The Giants wanted to start this year off strong.
At 2-6, they already may have sunk their season. Now, as they approach the midway point of their schedule — which technically will occur at halftime of Sunday’s game against the Raiders, 8 1/2 games into a 17-game slate — they’re forced to recalibrate.
Goals shift from postseason aspirations to salvaging some dignity . . . and picking up a few victories along the way.
"I think it’s about finishing games, winning these games, winning these close games, making those plays down the stretch and pushing it over the edge," Daniel Jones said of what he wants to see from the team in the second half of this 2021 campaign. "That’s certainly I think the measuring stick I’m using. I think that’s the one we all are."
Monday's game in Kansas CIty was another glaring example of the Giants’ inability to muster that kind of effort, particularly when the game was in the balance. It was their third loss by three or fewer points.
There was a hope that some victories at the end of last season had enlightened the Giants on what it takes to be successful, that they had learned how to win or, to put it in a way that they themselves keyed on in the preseason, they had learned to stop losing. Clearly whatever they took from going 5-3 in the second half of 2020 did not stick.
"People ask that all the time in terms of learning to win," Joe Judge said this past week. "To me, it’s about the execution for the entire 60 minutes. I talk a lot about how there have been certain games, [Monday night’s 20-17 loss to Kansas City] being one, where we can’t do things that eliminate our chance to have success by eliminating opportunities for ourselves or giving opportunities to the opponent. That’s really what it comes down to . . . There’s not some magic potion, there’s not some motivational speech. It’s about going out there and doing your job for 60 minutes to make sure you do it well."
Some may say the Giants are close. They are a handful of unfortunate plays — including two offsides penalties — away from being 5-3. That’s accurate.
They are also an overtime coin toss and Sam Darnold away from being 0-8. That’s just as accurate.
So now that the first half of their journey is (very nearly) completed and their objective of a strong start has been obliterated, what do the Giants want to see from their second half?
"The same kind of thing Coach Judge told us against the Rams when we were down pretty bad at halftime," defensive tackle Leonard Williams said. "He wanted to see guys keep fighting, no quit. Obviously, I don’t want to compare it, but similar to last year. I think we had that same type of mindset of not quitting and keep fighting. We ended up being one game away from going to the playoffs. I think if we continue to fight knowing that this is a long season and our best football is ahead of us, this is the time to try to make a run."
A run at what, exactly, remains unclear. The playoffs? Respectability? Optimism heading into 2022?
Let’s start small. Like with Sunday’s game against the Raiders.
The start to the first half of the season was a dud. Starting the second half off right would at least be something to carry forward through the long two remaining months of the year.