EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Giants rediscovered their pride and dignity in the final weekend of the regular season.
The playoff berth that appeared to be a formality for the defending Super Bowl champions after 6-2 start, however, eluded them.
Despite getting a career-best five touchdown passes from Eli Manning, New York's playoff hopes ended Sunday minutes after a 42-7 win over the Philadelphia Eagles when Chicago beat Detroit 26-24.
"It's frustrating and it will be for some time," Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee said. "I believe we're a better team than 9-7, but there is no ground to stand on. That's our record and the way we played the last two weeks, we don't deserve to be in the playoffs."
The Giants had control of their playoff destiny until late in the season when they were blown out by playoff-bound Atlanta and Baltimore in what were no-show efforts. It gave Washington and Dallas the inside track for the NFC East title, and the Redskins won it Sunday night.
"It hurts," Manning said. "Each year you want to make the playoffs to give yourself an opportunity to win a championship; 9-7 last year was good enough. It wasn't good enough this year and we knew it wouldn't be."
New York entered the final weekend needing a win, losses by Chicago and Minnesota and a tie or loss by Dallas to earn a wildcard spot.
While they did their part, the Giants will be cleaning out their lockers on Monday.
"The first thing is you don't ever rely on anybody else in this business," coach Tom Coughlin said. "You've got to take care of your own business. We certainly had our chances. That will be the No. 1 thing I'll talk to the team about (Monday).
"And I really do want to discuss with some of the players what in the world was the last two weeks all about. Quite frankly, I'm anxious to find out if anybody has an opinion or an answer because our program, literally, is the same except for the emphasis throughout the course of our introduction to the next opponent."
The Giants have much to consider after missing the playoffs for the third time in four years in what has become all-or-nothing seasons. They won the Super Bowls in 2008 and '12 but they have also been a postseason spectator more than they would like.
"It happens that way," defensive captain Justin Tuck said. "I've been 10-6 and not made the playoffs. You've got to win the ones you're supposed to. That's why the division games mean so much. If we'd won the division games, we'd still be in the driver's seat."
This marks the seventh straight season the Super Bowl champion has failed to win a playoff game the following year.
Manning did his part to keep the Giants in the chase hitting 13 of 21 for 208 yards. He threw touchdown passes of 3 and 38 yards to rookie Rueben Randle, a 15-yarder to David Wilson and a 24-yarder to Victor Cruz just before halftime for a 35-7 lead. He became the first Giant to throw five TD passes in a game since Phil Simms in 1980. Manning's fifth score was a 1-yard pass to fullback Henry Hynoski in the fourth quarter.
"It definitely stings after coming off a season like we did last year, winning the Super Bowl, you want to get it and go back to the playoffs and potentially do that again," said Cruz. "But it hurts a little bit."
Instead the Giants are on the outside looking in.
"We are certainly disappointed we are not in the playoffs," said Coughlin. "Our goal was certainly to be there. Our goal was to win the division. We didn't do that, either. We won nine games and there is no way anyone can talk us out of that. We do have the nine wins, but it's not good enough."
NOTES: About 400 residents of Newtown, Conn., attended the game. Among them were a few families who lost children in the massacre this month, the Giants said. One was the family of Jack Pinto, the 6-year-old boy buried in a Cruz jersey. ... Bradshaw finished with 1,015 yards rushing. ... Manning fell 52 yards shy of his fourth straight 4,000-yard passing season. ... Giants S Stevie Brown's 48-yard return gave him 307 yards in interception returns this season, extending his Giants' single-season record. ... Eagles safety Colt Anderson led the team with 10 tackles.
What went wrong for Big Blue? Sound off in the comments...
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
for more features.