NFL

Giants' playoff hopes take massive hit

Watch highlights from the Ravens' win over Giants.
Watch highlights from the Ravens' win over Giants.
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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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BALTIMORE

The New York Giants could still be a playoff team even after a 33-14 setback to the Baltimore Ravens.

It’s a complex (and unlikely) scenario, but one thing was settled at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday. The only resemblance this Giants team has to last season’s championship squad or the one in 2007 that also won a Super Bowl is the “NY” on the side of their helmets.

“We are flatlining right now,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.

The Ravens — despite entering on a three-game skid — wouldn’t serve as the Giants’ crash cart.

Quarterback Joe Flacco outdueled his Giants counterpart, Eli Manning, throughout as Baltimore compiled 533 yards of total offense and the once-feared Ravens defense looked a little less ancient. Baltimore, which had already secured a playoff berth, finally seized the AFC North title with the win.

For the Giants, the spiral continued. This was the Giants’ third loss over their last four games and, with it, any chance of winning the NFC East — a division they had led until the Washington Redskins’ resurgence — went out the window. Over the last two games, the Giants were outscored by the Atlanta Falcons and Ravens 67-10.

“I can’t my put finger on it,” said defensive lineman Chris Canty, one of the Giants’ defenders forced out Sunday due to injury. “I don’t know what’s happening. I can’t explain it. I don’t have any answers right now.”

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Answers, like smiles, were hard to come by in the sullen visiting locker room. While the lack of execution may not have been easily explained, it wasn’t hard to diagnose how things went terribly wrong for the Giants.

Manning, who was held to his second-lowest passing output on the season (150 yards), had little time in the pocket. He was hit nine times by the Ravens — often from blitzing linebackers off the corners — was sacked three times. A major byproduct of the pressure was the Giants’ lackluster performance on third down, where they went 2 for 10.

The Giants’ defense was gashed for 309 yards and two touchdowns by Flacco through the air. The Ravens’ ground game included two 100-yard rushers: Bernard Pierce (123 yards) and Ray Rice (107).

“It just seems like the same thing keeps happening over and over,” Giants safety Antrel Rolle said. “We haven’t been ready to come out there and play on Sunday.”

The Giants were probably not in any better mood after they learned what it will take to make it to the postseason.

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The most straightforward scenario requires all the teams in the NFC wild-card hunt — Seattle, Minnesota and Chicago to lose next week — and a Giants victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the regular-season finale.

“All we can do is go out and play better football,” Manning said. “We have to go to Philadelphia. Hopefully, we can get a win and if we make it into the playoffs, that would be great. But whatever happens is going to happen.”

This kind of playoff-scenario math wouldn’t have been necessary if the Giants closed like they did a season ago. New York won its final two games and six in a row total, capped by a 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Instead, Coughlin and the players talked about the lack of any ignition source.

“For some reason, it seems like we are we’re waiting on a spark and we need to create a spark instead,” linebacker Chase Blackburn said.

Coughlin said he thought the team had it in a 52-27 victory over the New Orleans Saints two weeks ago, one that would serve as a rallying point much like Victor Cruz’s 99-yard touchdown reception in a Week 16 victory over the New York Jets last season.

“We don’t have the momentum going,” Coughlin said. “What happened for us last year, we had a spark. We really had a great spark, whether it was the Victor Cruz 99-yarder or whatever it was. It really reinvigorated our team. It’s not a very confident group right now.”

Tagged: Giants, Ravens, Eli Manning, Victor Cruz

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