rice circled out of the backfield, caught the ball in the middle of the field at the 20 and evaded attempted tackles by Will Hill and Stevie Brown on his way to the right side of the end zone.
The score ended a seven-play, 76-yard drive that included Flacco passes of 21 yards to Smith and 12 yards to Boldin.
The Ravens stayed on cruise control in the second half, scoring only on three Tucker field goals.
Turner's second field goal increased the Ravens' lead to 27-7 with 5:18 remaining in the third quarter.
Before the kick, Baltimore drove 82 yards in 15 plays and 7:57. The big play was a 36-yard pass to tight end Dennis Pitta, once again on third-and-19.
Tucker added two more field goals in the fourth quarter and the Giants were left to lament a season gone horribly wrong.
"I wouldn't even attempt to explain it," Coughlin said. "Emotionally, I probably don't have the wherewithal to do that. You fight your whole year, literally from the time one tournament ends to the next. All your sights are on getting in this thing. You can't make a mark for your team unless you get in it. We fought so long, and fought so hard, we had our ups and downs. We were sitting where we could determine our own fate and we let that get away from us. It's very disappointing."