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Best: In their Giants Stadium finale, Big Blue fumbled

Eli Manning walks off the field after losing

Eli Manning walks off the field after losing to the Carolina Panthers at Giants Stadium on Dec. 27, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Credit: Getty Images

'I'm at a loss for words,'' Tom Coughlin said when the carnage mercifully was over. "Just as I'm sure you are.''

Not really. Here are a few:

Considering all of the circumstances, the Giants' 41-9 loss to the Panthers in their final game at Giants Stadium was the most embarrassing in their 283 games there.

Their ineptitude was staggeringly thorough, from Madison Hedgecock's penalty that erased an early touchdown pass to the wide-open Hedgecock's drop in the end zone with 5:14 left.

And pretty much everything in between.

The fact that it came with a playoff berth at stake, against a losing team and with a bevy of former Giants greats, including Lawrence Taylor, in the house only added to the pain.

Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson stood in the locker room that will be needed no more and shook his head, baffled.

"I saw them last week and I'm like, 'Wow, they're still alive and have some enthusiasm,' '' he said. "Carolina is a pretty good team but not that good, not to run up 41 points on the Giants.''

The Giants' repeated whiffs on tackle attempts were an affront to Taylor, Carson and every other defender to wear blue in the stadium.

Somebody named Matt Moore had a 139.8 passer rating for the Panthers, whose 247 rushing yards were the most against the Giants in their 34 seasons at the Meadowlands.

Defensive end Justin Tuck said it was "the lowest I've been in a Giants uniform.''

Even with the Giants facing elimination if the Cowboys won late last night, they have had an impressive run with four consecutive playoff appearances.

But that didn't make this one less sickening, not after the season began 5-0, not given the inevitable glances back to last season, when the Giants seemed poised for another Super Bowl run until Plaxico Burress shot himself.

The blowout was reminiscent of their 23-0 loss in a playoff game after the 2005 season - also to a Panthers team coached by former Giants defensive coordinator John Fox.

But those Giants were even more injury-depleted than these, and those Panthers at least had something to play for.

The cruelest element of the debacle was that for many fans unwilling or unable to pay for personal seat licenses next door, this was the end of years, if not decades, of live fandom.

When the game began on an unseasonably warm day, the seats were full of people and enthusiasm. By the time a video of Bruce Springsteen singing "Wrecking Ball'' appeared at halftime, the Giants had been booed off the field, taking a wrecking ball to their own season.

Only a fraction of the crowd was left at the end, and there was nothing like Derek Jeter addressing fans after the last game at Yankee Stadium or Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza walking out of Shea.

Instead, there were scattered boos and a stunning final on the scoreboard of the doomed stadium. (Cause of death: narrow concourses.)

Thanks to the NFL's tone-deaf decision to schedule the Jets for the final game at the stadium, the old place has one more important Sunday left in it.

But for the Giants, there only was a bitter end, and a suddenly muddled future.

Giants president John Mara, whose father, Wellington, took the big risk of crossing the Hudson, walked through the locker room in stunned silence before walking out toward the trainer's room.

There was no making this hurt go away, though.

"We didn't want it bad enough,'' said running back Brandon Jacobs, who gained a yard on six rushing attempts. "That is a terrible way to go out.''

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