The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants picked a terrible time to play their worst football of the season, and now they’re on the brink of missing the playoffs.
A 33-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday left New York in a desperate position heading into the final week of the season.
“The next game, if it’s our last, whatever happens, we just want to leave with pride,” running back Ahmad Bradshaw said.
It’s come down to that for the Giants (8-7), who fell out of a tie atop the NFC East with their fifth loss in seven games. New York was coming off a 34-0 defeat at Atlanta, and this one was almost as ugly.
“You saw the scoreboard,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “It wasn’t real pretty, but that’s what can happen in football.”
The Giants gave up a whopping 533 yards and gained only 186. Baltimore had the ball for 39 minutes, 21 seconds compared to 20:39 for New York.
“Obviously we have a bad formula going on right here,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “We’re having trouble stopping people and our offense doesn’t hold the ball at all to give the defense a chance to catch their breath. We’ve had two games in a row, pretty much the exact same scenario.”
Joe Flacco threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns for the Ravens (10-5), who ended a three-game losing streak and secured their second straight division crown.
“It feels good,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said in the upbeat locker room. “I’m just glad we finally got it done.”
The Ravens led 24-7 at halftime and cruised to the finish behind a short-handed defense that sacked Manning three times and limited him to 150 yards passing.
The victory assured the Ravens of a home playoff game in the first weekend of January.
“We know what’s at stake. We want the AFC championship and it starts tonight,” safety James Ihedigbo said. “Playoffs started for us. We’re not looking at regular season. Playoffs started for us and we’re going to keep on playing.”
Flacco rebounded from a stretch in which he committed two turnovers in each of Baltimore’s three straight defeats. He completed 25 of 36 passes, ran for a score and did not throw an interception or lose a fumble.
He repeatedly picked on New York cornerback Corey Webster, who couldn’t contain Smith or Anquan Boldin. Smith caught five passes for 88 yards and a touchdown, and Boldin finished with seven receptions for 93 yards.
Backup Bernard Pierce ran for 123 yards as part of a running attack that generated 224 yards.
New York will need a win over Philadelphia next week and help from other teams to squeeze into the postseason.
“I feel badly for everyone in that locker room because they can’t turn this thing around either,” Coughlin said. “What has happened over the course of the last couple of weeks is very difficult to explain. We just don’t look like a well-oiled machine offensively at all.”
Said Manning: “We knew we had to play our best football at the end of the season to get into the playoffs and we haven’t done that. When you’re not playing your best, teams can come out and embarrass you.”
Baltimore’s first drive ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Smith. The play came after officials overturned a fumble by Jacoby Jones at the New York 5 following a replay review.
The 73-yard drive featured a few new wrinkles from the Ravens’ offense, most notably an option pitch from Flacco to Rice and third-string running back Anthony Allen’s first catch of the season, a first-down grab at the New York 40.
After the Giants went three-and-out for a second straight time, Smith made an outstanding catch behind Webster for a 43-yard gain and Flacco scored from the 1.
Manning followed with a four-play, 77-yard drive highlighted by a 43-yard completion to Rueben Randle and a 14-yard touchdown run by David Wilson.
That, however, would be the extent of the New York offense until Domenik Hixon caught a 13-yard touchdown pass with 3:18 left. After scoring 52 against New Orleans on Dec. 9, the Giants have totaled only 14 points in the past two weeks.
“All we can do is go out and get back to playing better football,” Manning said.
The Ravens went up 17-7 midway through the second quarter. After Boldin hurt Webster for 39-yard gain on a third-and-19, a replay erased a 9-yard touchdown catch by Jacoby Jones and forced Baltimore to settle for a field goal.
Late in the half, the Ravens moved 76 yards in seven plays for a 24-7 lead. Flacco went 5 for 5 for 68 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown pass to Rice.
Baltimore opted for ball control in the second half, and the Giants were powerless to stop them. After an exchange of punts at the start of the third quarter, the Ravens moved 82 yards in 16 plays, holding the ball for just short of eight minutes, before Justin Tucker kicked a 20-yard field goal.
The lead became 30-7 with 11:08 left when Tucker concluded a 13-play, 62-yard drive with a 30-yard field goal.
Tucker added his fourth field goal after a 78-yard run by Pierce moved the ball to the New York 1.
NOTES: Flacco has thrown for a career-high 3,783 yards this season. … New York defensive linemen Marvin Austin and Chris Canty both left with knee injuries. … Boldin hurt his shoulder in the third quarter and did not return. … Baltimore has won 10 straight regular-season home finales and has 13 consecutive home victories over NFC foes. … It was only the fifth time in 47 games that New York did not force a turnover.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.