My Giants exceeded all expectations by having a regular season that "experts" thought the Jets would achieve: 11-5 record and a division title. Big Blue had the 4th-best offense in the league and was the third-highest scoring team in the NFL. During the course of the season, the Giants scored fewer than 20 points only twice -- in their two games against the Cowboys. They had the most productive running back in the League (Tiki Barber's total yards this season are exceeded only by Marshall Faulk 1999 total) and a QB who, in only his second season (and first full one as a starter) led the conference in TD passes.
So the fact that the Giants became the first team in more than 2.5 decades to be shut out at home in the playoffs is rather disgusting. Worse yet is this quote, which sums up the game perfectly:
"It was strange -- they were in our huddle a little bit," said running back Tiki Barber, who was held to a season-low 41 yards. "They kind of had us dissected and figured out and we couldn't get anything going consistently."
It's called COACHING boys and girls. As in: John Fox, the Panthers' coach and a man who took a stink team to the Super Bowl within two years, led a team defenestrated by injury from a 1-7 start to a 7-9 record last year and back to the playoffs with a semi-healthy (at best) team this year. As in: Tim Lewis, the Giants' defensive coordinator who had responsibility for devising the game plan to stop the Panthers' heretofore weak ground game (45 carries, 223 yards!) and Steve Smith, the Panthers' only real receiving threat . . . who wound up with 10 catches, 96 total yards and 2 TD. As in: Tom Coughlin, the head coach and an offensive guy who helped direct the team to . . . 132 total yards and an inability even to get into field goal range.
Sorry stuff all around for Big Blue. A bitter end for what had been a good season.