Sunday's loss was an embarrassing chapter for the Giants. The mismanagement and poor decision-making in the final two minutes provided little to support the two tentpoles that are supposed to be holding this team up:
Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin.
The trick for the Giants now becomes not allowing the screw-ups to define the season.
Sometimes that can happen, even with 15 games left. Two years ago, the Giants opened with another forgettable performance against the Cowboys in Dallas. That was the game in which they turned the ball over six times -- physical errors, not mental ones -- and the trend continued for another two months before the team finally won a game.
This loss feels different than that one. Then again, this one feels different from almost any other defeat.
It's new territory for the Giants when there is doubt about the quarterback or the coach and their ability to function soundly under the pressures such as Sunday's game imposed. Put that doubt on both of them, and you have to wonder how the team will move forward. If they can.
"A game like that, it's definitely going to shape us and mold us in one way or the other," defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. said in the postgame locker room. "Whether it'll be a negative light where we tuck our tail and pout about it and be mad about it and let it carry over to next week, or we just look at it the same way we would have looked at it had we won."
It seems as if the Giants are on their way toward the latter. Already there has been buzz among the players who believe Sunday's loss shows they can go toe-to-toe with what many consider the top team in the NFC East and maybe the entire conference. Prince Amukamara, in his weekly radio spot on WFAN, said several players told him they woke up on Monday feeling as if they had won "because we played well enough to win" before being jolted back to reality.
"To be in a type of game like that this early in the season and experience that, I think that's great for our team," Amukamara said. "It's encouraging and we can definitely build off of that."
Coughlin was counting on it right away.
"There are plenty of positives, but you'll never erase the chance in a hostile environment, you'll never erase that part," he said after the game. "That part is never going away for me. I think the players will be OK. They feel bad now and they want to point the finger and do all those kinds of things, but they are a good group. They'll rise up."
The Giants have emerged from such depths in the past. The underlying mantra of their 2011 championship season -- Finish! -- was forged in a collapse against the Eagles the previous winter. This time the team has been relying on the motto of "So what, now what?" since the start of the season when injuries and accidents robbed them of some of their most dynamic and important players. The philosophy comes from motivational speaker Dr. Kevin Elko, who spoke with the team in training camp this summer.
"All this stuff already happened, so control what you can control," defensive end Damontre Moore said of the message. "There's no point in harping over it, it'll only make it worse. Now that this has happened, what am I going to do now to try to change this around and get on from here? I think that's a good philosophy to apply to football. No matter how much you study or how prepared you are, eventually at some point in the game, some kind of adversity is going to happen. It's about you handling that adversity."
The Giants already are at that point in their season.
Now what? That's up to them.