EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - If you are a head coach or a quarterback in the NFL long enough, you're going to have days so miserable you might wonder why you ever entered the profession in the first place.
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Sunday was one of those days for Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning.
Coughlin experienced the first regular-season home shutout defeat of his 18-year career as a head coach, in part because Manning threw a career-high five interceptions, as the Giants suffered a 23-0 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in MetLife Stadium. The defense and special teams played reasonably well, but the offense? As Coughlin said at his postgame news conference, there's no way to sugarcoat it.
"A pathetic offensive performance," Coughlin said. "We didn't block anybody, we didn't make any plays, we didn't create any opportunities for ourselves. I told the players who prepared and gave great effort that I appreciated what they did, and I told those that were obvious they had not, that I felt sorry for them because they're missing the whole point."
Facing the NFL's No. 1 ranked defense, the Giants gained only 181 yards, including a measly 25 on the ground, finished with 12 first downs, converted just one of 10 third down opportunities and owned the ball for 26:02.
"It's pathetic, embarrassing. Whatever words you want to use, they're accurate," center Kevin Boothe said. "Unfortunately, it sounds like a broken record throughout the course of the year, but we just didn't execute. You go against a team like Seattle, they're going to make you pay. We knew that going into it."
But of all the unsightly numbers, the most jarring was Manning's five interceptions. That tied a franchise record and set a career high. Manning was picked off twice apiece by cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell and once by safety Earl Thomas.
"As they say, each one has its own story," Manning said. "Sometimes it's a bad decision or a bad throw or today it just seemed like their guys made plays. They went up and grabbed some balls and took it away from our guys."
Manning's 25 interceptions tie the career high he set in 2010 – with two games remaining. He has thrown a Giants-record 169 interceptions in his career, which eclipsed Charlie Conerly's former record of 167.
"I didn't play well," Manning said. "I didn't play as well as I needed to. Some of the throws that were intercepted could have been better. They could have been better throws. You hope some of them aren't intercepted. I think overall, offensively, I don't think there was…I think probably every position got outplayed and beaten on a number of instances, which led to that performance."
For at least one of Manning's longtime teammates, the quarterback's high interception total is hard to fathom.
"It's shocking," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "I know he's a guy that's here before the sun comes up and doesn't leave until after it goes down. I know he's put in the work, it just hasn't really come to fruition for him this season."
Coughlin remains firmly in Manning's corner, but he is obsessive about turnovers and can't abide a five-interception game or a 25-pick season.
"Obviously, there's concern," Coughlin said. "You perform that way and you have those sorts of results – there's no way around it. I mean, there's no production, there's turnovers. We didn't rush the ball for anything to help, to allow some of the balance to take place, but we didn't do that. … That was just, as I said, a very, very poor performance on the entire offensive team."
As he has done throughout his long career, Coughlin accepted responsibility for the defeat. But at last one of the team's captains, safety Antrel Rolle, wouldn't hear of it. Rolle said the players need to perform better.
"Coach Coughlin can't take any of this blame," Rolle said. "Like I said, personally, I won't allow that. He can't take any of this blame. Coaches coach and they did a phenomenal job getting us prepared for this. We had a great week of practice. Everything that we saw out there from their offense, we went over with our coaches, defensive coordinator, assistant coaches, so forth and so on, and they did an exceptional job preparing us for today. Coach Coughlin, he's a coach, but he can't coach heart, he can't make a play or have heart, he can't make a player have passion about this game, and that's what we were lacking out there today. Like I said, coach can say what he wants, but personally, I won't allow him to take that because coaches coach and the players play the game.
"If you don't have passion about this game, you don't need to be out there on the field and that's just the way I look at it. Obviously, sometimes out there today, we looked like we didn't have a pulse and you can never do that playing a game of this magnitude, playing a game that's this physical and playing an opponent like the Seattle Seahawks that live and die by pride, swagger, confidence. We knew that coming into the game today. They imposed their will on us today."
With a 5-9 record and two games remaining, the Giants are assured of finishing with their first losing record since 2004, when both Coughlin and Manning arrived. The following season, they won the NFC East title and began a streak of eight consecutive seasons in which they were .500 or better. It officially ended on Sunday.
"It's tough and not what we're used to around here," Manning said. "It's obviously been a tough year. We started off poorly and then we kind of got where we were playing pretty good football and these last two weeks, from an offensive standpoint, have not played well at all, so it's tough to deal with. You feel like you prepare hard and you game plan and you practice well and we come out on Sundays and we just don't execute and play at the level we need to win games."
Asked how he's taking it, Coughlin said, "Not very well"
For Coughlin and the Giants, it was one of those days. And it's been one of those years.