SAN DIEGO (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York Giants got themselves in big trouble with an 0-6 start, and then began to climb out of the hole by winning five of six.
Coach Tom Coughlin even felt the Giants were regaining some respectability.
That is until they got off to a terrible start and went on to a 37-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday and were eliminated from the playoff picture.
“We had played pretty well five or six weeks in a row and then we came in there today and the first half was just a very, very poor performance,” Coughlin said.
“We have a three-game schedule to go,” he added. “We have three games to work as hard as we can, prepare as hard as we can and see if we can regain some of the respectability we lost today.”
After being eliminated, defensive end Justin Tuck said the Giants still had a chance to “redeem ourselves as football players.”
“That’s what we get paid to do is to go out there and win football games,” Tuck said. “We won’t worry about where we are in the playoffs. We’ll put the blinders on and we have to go out there and win football games and that’s all we have to be worried about.”
“It’s difficult but it’s reality,” wide receiver Hakeem Nicks said. “Only thing we can do now is control playing these last three games to really show what we are made of. I don’t like it by a stretch, but it’s reality like I said and we have to face it.”
Philip Rivers found rookie Keenan Allen for two of his three touchdown passes as the Chargers (6-7) stayed alive in the playoff picture. They won for just the second time in six games.
Eli Manning dropped to 0-3 against San Diego since 2004, when the Chargers took him with the No. 1 overall draft pick and then sent him a short time later to the Giants for Rivers and a handful of draft picks.
Manning was picked off twice, the first time when Donald Butler came up with a deflected pass midway through the first quarter. Three plays later, Allen got open for a 43-yard play that he completed by lunging for the pylon for the score.
“Yeah, that wasn’t the goal,” Manning said of the Giants’ elimination. “Each year this team expects to make the playoffs and to be in contention for championships. To know that with three games to go is disappointing and today’s loss was a tough one.”
Manning was booed all day.
“Fans never affected my play and I just try to go out there and just try to play good football,” Manning said.
Asked if the fans affected Manning, Coughlin said: “I don’t think so at all. I think their team affected us.”
Said Rivers: “I think it is funny after 10 years. I don’t have the same feeling toward him. After 10 years you think they would let up. I just hope that they are glad that I’m here.”
Allen had three catches to push his season total to 61, breaking LaDainian Tomlinson’s team rookie record of 59 in 2001. Rivers was 21 of 28 for 249 yards before being replaced by Charlie Whitehurst with more than five minutes left.
Manning was 20 of 32 for 259 yards, with one TD.
Allen also had a 4-yard TD catch and Danny Woodhead grabbed a 6-yard scoring reception.
Manning also lost to the Chargers in 2005, when Drew Brees was still their starting quarterback, and in 2009, when Rivers threw three touchdown passes, including a last-minute, game-winner to Vincent Jackson.
New York (5-8) lost for just the second time in seven games.
The Chargers are tied with the New York Jets, one game behind Baltimore and Miami in the race for the second AFC wild-card spot. The Chargers visit Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on Thursday night. The Broncos beat the Chargers 28-20 on Nov. 10.
Allen was hurt while making a 12-yard catch late in the first quarter and went into the locker room. He returned late in the second quarter and caught his second scoring pass to give San Diego a 17-0 lead.
A 36-yard field goal by Nick Novak and Rivers’ TD pass to Woodhead — which was set up by Marcus Gilchrist’s recovery of Andrew Brown’s fumble — helped the Chargers take a 24-0 halftime lead.
The Chargers blew a 24-0 halftime lead to Peyton Manning and the Broncos last year, but weren’t about to do to same to Manning’s little brother and the Giants.
Rivers was sacked by Tuck and fumbled on the first possession of the second half, with Cullen Jenkins recovering at the 18 to set up Peyton Hillis’ 1-yard scoring run.
Rivers appeared to injure his neck when he dove for the loose ball but stayed in the game.
Ryan Mathews scored on a 1-yard run to cap an 11-play, 80-yard drive that was all on the ground except for a pass from Rivers to Vincent Brown that drew a 36-yard pass interference call against linebacker Spencer Paysinger.
Manning threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Myers and Novak added field goals of 27 and 43 yards, all in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: A moment of silence was observed for Nelson Mandela before the national anthem. … Chargers OLB Melvin Ingram made his season debut after tearing up his left knee in May. He had one tackle.
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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 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.)