When the Giants took their 11-point lead with 6:17 remaining, it was like a gift for the down-trodden franchise. They were about to erase the misery of their 0-5 start and be serious contenders in this awful division. They suddenly had a new life.
Then the Eagles, who had the same one win as the Giants coming in, scored two touchdowns in the final 4:38 that had to feel like a cold shower to the entire Giants organization. They got a stark reminder of what they really are: A rebuilding football team. A bad football team.
And bad football teams find a way to lose.
“I think for us it’s a tough one to swallow,” said linebacker Blake Martinez. “I hate to say it but it’s the same thing over and over again. It’s lapses, just one guy here, one guy there.”
“It sucked,” added safety Jabrill Peppers. “But it is what it is. It hurts. We had a phenomenal chance to win and set ourselves up.”
Yes they did, and they absolutely blew it. They blew a chance to change the tenor of their entire season. For the next week, maybe more, they would’ve been a team with momentum with a real shot to win a down-on-its-luck division. There would’ve been excitement, energy and positive vibes that might have even carried over to the field – things the Giants haven’t experienced since 2015.
Instead, they just reminded everyone – including themselves – that they are one failed two-point conversion by Washington away from being 0-7. In other words, they’re lucky to have one win at all.
And really, they are. It’s true that they’ve been close in six of their seven games, but it’s also true that they don’t have the talent or ability to be much more than that. They have an offense that can’t consistently move the ball, a running game that’s virtually non-existent, and a defense that plays tough but is almost inevitably worn down.
There’s this reality, too: They don’t have reliable playmakers. They have guys that can make plays occasionally, and a couple of potential stars. But what they don’t have is the one player on either side of the ball who they can count on to come through in the clutch.
That was crystal clear on Thursday night, first when Evan Engram dropped a perfectly thrown pass into his hands that would’ve given the Giants a first down – or perhaps even a touchdown – that would’ve sealed the game. And then when Peppers couldn’t cover 5-foot-6 running back Boston Scott when he made the game-winning touchdown catch.
Of course, everyone knew this. It seemed obvious coming into the season, it was painfully obvious when Saquon Barkley was lost for the season and it should’ve been crystal clear at 0-5. But after 3 ½ years of losing, it was easy to believe when faced with an historically terrible division. The Giants look nothing like a contender, but they had a chance to at least pretend to be one.
But they just couldn’t escape what they are. And while what they are is not all bad, it’s clearly not good enough.
“I have nothing I can say right now that’s going to make anyone feel better about how the game turned out,” said Giants coach Joe Judge. “We’re not going to make any excuses to the fans. … We’re putting together a foundation for a team we hope that lasts and will play the right type of football for a long time. We’ve got a culture being built right now that’s moving in the right direction. We’ve got a lot of good football being played."
“Obviously,” he added, “we’ve got to clean up a lot of things.”
Yes they do. And little by little this season, they probably will. But they’re not likely to win many games along the way. Their offensive line is still bad. They don’t have a consistent pass rush. Their quarterback is regressing. And it doesn’t help when his playmakers rack up the drops. There is a ton to fix, which Judge knew when he was hired by the Giants. And he knew it wouldn’t be easy in a year with no offseason and no preseason games.
It’s going to take time, even though Judge’s message to Giants fans was “I’m not going to ask you to be patient. That’s not your job to be patient.” And while that may be true, these Giants are going to require a lot of patience nonetheless.
Because while the fleeting thought of meaningful football games was nice, it was never their reality. They’re not winners yet. Maybe they’re close. But close doesn’t really matter.
“It don’t matter if you play well most of the game and don’t finish,” Peppers said. “We’re not patting ourselves on the back for that.”