The loss Sunday didn't just end the 2009 season for the Giants. It also closed the book on the 2007 team.
Super Bowl XLII is officially history. Ancient history.
The 2008 Giants did a much better job of not using that title as a crutch than this year's version, and it was playing on the direct heels of the title. They were, until the loss to the Eagles in January, the defending champs. Yet very rarely was the 2007 season with its remarkable playoff run and ultimate payoff evoked.
This year, though, 42 was back in vogue. There were so many parallels drawn by the players and even the coaches between this season and that one that they could easily form a bar code. Those Giants had their backs against the wall, and so did these. Those Giants had some sloppy games, and so did these. Those Giants didn't always look like a championship team during the regular season, and certainly these ones didn't, either.
Time and again, the 2007 Giants were used as a reference. It happened right up until the Giants played the Panthers on Sunday, a game with everything on the line. It was the type of game the 2007 Giants would have snapped to attention for.
The 2009 Giants simply snapped. There were too many times when this team seemed to stand around waiting for the magic to happen, only to have it run past them like DeSean Jackson or through them like Jonathan Stewart. And there were a few times when the breaks seemed to go their way. An interception by Terrell Thomas against the Chargers should have sealed that win, but instead it only made Philip Rivers' comeback all the more impressive. Osi Umenyiora stripped the ball from Donovan McNabb and it just lay there on the ground, ignored by every other Giants defender, until the officials gave up waiting for the Giants to scoop it up and declared it an unrecoverable fumble.
They were so occupied looking for the spectacular, rewinding the DVD of that Super Bowl season in their minds to look for clues, they were ignoring the everyday football mini-miracles that were being handed to them.
And don't think the Giants have learned their lesson on making comparisons and assuming that things will go the same way they did in the past. They're already chirping about what a win over the Vikings on Sunday would mean for them and drawing lines to connect the last game of the 2004 season when the Giants beat the Cowboys as a springboard to a division title the next year.
Forget about that. In 2004, they had a rookie quarterback and a first-year coach and were in the early building stages. This year's team is in no such place. There is no reason to be playing this final game of the season as mere punctuation on a fruitless campaign. Tom Coughlin wants to call this game against the Vikings a "very, very important" game? How many verys would he have put in there had the Giants beaten the Panthers?
Besides, these Giants don't seem to rise to the very, very important games. If he wants them to win, maybe he should tell them to forget about it, that it's a meaningless affair.
Perhaps the blind, stubborn reliance on history to repeat itself speaks to the true magic of that 2007 team, that it is impossible to replicate. No one will ever be able to take away the rings that those players - many of them still on the roster - earned. The lingering memories - images of David Tyree's catch and the interception that squashed the Cowboys and Coughlin's cheeks in Green Bay that were as red and frozen as margaritas - will last an eternity.
But to simply say it happened once so it will happen again, that has faded away. It's like assuming that every 47-yard field-goal attempt by an opponent against the Giants will sail wide right because that's what happened in Super Bowl XXV.
Those expectations died as soon as the next season began in 1991. The expectations from Super Bowl XLII took a little longer to die. But they are dead. Rest in peace.