For New York, Manning, season ends with Giant letdown

Asante Samuel celebrates interception by leaping on top of Quintin Mikell, who made pick.

EAST RUTHERFORD - The quarterback was horrific.

The running game, toothless.

The decisions, if not poor, then, at least, fruitless.

So ended the Giants' bizarre, suddenly empty season, losing the fourth of five games. They lost to the Eagles for the second time in 6 weeks, this one in the divisional playoff game, 23-11.

The Giants were a top seed, the defending NFL champion, now a rested, healthy home loser.

"I don't think shock is the right word," said coach Tom Coughlin, sounding shocked.

He led the team to an 11-1 start.

And then, injury, accident and disaster.

Workhorse back Brandon Jacobs, with a gimpy knee; tight end Kevin Boss, with a sprained ankle; defensive anchor Fred Robbins, with a shoulder sprain. They used the late-season slide and the bye week to rest and heal.

Jacobs yesterday romped for 92 yards on 19 carries. Boss caught three passes for 52 yards, two for more than 20. Robbins was a monster in the middle, and he even plucked an unlikely interception and ran it back 17 humorous yards.

It was a rare moment of levity since the shooting.

Top wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who slays the Eagles, shot himself through the thigh in a Manhattan night club the weekend before the Giants' slide began. He was already hurt, but he was due to return against the Birds.

Instead, wounded, suspended and fined, he served as a hole in the roster and a continual distraction for a team whose resilience could not handle this issue.

"It's not about Plaxico," said Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

His passer rating is 58.1 since the Giants' first loss to the Eagles. His passer rating yesterday was 40.7, worst of the season. He was 15-for-29 for 169 yards and two interceptions. The meaningful pick came in the first quarter and led to the Eagles' first touchdown.

"Just threw it high," he said.

Just threw it high . . . to Domenik Hixon, Burress' replacement.

After scoring 36 points and beating the Eagles with Burress, the Giants managed 25 points in two subsequent games against the Birds without him.


"I don't think that has a whole lot to do with it," Coughlin said.


"When he isn't there, there's a huge part of their offense taken away," said Eagles safety Brian Dawkins.

Excuse Coughlin's dogged avoidance of the Burress fiasco. Yesterday, he had more immediate pressures to deal with.

His team was stopped twice on fourth down near midfield in the fourth quarter. Both times, the decision was punt or go. Both times, Coughlin's decision was justifiable.

Both times, they weren't close.

Coughlin also asked his 44-year-old kicker to make two field goals outside of 45 yards. John Carney pushed the first one and pulled the second.

"Would you not have gone for it on fourth-and-an-inch? Would you not have gone for it on fourth-and-2 with the game where it was? Would you not have kicked the field goals?" snapped Coughlin, always crusty, never conciliatory. "The legitimate, logical calls were made."

In his mind, certainly. *