Punchless Giants fall to Ravens, playoff hopes dwindle

Giants quarterback Eli Manning, right, is sacked by

Giants quarterback Eli Manning, right, is sacked by Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo in the first half. (Dec. 23, 2012) (Credit: AP)

BALTIMORE -- Help wanted.

That's what the Giants are looking for, both internally and externally, as they head into the final week of the season. Although Sunday's 33-14 loss to the Ravens did not technically eliminate them from playoff contention, it pushed them to the brink and swiped control of their destiny.

For the defending Super Bowl champions to advance to the postseason, they'll need to beat the Eagles on Sunday at MetLife Stadium and root for a favorable result in games involving the other teams in the hunt for the wild card.

The most direct way for the Giants (8-7) to get in now is a swerving road that includes their own win plus either a Redskins (9-6) win or tie against the Cowboys (8-7), a Packers win over the Vikings (9-6) and a Lions win over the Bears (9-6).

That was too much for the Giants to process Sunday, though. Tom Coughlin described the playoff possibility as "very remote right now."

" . . . do we deserve it by the way we played? Do we?" asked defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. " . . . I don't think so . . . There's really nothing more I can say."

Because the Cowboys lost to the Saints in overtime earlier Sunday, the Giants could not be eliminated. Not even back-to-back blowouts in which the Giants have been outscored by a combined 67-14 by the Falcons and Ravens knocked them out.

Two ways to look at that: Did the Cowboys give the Giants a thread of hope? Or just prolong their agony?

The Giants sounded like a team that was eliminated, talking about wanting to win because a 9-7 record would be better than 8-8.

"Worst-case scenario, and we're here," linebacker Chase Blackburn said. "I figured we'd respond better than we did. We've been a team in the past that really has responded when our backs are against the wall, but we can't continue to rely on that. We can't continue to think we're going to turn the switch on and off."

The loss leaves them with a week to figure out how things have slipped away from holding first place in the division to being eliminated from contention for that title, to figure out how they went from a 52-27 win over the Saints two short weeks ago to urchins begging for handouts around the league.

"We're a very long way from being the team that played New Orleans," Coughlin said.

That lack of consistency had the Giants baffled from top to bottom.

"We played some big games where we were running the ball well and passing the ball well and the defense was playing big, making stops, causing fumbles and turnovers," Victor Cruz said. "It looked like we found it. And then there are other games where it looks like we have no clue."

This was one of the latter.

The only bright spot for the Giants was a late first-quarter drive in which Eli Manning completed a 43-yard pass to Rueben Randle (which was woefully underthrown because Manning was hit) and David Wilson ran 14 yards for a touchdown.

After that touchdown, though, the Giants barely moved the ball. They had 22 net yards on their next five offensive possessions.

The Ravens, meanwhile, kept finding big plays even while trying to run out the clock for most of the second half. They picked on Corey Webster throughout the game and exposed the veteran cornerback.

The Ravens scored the game's first two touchdowns, the first on a 6-yard pass from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith on a slant with Webster covering and the second on a 1-yard run by Flacco that was set up by a 43-yard pass to Smith against Webster.

Wilson's touchdown made it 14-7 and seemed to stabilize the momentum, but the Ravens drove for a field goal to make it 17-7 after a touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones was overturned on review.

Flacco hit Ray Rice with a 27-yard crossing pass for a touchdown with 1:04 left in the first half against a Giants blitz to make it 24-7. Michael Boley started out covering Rice, who caught the ball and burned Will Hill and Stevie Brown on his way to the end zone.

The Ravens' second drive of the third quarter truly iced the game. They faced a third-and-9, a first-and-20, a second-and-25 and a third-and-9, and still put points on the board with a field goal. The drive lasted 16 plays, covered 82 yards and ate up nearly eight minutes. Justin Tucker added two more field goals to make it 33-7 midway through the fourth.

Manning hit Domenik Hixon with a 13-yard touchdown pass with 3:18 left to give the Giants a second touchdown in as many weeks.

"There's really no words that can describe this type of loss," said Cruz, who was held to three catches for 21 yards. "It's not something that we would have imagined."

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