The Giants could only go so low as a team intact. They could only withstand so much without the splintering that many had been anticipating for the last two months. Finally, after a season in which the team was hailed for little more than sticking together through an 0-6 start and the first early elimination from playoff contention in a decade, Sunday's 23-0 loss to the Seahawks appeared to split them apart.
And it was the two men who were most responsible for holding up the dike through most of this difficult season -- Tom Coughlin and Antrel Rolle -- who seemed to lead the wedge.
Latest Giants stories
Coughlin said he was pleased with the effort of the defense and special teams but called out the effort of some on an offense that totaled only 181 yards and threw five interceptions.
"A pathetic offensive performance," he said. "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."
Moments later in the locker room, Rolle said he thought the defense, his unit, played "extremely hard."
But then he added: "If you don't have passion about this game then you don't need to be out there on the field. That's just the way I look at it. Obviously sometimes out there it looked like we didn't have a pulse."
Asked if that was a shot at the offense, Rolle did not deny it.
"You all saw the game," he said. "I don't have to say anything. This is not about pointing fingers, this is not about tit for tat, but it is what it is. If you saw the game you know exactly what you saw."
It's what the defense has been seeing all season. The Seahawks (12-2) turned two of Eli Manning's career-high five interceptions into touchdowns, giving opponents 17 touchdowns off takeaways this season and a total of 131 points.
So where was the lack of effort? Some of it may have been on the offensive line, which was manhandled. That happens. But twice starting left guard James Brewer completely whiffed on blocks, once against a defensive tackle lined up directly across from him and another time against cornerback Jeremy Lane on a screen pass.
"I mean, I'll never be the person to judge someone else, whether or not they're playing [hard]," Brewer said. "I can only judge whether or not I was playing."
Four of Manning's interceptions were on passes that could have been caught by either the receiver or the defender, three of those in the direction of Hakeem Nicks and the other toward Victor Cruz, who left the game in the third quarter with a concussion and sprained knee.
"Today it just seemed like their guys made plays," Manning said. "They went up and grabbed some balls and took them away from our guys."
Nicks took exception to Coughlin's description of the offense, but not his assessment of desire. "I think if you lace your cleats up as a professional, I have too much respect for these men in this locker room to say it was pathetic," he said. "Was there a lack of effort on certain plays? There could have been."
Tight end Brandon Myers took to Twitter after the game to offer a counterpoint to Rolle's criticism and apparently whatever other criticisms came his way.
"Getting cussed out for encouraging (people and) telling them they did a good job is mind blowing," he wrote. "If (people) on this team wanna take shots at me (and) say I have no passion they are mistaken. I give everything I have each an every week."
The loss dropped the Giants to 5-9, securing their first losing season since 2004.
"This is as frustrating as I've been as a football player," said Mathias Kiwanuka, an eight-year veteran. "We haven't been in this situation, I haven't been in this situation personally . . . I know there are a lot of guys who are going to give 100 percent effort just like I am and that's what's going to keep us going."
Clearly, there are others who aren't, either in perception or reality.
"On an individual basis, player to player, you just want everybody to be giving as much effort as you are out there," Kiwanuka said. "For whatever reason we're not getting that. We have to, as a group, make sure we do whatever we need to do to get that done."
"You can't make another player have passion about this game, you can't make another player have heart about this game," Rolle said. "Each individual has to go look at themselves in the mirror tonight. If they're satisfied, they are."
Rolle is not.
"There is no room for that in this game, especially with what has taken place throughout the course of this year," he said. "We have to get better, we need to find some pride about ourselves and find some passion about this game and we definitely need to find a heart about this game.
"All of those things," he added, "should be automatic."