During training camp, Cullen Jenkins said one of the issues that has hindered the Giants the last few seasons was their inability to deliver the knockout punch. He said they lacked a killer instinct and couldn't close out wins.
Halfway through this season, three of the four Giants losses have come in games in which they had a lead with less than two minutes remaining (not to mention the win over the 49ers in which they lost the lead late before regaining it). So what does Jenkins think about the killer instinct of the 2015 team?
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"We're battling better this year, fighting better," the defensive lineman told Newsday. "We're still missing that final piece. When we get up on a team, being able to hold them off and not give them anything else."
Jenkins said the current roster just has to "keep fighting" and learn to finish. And he's not the only veteran who sees it that way.
"We have enough experience, so all you can do is grow from it," cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. "I think if we have a shot to go out there and close it at the end, we definitely will. We did it once [against the Cowboys two weeks ago]. Unfortunately, we haven't done it enough. But I definitely think we will."
Jenkins said he doesn't think past failures weigh on the players' minds when they find themselves in such situations.
"I think it's more in our heads that when we get to that point, we think, 'We need to do it this time. We need to do better,' " he said. " . . . [Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo] really instills in us to look forward. Let's look forward to it again, let's look forward to closing a team out. Let's be the ones who are on the field and make the plays."
Of course, it's not just the defense that struggles late. The Giants had an untimely three-and-out in the final minute of last week's loss to the Saints. And they bungled the end of the opening night loss to the Cowboys. And they could not do anything with the defense's four takeaways in Philly.
"It's unfortunate, but I think it'll help us in the end," Odell Beckham Jr. said of the close losses. "It's unfortunate that those losses are on the record, but once it comes down to crunch time toward the back end of the season, they are games that are going to be like that. We've been in that situation. Three times in a row, we know what it's like to have lost in the last minute and know what we could have done better. You're able to use it, learn from it and correct your mistakes."