by Jon Wagner / SNYGiants contributor
Giants GM Jerry Reese can finally stop that Super Bowl XLVIII countdown clock he kept in the New York Giants’ locker room, even throughout his team’s awful 0-6 start to the 2013 season.
Yes, time has officially run out on the Giants after they spotted the San Diego Chargers (6-7) a 24-0 halftime lead in a 37-14 road loss that, along with victories by Philadelphia and Arizona on Sunday, dropped New York to just 5-8 and out of the NFC playoff picture.
While the Giants have produced a pair of unlikely Super Bowl runs over the past seven seasons, they’ve also missed the playoffs in four of the past five years -- even though, with wins in each of their final three games this year, they can still avoid their first losing season over that time.
Regardless of how things play out in those final three weeks, New York will have a lot of key decisions to make when it enters the 11th season in New York’s Tom Coughlin-Eli Manning era -- one that hasn’t suffered a losing year since an inaugural 6-10 campaign in 2004.
Part of those determinations will be based on what several players show down the stretch of the season.
If many of them want to keep their roster spots next year, they’ll have to demonstrate a lot more than what was on display for much of the current season, and what continued against the Chargers.
Once again, the Giants lost the turnover battle (this time, 3-1) while San Diego ran 16 more plays (70-54) and controlled the ball for nearly 14 more minutes than New York.
The Giants’ first miscue -- Manning’s first of two interceptions that gave him a league-high-tying 20 on the season -- on New York’s second possession, was quickly turned into a 43-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Phillip Rivers (21-for-28, 249 yards, three touchdowns) to wide receiver Keenan Allen (three catches, 59 yards, two touchdowns) and a 7-0 first–quarter lead.
That score was merely the first of four straight San Diego scoring drives to end the opening half.
A 15-play, 76-yard drive the next time the Chargers touched the ball, ended with a 36-yard field goal by kicker Nick Novak, who was given a second chance after Charles James was offside on a 41-yard miss. Novak’s reprieve upped the lead to 10-0 early in the second quarter.
Following a Giants three-and-out, San Diego capped an 11-play, 67-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to Allen. And after running back Andre Brown (16 carries, 81 yards) lost a fumble for the first time in his career, running back Danny Woodhead (seven carries, 42 yards; four catches, 52 yards, one touchdown) extended the Chargers’ advantage to 24-0 on a six-yard touchdown reception from Rivers, 19 seconds before halftime.
Defensive end Justin Tuck (six tackles, two sacks), whose half-dozen sacks in the past two weeks made a strong statement for upcoming contract renegotiations, dropped Rivers for a loss and forced a fumble, that set New York up with just 18 yards to go, to get on the board on a one-yard touchdown run by running back Peyton Hillis (four carries, 11 yards, one touchdown) in the third quarter.
However, that was answered with an 11-play, 75-yard drive and a one-yard touchdown plunge by running back Ryan Matthews (29 carries, 103 yards, one touchdown), that pushed San Diego’s lead to 31-7 later in the period.
Manning (20-for-32, 259 yards) drove the Giants 86 yards on 11 plays, and threw his only touchdown pass to tight end Brandon Myers (four catches, 26 yards, one touchdown) on the first play of the final quarter, but the Chargers closed the scoring on a pair of field goal drives to mercifully put an end to New York’s unrealistic playoff hopes.
With nothing but pride and jobs for to play for next the rest of the way, Reese and the Giants’ coaching staff will next be able to get a good evaluation of their roster against the NFC’s best, the Seattle Seahawks (11-2), at MetLife Stadium, next Sunday.