ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Foolish.
That's what Giants right tackle Marshall Newhouse said of any thoughts that the Giants' season was over just because they lost their first two games.
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"People are very quick when you are 0-2 to declare you dead when there are 16 games in an NFL season," he said.StatsBoxscore: Giants vs. BillsDatabaseEli Manning career touchdowns database
On Sunday, the Giants showed they are nobody's fools. They played a strong (thought not perfect) game against a sloppy and undisciplined Bills team and left Ralph Wilson Stadium with a 24-10 victory that evened their record at 2-2.
They also came up big in the fourth quarter for the first time this season, using a goal-line stand and a long stomach-settling touchdown catch and run by Rashad Jennings to seal what might be the team's biggest win in three seasons.
The Giants ended the first quarter of the season in a tie for the NFC East lead with the Cowboys (who lost to the Saints in overtime Sunday night) and Washington.
"You feel like you are back in the mix winning two games in a row with everything going on in the division," Eli Manning said.
"It shows grit," Tom Coughlin said of his team's ability to overcome those two losses to start the season. "We are the team I thought us to be . . . They're battlers."
The big stand came when the Bills (2-2) had the ball first-and-goal at the 9. After Karlos Williams ran to the 5, Tyrod Taylor passed to Robert Woods and Landon Collins made a high tackle at the 2 to save the touchdown. On third down, it was Kerry Wynn's turn to save the six as he tackled the speedy Taylor at the 1 on a run to the right. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, Taylor threw a pass to Williams but J.T. Thomas made the tackle to complete the stand.
It was the second straight strong drive for the Bills that resulted in no points. A series earlier, the Bills missed a 30-yard field-goal attempt when Dan Carpenter pulled it wide left.
The Giants' offense was unable to hold the momentum, though, going three-and-out after the goal-line stand and giving the ball back to the Bills. They responded with their first touchdown of the game, a 23-yard pass from Taylor to Williams with Devon Kennard in coverage that made it 16-10 with 9:41 remaining.
Given the Giants' struggles late in games this season -- they entered the game with a league-worst scoring differential of minus-19 in the fourth quarter -- it definitely was time for a gulp.
But just when those fourth-quarter flashbacks were starting to bubble up like indigestion from too many wings at the Anchor Bar, Jennings took control of the situation. He caught a short screen pass, broke a tackle attempt by Nigel Bradham, high-stepped out of the reach of Preston Brown down the sideline and made a cut and stiff-arm move against Bacarri Rambo for a 51-yard touchdown.
"At first, I was thinking just get the first down," Jennings said. "Stay on the field, keep our defense off, keep the clock running, find a way to get down the field and score. After I made the catch, I saw green grass, and the rest was just trying to make a play."
As for making so many Bills miss, Jennings said: "I wasn't aware. I was just trying to get to the end zone."
Andre Williams' two-point conversion run made it 24-10 with 7:42 left.
The touchdown drive came after a run of ineffective offensive series for the Giants. They hadn't scored since early in the second quarter and were allowing the Bills to stay in the game despite seeming to dominate.
Manning gave an emotional talk to the team on the sideline before the drive that ended with Jennings' score, but he wasn't the only one.
"We pulled each other aside and said, 'Man, it's up to us,' and we came out and settled down," center Weston Richburg said. "It's cool because we have teammates doing the spurring, not just coaches. You see this team really self-governing itself. It's something we didn't really have last year that much."
That's one of the reasons this 2-2 after being 0-2 feels a little different from last year's similar scenario. These Giants seem to have been hardened by their early losses, not defined by them. They saw those as games they could've won -- should've won -- and learned from them.
"I feel like we should be 4-0," guard Justin Pugh said.
They're not. But they are something better than any record.
"I know right now the Giants are relevant," Williams said. "That's what's important to us. We want to stay relevant, we want to continue to build and we want to continue to win these games."