A thorough stomping of the Philadelphia Eagles, which the New York Giants delivered Sunday with a 42-7 thrashing of Philly at MetLife Stadium, is always good for the soul of a Giants' fan. Sunday was definitely bittersweet, though, as the' reign as Super Bowl champions officially came to an end as they were knocked out of the playoffs when the Chicago Bears defeated the Detroit Lions, 26-24.
So, 9-7 was good enough a year ago to get the Giants and NFC East title and propel them on a Super Bowl run. This season, 9-7 sends them home without a playoff berth for the third time in four seasons.
Whether you ever thought back-to-back Super Bowl titles, which hasn't been done since the New England Patriots did that in 2004 and 2005, was realistic it's hard not to feel like this season should have amounted to more than it did. This was a team that won a Super Bowl last season and returned its core components this season. This team should have at least reached January before seeing its title reign come to a close.
Figuring out why the Giants are going home early, why they are so incredibly inconsistent on both offense and defense, and which players are part of the solution is the off-season challenge faced by general manager Jerry Reese, head coach Tom Coughlin and the rest of the Giants' coaching staff.
We have already discussed some of that, and will have lots of time -- too much time, in fact -- to diagnose the shortcomings of the Giants.
For now, though, I want to focus on what we saw Sunday and what much of it might mean for the Giants' future.
Offensively, we saw terrific days from first-round pick David Wilson and second-round pick Rueben Randle.
Wilson carried 15 times for 75 yards and caught a 15-yard touchdown pass. Ahmad Bradshaw ended up with more carries (16) and yards (107) as he surpassed 1,000 yards for the second time in his career. It was significant, I thought, that Wilson started. Whether Bradshaw returns or not next season Wilson has to become the primary back, and this was a step in that direction.
Randle started and played most of the game because the Giants -- finally -- determined that the rookie was a better option than the diminished Hakeem Nicks, who was never fully healthy this season. He caught two touchdown passes, including a 38-yarder that -- with his bad knee and foot -- Nicks simply would not have been able to haul in. Randle showed that he has developed to the point where the Giants have to find a significant role for him in 2013.
I know many of you will wonder why these players weren't given these kinds of opportunities more often this season. Fact is, those, this was the rookie season for both players and what they experienced is hardly atypical. Rather than complain, feel good about what these two play-makers could potentially bring to the offense going forward.
Couple of other feel-good notes from the offense. Henry Hynoski got the first touchdown of his career, and Eli Manning threw a career-high five touchdown passes.
Defensively, we also saw some things that might be hints of what is to come in the future.
We saw a lot of Keith Rivers, Jacquain Williams and Spencer Paysinger at linebacker. We didn't see a whole lot of Michael Boley or Mark Herzlich.
We saw Mathias Kiwanuka at defensive end, where he has been almost exclusively in recent weeks and where he should undoubtedly be if Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck are not Giants next season.
We saw Stevie Brown pick off his eighth pass of the season, once again confirming that he is the best 'center field' type safety the Giants have had in a long time. As good a player as he can be, it is painful to watch Kenny Phillips and his bum knee try to run full speed, and I can't imagine the Giants will spend big money to keep him.
So we saw lots of good things Sunday. And lots of things that give us hints of what the future might look like.
Unfortunately, what we won't see are Giants' playoff games this January.