EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—Justin Tuck(notes) has been to the mountain with New York Giants, winning an NFL title. The defensive end and the rest of the Giants tumbled into a deep valley in their final game at Giants Stadium.
It was a complete embarrassment, and it went a long way in ending their playoff hopes.
Matt Moore(notes) and the Carolina Panthers (7-8) turned the Giants’ 273rd and final game in the 34-year-old stadium into one of their ugliest moments in their franchise history with a 41-9 rout on Sunday.
Coupled with Green Bay’s win over Seattle and Dallas’ victory over Washington on Sunday night, the loss eliminated the Giants (8-7) from playoff contention for the first time in five years, something totally unexpected after a 5-0 start.
New York will close out the season next Sunday at Minnesota.
“It’s tough,” Tuck said after a seventh loss in 10 games. “We had everything at stake playing a team that was only playing for pride, and I guess pride won today. We should have been playing with a little pride ourselves.”
The Giants knew that they probably needed to win their final two games and hope that either Green Bay or Dallas lost one of their remaining two to get to the postseason.
The stunning aspect was the Giants’ no-show effort. After turning the ball over deep in Carolina territory on their first possession, they were horrible and the fans, who came expecting one great final effort at home, let the “boos” fly before heading home well before the game ended.
“For us to play the way we did today, there is obviously no excuse for it,” coach Tom Coughlin said after his team turned over the ball four times and allowed the Panthers to score on six of their first seven possessions.
“We had to come out here and play tough and play to win, regardless of what they had on the line,” said Moore, who completed 15 of 20 passes for 171 in his seventh NFL start.
Coming off a 45-12 throttling of Washington, the Giants came up with another weak effort after a big win, their trademark this season.
“I told someone on the sideline that exact quote, that we have been part of the highest of highs,” Tuck said. “but as far as my vantage point, this is the lowest I have been in a Giants’ uniform.”
Stewart, who now has 1,008 yards rushing this season and joined teammate DeAngelo Williams (1,117) in the 1,000-yard club this season, ran for a 29-yard touchdown and set up another score by Brad Hoover with a 52-yard run.
Eli Manning threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith and Lawrence Tynes kicked a 40-yard field goal for the Giants, who didn’t score until Carolina built a 31-0 lead early in the third quarter.
“It is shocking and it is disappointing,” said Manning, who finished 29 of 43 for 296 yards and two interceptions. “When you have a shot to get into the playoffs and everything is right in front of us, to come and have mistakes and turnovers and penalties, we did about everything we could just to try to lose that game.”
The victory was the third in four games for Panthers coach John Fox, whose future with the team remains cloudy.
The Giants only looked good on their opening drive. Manning methodically drove New York downfield and appeared to cap an 80-yard drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass to the Giants’ Steve Smith.
However, the play was called back by a holding penalty against fullback Madison Hedgecock and the drive eventually ended when Mario Manningham fumbled on third down at the Panthers 17.
Everything after that was all Carolina.
Moore led the Panthers on a 15-play drive before settling for a 38-yard field goal by John Kasay.
Carolina scored on drives of 63, 51 and 29 yards on its next three possession, the last set up by Richard Marshall’s interception.
The sloppy Giants, who missed tackles all game, didn’t get a hand on Stewart on his cutback touchdown run that stretched the lead to 10-0.
“Even though we’ve had some ups and downs, the character of this team is showing as the season comes to an end,” said Stewart, who averaged 7.4 yards a carry.
Moore extended the lead to 17-0 with a 22-yard sideline go pattern to Muhsin Muhammad, and encouraged more boos from the crowd with a 2-yard TD toss to wide-open tight end Jeff King minutes later.
Moore found Carolina’s Steve Smith for a 27-yard TD on the opening possession of the third quarter, but Smith broke his arm on the play and left the game. He is scheduled to have surgery on Monday.
Carolina also got a 27-yard field goal from Kasay and a 1-yard touchdown run by Hoover, a score set up by a 52-yard run by Stewart.
“You’ve got to credit the offensive line,” Moore said. “They did a great job, but the guy just runs angry and you can’t bring him down. You think he’s going down and he goes for another 15.”
Notes: After getting five sacks last week, the Giants had one. … Carolina LB Jon Beason had a game-high 13 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a pass defensed. … Julius Peppers also had a sack for the Panthers. … The Giants were 4-4 at home this season. … Giants WR Steve Smith had game-high nine catches for 70 yards, giving him 99 catches for the season.