The Giants let their playoff destiny slip through their fingers Sunday in an horrific 23-10 loss to the eminently-beatable Redskins.
The Giants, thanks to a defense that couldn't stop a fly and a set of wide receivers that couldn't catch a cold in a big spot, fell to 7-7 and now sit a game behind Dallas, who ran over Tampa Bay the previous evening.
The loss makes Saturday's Jets game all that much more important now, especially if Dallas beats Philadelphia later that day. Assuming the Giants win -- a big leap of faith considering the horrendous play of the Redskins' game -- the season will come down to the home finale against the Cowboys.
If they lose and Philadelphia wins, it will be entirely possible for the Eagles to sneak into the playoffs as the NFC East winner. But that's a huge longshot.
It didn't matter Sunday, however. All that did was that the Giants handed their fans a great, big scrambled egg when they most needed a nice, fluffy omlet. The crowd got an early taste of what the day might hold when Hakeem Nicks dropped a deep, easy touchdown pass. Things got worse from there as Eli Manning stepped backward from his efficient play over the last four games to throw three interceptions, including one in the end zone as the Giants tried to get back from 23-3 n the fourth quarter.
They had one goal-line touchdown overturned, and then failed to score. And Ahmad Bradshaw's dive was also overturned, though Bradshaw did score the meaningless touchdown three plays later.
The defense remained an unmitigated disaster, unable to stop the run or career underachiever Rex Grossman's passing. The Redskins finished with 123 yards rushing and 177 passing. The Giants had an uncharacterstic eight penalites.
The worst part, however, was the passionless play of the entire team. After Nicks dropped that touchdown pass, the energy went downhill.
"Obviously I'm disapointed," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "We were embarrassed considering what was at stake. It's very disappointing."
Said coach Tom Coughlin, "I'm very disappointed in how we played today. I accept responsibility for it. But I expected to see more -- quality execution -- and we didn't get that."
Brandon Jacobs said he couldn't understand how his team could play that poorly with so much at stake.
"I didn't see the passion in us today," Jacobs said. "We disappointed each other and our fans, and we've just got to play better. I can't tell you why. We prepared hard all week. For whatever reason, I can't answer that."
On top of that, the Giants may have lost a special teamer and a tight end in the process. Devin Thomas went down on the final kickoff of the first half for nearly 10 minutes with a neck injury that doctors will classify either as a stinger or a disc injury, pending tests. He made a hit and lay motionless for most of halftime before he was carted off the field, his head in a restraint.
Tight end Jake Ballard also went down with a knee injury in the first half after a hard hit following a reception. He did not return, and he will be evaluated in the next couple of days.
Here's the good and bad of the game.
Corey Webster and Kenny Phillips: The cornerback intercepted a Rex Grossman flea-flicker on the first play from scrimmage. Unfortunately, an unnecessary roughness call on Chris Canty after the play moved it back to the Giants' 18, where they did nothing with it. It marked his team-high fifth pick of the season. Later in the quarter, Phillips picked off a deep throw to Jabar Gaffney for his third interception of the season.
HAKEEM NICKS: The usually reliable downfield threat made a huge drop in the first quarter, down 3-0, as Manning hit Nicks with a perfect pass as Nicks beat defensive backs Byron Westbrook and DeJon Gomes by three yards for a sure touchdown.
FIRST-HALF DEFENSE: Leaky run defense, missed assignments again in the secondary, and the Redskins moved easily during the first half to build up a 17-3 halftime lead. The defense allowed nearly 200 yards of offense in the first half, including 114 yards and a touchdown from Grossman. The damage would have been even worse had Grossman not had the two picks that resulted in one-play drives. The defense allowed the Redskins to run off 40 plays, to the Giants' 22, that half. It didn't get any better in the second half, either.
Lawrence Tynes: He missed his first field goal in a long time, pushing it wide left from 44 yards out in the third quarter as the Giants tried to recover from a three-score lead. He had hit 12 straight from less than 61 yards
ELI MANNING: The first one wasn't his fault, but he did throw three interceptions, including the fourth-quarter pick by Josh Wilson in the corner of the end zone as Mario Manningham failed to make a defensive play on the overthrown fade.