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Turnovers derail Giants again in loss to SD

SAN DIEGO - The Giants flew cross-country to play the San Diego Chargers in a must-win game, but got overrun in a dreadful first half that cost them their last final shot at a playoff berth.

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They made a month's worth of mistakes in those first two quarters and left the field at halftime facing a 24-point deficit. By the time they showed a sense of urgency and scored some points, it was too late and the Chargers rolled to a 37-14 victory in Qualcomm Stadium. The loss dropped the Giants to 5-8 and officially ended their postseason hopes.

"I just told the team and anybody in listening distance that the major disappointment here today is to have a chance to get into a game where both teams are 5-7 and have a chance to win a ballgame and try to regain some respectability," coach Tom Coughlin said. "We had played pretty well five or six weeks in a row and then we came in here today and the first half was just a very, very poor performance. The first half was a major disappointment.

"For some reason this first half, there was no intensity, no emotion," safety Antrel Rolle said. "I don't know. It just wasn't a good football team to be out there that first half."

In that first half, the Chargers converted seven of nine third down opportunities, had 15 first downs to the Giants' six and owned the ball for 19:27. The Giants were zero-for-three on third down.

But the numbers tell just part of the story. San Diego had 11 takeaways in its first 12 games; the Chargers had two in the first half, an interception and a fumble recovery. The first was on a tipped Eli Manning pass, the second came after Andre Brown lost the ball on a play in which he was originally ruled down by contact. But the Giants didn't rush to run another play and when the clock stopped for the two-minute warning, the Chargers coaches got to look at it and head coach Mike McCoy challenged the call – which referee Ron Winter reversed after a review. Winter also put 39 seconds back on the clock, giving the Chargers plenty of time to travel 39 yards.

Philip Rivers threw his third touchdown pass, a six-yarder to Danny Woodhead, and the Giants were in a huge hole with 19 seconds left in the half.

"They scored late on us when we didn't make a call downstairs that we thought was a fumble," Coughlin said. "We let the clock run down to two minutes, then they challenged and got the ball back."

There was more. Early in the second quarter, Nick Novak missed a 41-yard field goal attempt. But Charles James was penalized for being offside, giving Novak a second chance – and he made the 36-yard try to increase San Diego's lead to 10-0. After Rivers' second touchdown pass to   rookie Keenan Allen gave San Diego a 17-point lead, Michael Cox returned the ensuing kickoff to the 30 – but the Giants were pushed back 10 yards by Ryan Mundy's holding penalty. That possession ended with Brown's fumble.

In the third quarter, linebacker Spencer Paysinger was left to cover wide receiver Vincent Brown and was flagged for pass interference in the end zone. Three plays later, Ryan Mathews scored from a yard out to make it 31-7. Mathews rushed for 103 yards on 29 carries.

Eli Manning's five-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Myers on the first play of the fourth quarter pulled the Giants to within 31-14; still a big gap, but at least it's within miracle comeback distance. But on the Chargers' next third down, Rivers threw a long pass down field that was batted in the air by Jayron Hosley – who then lost a jump ball when Woodhead, who is listed at 5-8, leaped up to catch the ball. San Diego declined the Giants' offside penalty, one of  four they had (two were declined).

Novak added two late field goals to pad the final margin.

Giants bright spots? Well, there was Justin Tuck, who had two sacks a week after getting four. He forced a Rivers fumble on the second one that Cullen Jenkins recovered, leading to Peyton Hillis' one-yard touchdown run. But it was hard to find a positive when the Giants, who began the season with high hopes, officially saw their postseason dream end.

"That wasn't the goal," Manning said. "Each year this team expects to make the playoffs and to be in contention for championships. To know that with three games to go is disappointing and today's loss was a tough one."

So what now? The only tangible goal is to finish .500. To do that, the Giants must win their final three games, two of them against first place teams (vs. Seattle, at Detroit) and the finale against Washington.

Of course, there will be no letup in Coughlin, and he expects the players to follow his lead.

"There's a lot to play for," Coughlin said. "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. We created our own situation here. No one else did but us, so 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, prepare as hard as we can and see if we can regain some of the respectability we lost today."

"You have to win three games regardless of if you're in the playoffs or not," Tuck said. "We have to redeem ourselves as football players. What we get paid to do is to go out there and win football games. We won't worry about where we are in the playoffs. We'll put the blinders on and we have to go out there and win football games and that's all we have to be worried about."**Click Here for Gameday Photo Gallery >>**

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