A long season that once started with much promise is finally, mercifully, over for the 2009 New York Giants.
Following a 5-0 start which had the Giants pointing toward the playoffs and contending for Super Bowl XLIV, New York (8-8) ended its season with its eighth loss in eleven games on Sunday.
Like most of the previous seven defeats, the final one wasn’t pretty.
New York saved perhaps its worst for last, as the Minnesota Vikings (12-4) tuned up for the playoffs with a 44-7 manhandling of the Giants, who showed almost no fight for the second straight week after dominating Washington 45-12, only two weeks ago.
After leading the Redskins 24-0 at the half, the Giants trailed by the same score at halftime to Carolina last week, en route to a 41-9 home loss which ended Big Blue’s playoff hopes.
Though Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin stressed professional pride with his team reduced to a spoiler role in the regular season’s final week, the first half in Minnesota was even worse than last week.
The Vikings took the opening kickoff, and needed just 2:03 to go 60 yards on five plays, for a 7-0 lead on a 10-yard touchdown pass to former Giant, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, from quarterback Brett Favre, who had numbers that would have been good for a whole game, all in the opening half.
Favre completed 19 of 23 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns, while avoiding a turnover, to lead Minnesota to a 31-0 halftime advantage.
By then, the Vikings, controlling the ball for 18:59 to the Giants’ 11:01, had scored on five of six possessions, had outgained the Giants 343-82 (271-66 through the air, 72-16 on the ground), had 18 first downs to the Giants’ four, and made seven plays of at least 15 yards (New York made just one of those in the first half).
Favre finished with a passer rating of 148.7, going 25 of 31, for 316 yards, with 4 TD’s and no INT’s before being lifted after his fourth touchdown pass, which gave Minnesota a 41-0 lead with 6:13 left in the third quarter.
After kicker Ryan Longwell’s third field goal in as many attempts, the Vikings took a 44-0 lead into the final quarter, having scored on seven straight possessions, and eight of nine.
The season finale was obviously a team effort that was one to forget, as the Giants allowed at least 40 points for the fifth time this season, the most times they’ve done that since 1966. They also missed the postseason for the first time in five years and became the fifth NFL team since 1970 to miss the playoffs after a 5-0 start.
Still, a few Giants reached individual milestones or had some career firsts:
– On his 29th birthday, Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning (17-23, 141 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 1 lost fumble) became the third quarterback in team history to throw for 4,000 yards in a season, finishing 2009 with 4,021 yards (although even that was overshadowed by the Vikings, as Favre received an ovation for becoming the fourth Viking in history to pass for 4,000 yards in a season, finishing the day with 4,202 yards for his sixth 4,000-yard season; Favre, who now has 33 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions this year, also extended his record NFL record for seasons with at least 30 touchdown passes to nine seasons).
– Wide receiver Steve Smith, on the first play of the Giants’ second possession, caught a ball over the middle, making him the first Giant ever to catch 100 passes in a season. He finished with a game-high 10 catches (for 57 yards), giving him 107 receptions for the year.
– The Giants avoided a shutout on, a one-yard run, the first career touchdown, by third-year running back Danny Ware.
– Rookie wide receiver, Ramses Barden, a 6-foot-6 third-round draft pick in April, out of Cal-Poly, who holds an NCAA record with touchdown catches in 32 consecutive college games, played in his third NFL game and began the Giants’ only scoring drive of the day with his first career reception, a 16-yard grab from Manning.
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin didn’t believe that another poor performance was from a lack of trying. “I do think we tried,” he said. “Where the effort and the purpose wasn’t there last week, I thought we had that this week. I do [think we had pride]. They all came to the stadium wanting to play. I really don’t think for one minute as we went to the field, that anyone was not giving effort.”
Coughlin felt instead, it was simply mistakes that helped let the game get away. The Giants committed 13 penalties for 95 yards.
“I am disappointed in the penalties in this game,” Coughlin said after noting that the Giants had recently done a better job of cutting down on such miscues.
And, in the first half, Coughlin said, “Two turnovers, two scores” turned the game early.
“You can never ever, ever accept what happened on the field [today],” he added.
Manning commented on the disappointed ending to the season after being eliminated from playoff contention last week. “We wanted to finish the season strong, at least,” he said. “And really, just poor play on our part. [I’m] just frustrated and kind of confused and I don’t know what went wrong [since the win in Washington].”
He’s certainly not the only one, as the Giants head into the offseason trying to figure out who to keep, who to let go, and how to get back to where they were as Super Bowl champions only two seasons ago, as NFC East champions last year, and the team they were through five weeks this season.