The last time the New York Giants were eliminated from the playoff hunt with at least three games to go before the end of the season was in 2004, the first year of head coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning.
Ten years later, the Giants again find themselves in that predicament thanks to their 37-14 loss on Sunday to the San Diego Chargers, which officially ended the Giants already slim mathematical hopes.
So where do the Giants go from here with three weeks remaining that includes a game against the NFC's hottest team, the Seattle Seahawks?
"As of 5 o'clock (Monday) afternoon we have to move forward with a three-game schedule, two of three at home and Seattle arguably the best team in the NFC coming in here and we need to focus and prepare for a very, good Seahawks team," Coughlin said.
The question, though, is with the playoffs gone and major changes potentially looming for the Giants starting early next year, how difficult will it be for Coughlin and the team to stay focused on the coach's objective to win these last three games?
"I think the things we have to remember and understand, what we're going to continue to preach in the locker room, is the prideful organization," said defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka.
"We have a lot to play for. I think every time you take the field you're representing yourself, your family, your team, and your city, in that order. You have to make sure you do it to the best of your ability."
The Seahawks, who this week will be looking to wrap up a first-round playoff bye after losing to the 49ers last week, will be a good test for the Giants, who are looking to regain some of the respect lost as a result of their wildly inconsistent 2013 season.
"I think it helps us from an individual standpoint because you get a good team coming in," Kiwanuka said. "You get to see what you can do against what is touted as one of the best teams in the league right now.
"It helps us as a team because we get an opportunity as a team to go out there and play against the best and to kind of redeem ourselves a little bit from last week. That's where our focus is."
Coughlin agreed, noting that just because the Giants don't have the playoffs to play for any more, they don't have to necessarily pack it in and start trying to figure out what went wrong just yet.
"Each one of these games is a critical game for us," he said. "So we'll certainly throw everything we do have into these individual games and we'll assess the entire season when the time comes."
The Giants placed running back Brandon Jacobs on season-ending injured reserve with a knee injury that has sidelined him the past two games.
Jacobs finishes the 2013 season with 238 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He was signed for a second stint with the Giants in September with David Wilson suffering with fumbling issues and Andre Brown recovering from a broken leg.
Jacobs, 31, was with the Giants from 2005-2011, rushing for 4,849 yards and 56 touchdowns over those seven seasons.
The Giants signed linebacker Marcus Dowtin off their practice squad to fill Jacobs' roster spot. Defensive end Kendrick Adams and defensive back Chaz Powell were added to the practice squad.
--Normally after a loss, the Giants players talk about cleaning up deficiencies that are spotted on film so that they don't resurface again.
The problem for the defense, at least is that after making that pledge week after week, some of the earlier season issues regarding missed tackles, poor angles, questionable technique, and missed assignments that were supposed to have been cleaned up resurfaced in their game against the Chargers.
"Yeah, if we talk about this week specifically, there were definitely some things that popped up that have popped up in the past," admitted defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. "We just sat through meetings today. We made all the corrections and the goal is to make sure those don't come back up again now."
But why are the problems that were supposedly cleaned up earlier in the season resurfacing?
"Some of those things are when you get in a situation where guys are trying as hard as they can to make a play and something happens because you're pressing," Kiwanuka said. "That's where we have to be able to stay focused and make sure that we play our responsibility and trust the man next to us and don't let those things happen."
Kiwanuka hinted that sometimes the pressing by the players is a result of having to clean up or compensate for a breakdown. The result, apparently, is that it takes a player out of his responsibility and creates another leak in the proverbial dam.
"Whenever there is a play that needs to be made, we all take it upon ourselves to go out there and make that play," he said. "We have to be able to do that within the confines of the defense and that's what the issue is right now."
--With these final three games not having much meaning for the Giants other than to help determine where they draft in May, might head coach Tom Coughlin be contemplating allowing some of his younger players who either haven't had many opportunities finally get a chance?
"Certainly we'll look at as many players as we possibly can but again, our team is our team," he said. "We may be able to do some things in terms of maneuvering some numbers of plays or perhaps even getting someone a suit that hasn't had one, but we're going to try as hard as we can to win football games, and the guys that deserve to play are going to play.
Coughlin didn't mention any specific players, but some of the potential youngsters that would fall into that category include offensive linemen Brandon Mosley and Stephen Goodin, tight ends Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell, and defensive linemen Damontre Moore and Johnathan Hankins.
"If there are some people that haven't been involved that can make a mark here and practice, or whatever to gain what we think is a right to have X amount of snaps, then that will take place as well," Coughlin said. "We're not going to change any of our objectives or goals."
--Giants head coach Tom Coughlin fell to 0-3 against the Chargers, who are one of two teams, the other being Indianapolis, that Coughlin has never defeated in his 18 seasons as an NFL head coach.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--OL David Diehl played in his 162nd regular-season game, tying him with Hall of Fame tackle Rosie Brown for 13th on the Giants' career list.
--WR Hakeem Nicks' 135 receiving yards was his second-highest yardage total of the season and his 13th regular-season 100-yard game, tying him with Del Shofner for fourth place on the Giants' franchise list. Nicks' last 100-yard receiving effort this season came on Oct. 6 when he had 142 yards against the Eagles. He has not, however, caught a touchdown pass this season.
--QB Eli Manning's two interceptions against the Chargers bring his 2013 season total to 20, which leads the NFL, and which also ties his 2007 total as the second-highest in his career. He threw 25 interceptions in 2010. Manning was also sacked twice, extending his total to 32 sacks this season, a career-high.
--S Cooper Taylor (hamstring) left the game in the third quarter after becoming injured. This is his second go-round with a hamstring ailment, this time being . He was spotted on the sideline walking with a noticeable limp.
--RB Brandon Jacobs (knee) was put on season-ending injured reserve, which may really be career-ending. Jacobs finishes the 2013 season with 238 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He was signed for a second stint with the Giants in September when David Wilson had fumbling issues and Andre Brown was recovering from a broken leg.
Jacobs, 31, was with the Giants from 2005-2011, rushing for 4,849 yards and 56 touchdowns over those seven seasons. He made the trip to San Diego despite being listed as doubtful, but was scratched from the lineup.
--DE Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) has apparently made enough progress to where he could return to practice this week, per head coach Tom Coughlin.
REPORT CARD VS. CHARGERS
PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Receiver Hakeem Nicks is still scoreless this season, even after finishing with his first 100-yard receiving game (135 yards on five reception) since Week 5 vs. the Eagles. Eli Manning continues to throw interceptions--he had two this week thanks to miscommunications with his receivers. And the pass blocking continues to be an unorganized mess with little hope that things are going to get better this season. Times sure have changed for this one-time strength on offense.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Take away Andre Brown's fumble, and the running game was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal showing, finishing with an average of 4.6 yards per carry. The problem, though was given how quickly the Giants fell behind, they weren't able to go to the running game more than the 20 total carries they were able to dish out.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- The effort was solid, even if the scheme didn't quite put them in the best position to be successful. Justin Tuck added two more sacks, giving him six over the last two games. But the curious decisions to rush two or three linemen at Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers didn't do the Giants any good, nor did the decisions that saw Spencer Paysinger isolated against Vincent Brown, or Prince Amukamara giving up a seven to ten-yard cushion against the speedy rookie Keenan Allen.
RUSH DEFENSE: D -- After being so good against the run, the Giants were gashed every which way by the Chargers, who racked up 144 yards on 40 attempts (3.6 avg.) Ryan Matthews (103 yards in 29 carries, 1 touchdown) became the first opposing running back to rush for more than 100 yards against the Giants since DeAngelo Williams of the Panthers did it in Week 3.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus -- the kicking and punting were solid and the coverage wasn't too shabby, though on kickoffs, things could have been better. However, two glaring mistakes that marred the performance included a neutral zone infraction against rookie Charles James that gave the Chargers a chance to redeem themselves after missing a field goal, and a holding call against Ryan Mundy that wiped out Michael cox's best kickoff return of the game.
COACHING: F -- Pick any area for which coaching is responsible and chances are you'll find a glaring deficiency existed this week. Start with the mental errors, such as rookie Charles James being in the neutral zone on the field goal defense team. Why that wasn't spotted or corrected before it was too late was disappointing. Or how about the clock management at the end of the second quarter, when the Giants sashayed around the field as though they were the ones up 17-0 at the time. Perhaps if the coaches had run an up-tempo pace on offense, the Chargers don't get an opportunity to review Andre Brown's fumble. Last, but not least, was the schemes on both sides of the ball. Despite showing no consistency of being able to pass block for more than a couple of seconds all year long, there were still deep passes requiring five-and seven-step drops called in the passing game. On defense, meanwhile, the game plan's flaws included having the corners play way off the receivers and sending two or three-man rushes at the Chargers, especially in the red zone.
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