MINNEAPOLIS - Don't pop that champagne just yet, you 1966 Giants. You're still the worst defense in franchise history. After 43 years on ice, the cork stays in the bottle at 501 points allowed, and in only 14 games.
This season's version gave a good run at infamy, though, allowing 427 points in 16 games, the second most by any Giants team. A field goal late in the third quarter that gave the Vikings a 44-point lead Sunday nudged the 2009 team ahead of the 1980 squad, which gave up 425.
Luckily for the Giants, the Vikings have unfinished business in the playoffs, or they wouldn't have yanked Brett Favre and most of the starters at that point and settled for cruising to a 44-7 victory.
A season that began 5-0 ended at 8-8, lowlighted by two blowouts in which the Giants were outscored 85-16. Last week's 41-9 embarrassment against the Panthers eliminated the Giants from playoff contention. This flop trumped even that woeful effort.
"When you play like that two weeks in a row, it's disrespectful to the logo that's on our helmet," said Shaun O'Hara, who speculated (half-jokingly) that some players might have to thumb a ride back to Jersey.
"To be honest,'' he said, "I wouldn't be surprised if John Mara takes off without us and makes us find our own way home."
Though the Giants allowed 487 yards - and more than 40 points for the fifth time this season - Tom Coughlin seemed to think it was the offense's inefficiency that stymied the team this time. He cited penalties (13) and turnovers (two) for not allowing the Giants to have better "balance."
Coughlin said pointing to the offensive shortcomings was not excuse-making, though. "There is no excuse, so don't write that I made excuses," he said. "Blame me like always. The coach. It was all the coach."
While the Vikings (12-4) were playing for a shot at the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs and a bye - which they clinched with the Cowboys' rout of the Eagles - the Giants spoke heartily during the week about playing for pride and for regained respect.
"It was certainly not a great performance, but I think they all came to the stadium and wanted to play," Coughlin said. "I really don't think for one minute that as we went to the field that anyone was not giving effort."
It sure seemed like it, though, as the Vikings took the opening kickoff and went 60 yards on five plays, scoring on the first of Favre's four touchdown passes, a 10-yarder to former Giants tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. It was 7-0 after the first quarter, 10-0 early in the second. But by halftime it was 31-0.
"So many points so fast," defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. "So many points in the first half. It's unlike anything that we've experienced since I've been here."
The Giants' offense sputtered through the first half, totaling only 82 yards. With turnovers and the end of the half coming into play, the Giants had a string of three of four possessions that each lasted one snap. The one that went beyond that was a three-and-out to start the second half.
Eli Manning said the offense was "confused."
"I don't know why all of a sudden this play came upon us," he said. "We started making mistakes, not being able to convert on third downs and looking bad."
Ultimately, though, it was not the offense's inability that punctuated this season but the defense's. This was a unit that tore through four of its first five opponents as the Giants were touted as one of the league's best teams.
What would the Giants have thought then about allowing the second-most points in franchise history? "No chance I would have believed that at all," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said.
The .500 Giants could only reflect on where they were when they left the dome in Minneapolis a year ago, at 12-4 and with the top seed in the playoffs. That's a four-game swing.
"There are four games on our schedule that I know we could have won," O'Hara said. "Everybody will throw their arms up and say this team is terrible, but the reality is you're just a few plays away from being really good. The same is true in the opposite [direction]; you're just a few plays away from being really bad."
And we all know now which of those paths the Giants went down.