NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Normally when a team heads to the locker room with a 23-point lead, there's a certain confidence and coolness that accompanies them. To secure an almost insurmountable lead like that after just 30 minutes practically assures a victory.
But these are the 2014 Giants, and halftime leads have not exactly been a portent of success. It was just a week ago that their 21-point advantage over the Jaguars melted away into a devastating loss. So instead of assuredness, the Giants headed off the field at the midway point of Sunday's game against the Titans with that cloud still lingering over them.
Even Tom Coughlin, who normally steers around references to negatives such as potholes, spoke directly of the failures of the previous week and those prior to it. "I had an occasion to mention that, yeah," Coughlin said. "It was there and that's what you zoom in on."
This turned out to be the one that didn't get away.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Andre Williams each had more than 100 yards of offense and the Giants defense didn't allow the Titans offense to score, in a 36-7 victory. The win, the Giants' first since Oct. 5, ended a seven-game losing streak and a run of three straight games in which the team lost a second-half lead.
"We finally got a win after many weeks of starving and we feel good about that," Coughlin said. "We are going to be joyous and smile a little bit."
It's been a while since they could do that.
"It feels awesome," fullback Henry Hynoski said. "Everybody is thrilled beyond belief to get that W, to get that winning feeling back again."
"We're happy," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins added. "Happiness. Joy. You have a seven-game losing streak going on and you just want to get it ended."
Now it is. Though not before the specter of Jacksonville flashed for a brief moment.
The Giants (4-9) dominated the first half, but after last week, everyone was well aware of how meaningless that accomplishment can be. So it was a welcome sight as Williams bobbled a pitch to the left and burst through the line for a 50-yard touchdown that made it 30-0 on the Giants' first possession of the second half. Good thing, too, because on the next possession, Eli Manning threw an ill-advised interception that was returned by Marqueston Huff for a 23-yard TD, the third defensive score against the Giants in the last two games. That made it 30-7, and all the Titans needed were three TDs and three two-point conversions to win the game.
Don't think the Giants weren't doing the math.
That didn't happen, though. Josh Brown's 52-yard field goal late in the third made it 33-7 and the Giants rolled to victory.
The Giants opened the game with a field goal and then Beckham took over. A 50-yard reception in which he leaped over cornerback Jason McCourty was followed by a 7-yarder and then after an incomplete pass intended for him, Manning then threw a 15-yard touchdown to Beckham. The Giants ran four plays on the drive, all four drawn up for Beckham.
The next Giants touchdown was scored by a less likely player. Jason Pierre-Paul sacked Zach Mettenberger and Devon Kennard forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive tackle Markus Kuhn and returned 26 yards for the team's first non-offensive TD of the season. They had gone 35 games without a fumble return for a TD, which was the longest active streak in the NFL. Kuhn's score made it 17-0, and two field goals by Brown made it 23-0 at the break.
Coughlin said he did not want to use the word "relief" to describe the feelings of the team following the win. He did praise them for their efforts even while they were losing seven straight and their ability to stay focused despite frustrating circumstances. "I told our team that that's what I was most proud of," he said.
The win -- against a 2-11 team that has lost seven straight -- does very little to fix the Giants' problems. Coughlin's seat remains hot. But for a little while, at least, they can exhale.
Justin Pugh said he was even looking forward to the plane ride home Sunday night, when he and his teammates didn't have to stifle their frustrations in their headphones and soar silently through the night. "We'll be able to talk," he said.
Sixty-three days after their last win, they probably have a lot to say.