By Steve Silverman
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It’s all over for the Giants.
Even though the Giants ripped apart the Philadelphia Eagles 42-7 and played the kind of football in the final game that Tom Coughlin had expected but did not receive in much of the second half of the season, their playoff hopes went down the drain when an ordinary Chicago Bears team outlasted the putrid Detroit Lions.
The Bears left Ford Field with a 26-24 victory. The Lions may have ended the season with an eight-game losing streak, but don’t think for a second that they quit in the season finale.
The Lions were down 20-3 late in the second quarter, but they managed to cut the deficit to three points in the third quarter and then two in the final period.
The Lions spent much of the game turning the ball over, but the Detroit defense hung in there. They forced the Bears to settle for four field goals and that allowed the Lions to remain in the game.
Giants fans were hoping for another huge game from Detroit’s all-world wide receiver Calvin Johnson. A week after breaking Jerry Rice’s record for most receiving yards in a season, Johnson was in position to become the first NFL receiver to go past the 2,000-yard mark.
But the Bears can play defense and their cornerbacks are their stars. Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are both going to the Pro Bowl and Tillman almost always gets the assignment of keeping Megatron in check.
Tillman does as good a job against Johnson as defensive back in the league. This time, he held Johnson to five receptions for 72 yards.
But despite Johnson’s inability to dominate, quarterback Matthew Stafford kept the Lions in the game. He threw three touchdown passes and had Chicago’s defense on its heels.
That was plenty of time for the Lions to get a stop, get the ball back and put a game-winning field goal on the board.
Had that happened, there would have been hope inside the bowels of MetLife Stadium.
But it didn’t work out quite that way. The Lions got an initial stop, but the Bears responded with one of their own and the Lions were forced to punt the ball back to Chicago.
On the ensuing possession, it came down to a third-and-short conversion for Chicago. The Bears don’t have a lot of offensive competence, but with the Lions playing man coverage, Jay Cutler counted to three and took off downfield.
He didn’t make a big throw, but he got the first down that killed the Giants with his legs.
So there is no waiting on the Packers and Vikings and then sweating out the Redskins and the Cowboys.
It’s simply all over for a team that most NFL observers look at as having all the weapons needed to defend a Super Bowl championship.
Teams don’t repeat in the NFL anymore. No team has gone back-to-back since the Patriots defeated the Carolina Panthers and the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX. Since then, no Super Bowl participant has made it back for a second year in a row.
Coughlin may be disappointed and he is probably angry.
However, his team should not be broken up.
There will be some fine tuning, but the strongest parts of this team – Eli Manning, the pass rushers and Coughlin – need to come back in 2013 and give it one more try.
What fine tuning would you do in the offseason? Let us know below.