The Giants' defense of their Super Bowl didn't end on the field, but in a scattered attempt to glean information about a game played 600 miles away.
As the Giants filtered into the locker room after Sunday's 42-7 rout of the Eagles, they were barely holding on to their playoff hopes. All they needed was for the Lions to complete a comeback against the Bears to still have a postseason pulse.
A few thousand fans remained in their seats watching the game from Detroit on the video screens at MetLife Stadium, but the end of the Bears' 26-24 win was not on any of the TV screens in the locker room. Instead, word passed from player to player about the result.
Mathias Kiwanuka was told the season was over as he headed into the shower. Eli Manning was at his locker when he learned there would be no game to play next week. David Wilson was told by reporters. "Oh, damn," he said. "Well, that's it."
Chris Snee reached for his smartphone to scan it for updates. He could not get a signal. A perfect metaphor for a frustrating season.
"It hurts," Manning said after throwing five touchdown passes. "Each year, you want to make the playoffs to give yourself an opportunity to win a championship. Nine-seven last year was good enough and it wasn't good enough this year. We knew it wasn't going to be."
It would have been had the Lions beaten the Bears, the Packers beaten the Vikings and the Redskins beaten the Cowboys. But the last half of the four-part parlay never even mattered. Said Osi Umenyiora: "Nobody was really pinning our hopes on Detroit beating Chicago."
The result was a despondent atmosphere after a dominating performance. It was the kind of lopsided affair that the Giants had experienced in the previous two weeks, just from the other side. Although the Lions may have been the final petal to fall from the Giants' magic rose, it was the back-to-back blowout losses to the Falcons and Ravens that really blew up the bridge Tom Coughlin wanted his team to build from last season's championship to this season's.
Which is why Coughlin will be asking questions of players this week, in one-on-one settings, groping for an answer to the question every Giants fan asked after this week's game:
"What in the world was the last two weeks all about?" Coughlin said. "Quite frankly, I'm anxious to find out if anybody has an opinion or an answer . . . I don't know that I will [find an answer]. But maybe someone will give me an idea."
In what likely was Andy Reid's final game as coach, the Eagles (4-12) showed they were playing with nothing to lose from the opening kickoff, when Reid called for an onside kick. The Eagles recovered it, but Stevie Brown intercepted a Michael Vick pass and the Giants were off and running.
Manning threw three touchdown passes in the first quarter of a game for the first time in his career, hitting Rueben Randle on 3- and 38-yarders and then finding Wilson on a wheel route for a 15-yarder.
The Giants added two TDs in the final 6:26 of the second quarter. A 1-yard scoring run by Ahmad Bradshaw was followed by a 24-yard pass to Victor Cruz with four seconds left.
The Giants went ahead 42-7 midway through the fourth when Manning hit Henry Hynoski with a 1-yard TD pass.
Bradshaw ran for 107 yards on 16 carries and finished with 1,015 yards. Manning's five TD passes were the most by a Giants quarterback since Phil Simms threw five on Sept. 7, 1980. "There's no enjoyment in not going to the playoffs," Manning said.
Ultimately, that's the reality the Giants will face this week.
"Obviously, I know we're not playing football next week and it's slowly kicking in," Manning said. "We'll be reflecting these next few weeks and try to see where we need to improve and what went wrong at times and say goodbye to a few players, not knowing if they're going to be part of your team next year.
"I appreciate all the teammates and all the coaches this year for all the hard work that they put in, and I wish it would have led to a better season."