EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Justin Tuck has been to the mountain with the 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.
Matt Moore and the Carolina Panthers (7-8) brought down the house, turning the Giants' final game in the 34-year-old stadium into one of the ugliest games in franchise history with a 41-9 rout that left New York hoping for a miracle ending to make the playoffs.
They didn't get it. No playoffs this season.
Coupled with Green Bay's win over Seattle and Dallas' victory over Washington last night, the loss eliminated the Giants from playoff contention for the first time in 5 years, something totally unexpected after a 5-0 start.
"It's tough," Tuck said after the Giants (8-7) lost for the seventh time in 10 games. "Like you said, 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, who started 5-0, knew what was at stake. They needed to win their final two games and hope that either Green Bay or Dallas lose one of their remaining two. Didn't happen.
After booing their defense most of the day, many left the stadium 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.
After a holding penalty nullified a touchdown pass and a later fumble cost them the ball on their opening possession, the Giants played like a team going through the motions and the Panthers dominated.
Moore (15-for-20, 171 yards) threw three touchdown passes, Jonathan Stewart rushed for a franchise-best 206 yards and the Panthers shredded New York's defense for 416 yards - 247 rushing.
"We had to come out here and play tough and play to win, regardless of what they had on the line," Moore said.
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 (29-for-43, 296 yards) 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 with 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.