MINNEAPOLIS — Tom Coughlin has won two Super Bowls for the Giants, but he has tried to stand for much more than that during his tenure with the team. So Sunday night, as the Giants played less than 24 hours after being eliminated from postseason contention and took the field without their best player, he implored his players to perform by using words like “pride” and “regaining respect.”
But they couldn’t do it. Not for themselves, and not for him.
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In a game that felt like the end of an era, a game in which Coughlin could only shake his head afterward and say several times that he “didn’t see this coming,” a game he said will require everyone in the organization (including himself) to do some “soul-searching,” the Giants were trounced by the Vikings, 49-17.
Minnesota (10-5) clinched a playoff berth with the win and dropped the Giants to 6-9.
With temperatures dipping toward the single digits, the only heat the Giants could generate was in the seat under Coughlin and what now seems like the inevitability of regime change. The Giants have not made the playoffs for four straight years (six out of seven) and have posted three straight losing seasons.
Coughlin called the scope of the loss “untimely.” Eli Manning, whose three interceptions helped fuel the rout, knew the team likely was playing for the coach’s job and said, “I wanted the team to play well for him . . . and we weren’t able to do that.”
But it was cornerback Prince Amukamara who spoke to what was mostly unspoken in the Giants’ locker room after the game.
“I love coach Coughlin and I know how he gets us ready to play,” he said. “I feel embarrassed because we went out and did this under his watch. He’s always given us 100 percent, he’s always put himself on the line. I feel embarrassed for ourselves, for myself, and I feel embarrassed for this organization.”
The lack of Odell Beckham Jr. on the field as he served a one- game suspension was glaring, particularly as Manning groped to find open receivers and began trying to force passes to kick-start some energy into the unit. He connected with Rueben Randle for a 72-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but by then the game was out of reach.
The non-Odell wide receivers caught only three first-half passes for 21 yards. Manning did not complete a pass until 10:51 remained in the second quarter.
“I don’t think it would have mattered if he was here or not,” Randle said of Beckham’s absence.
Manning completed 15 of 29 passes for 234 yards, one touchdown and the three interceptions — one returned for a touchdown and another returned to the 4 to set up a TD. He was sacked four times and pulled from the game for backup Ryan Nassib for the first time this year. Nassib completed all five of his throws, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to Myles White.
The season has been defined by an agonizing series of last-second losses and heartbreaking finishes, but this one did not fit in that category. Instead, it was a lopsided affair in a game that was flexed into prime time two weeks ago because of the Giants’ perceived relevance in the division race.
Football Night in America quickly turned into the Maul of America.
“It definitely didn’t tickle,” Amukamara said.
The Giants insisted that watching Washington clinch the division title on Saturday night did not affect their mindset or preparation for this game. Still, that was a frustrating turn of events. Running back Rashad Jennings said he was in his hotel room watching that game unfold, screaming at the television and rooting for the Eagles to win and keep the Giants’ hopes alive.
“It wouldn’t have even mattered,” Jennings said. The Giants’ loss Sunday night would have eliminated them even if Washington not done the honors the previous night.
That leaves the Giants with one more chance next week to taste victory before the season ends. And likely before the Coughlin Era comes to an end.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I would like to have a strong finish next week, and whatever happens happens,” Manning said. “I’d like to finish this year strong with a win.”
For pride. For respect. And for Coughlin.