There’s still no telling where this season will go. It’s only two games and two wins, and so much can happen in the coming months to dislodge the giddy optimism that suddenly is embracing the Giants. But right now, after the latest of those two victories, no matter what takes place, at least the team can put its recent and horrific past to eternal rest.
Sunday’s 16-13 win over the Saints at MetLife Stadium kicked the final mound of dirt on the 2015 season, burying it to damnation without marker or pause for final reflection. Last week’s win over the Cowboys began that process, but this one allowed the Giants to start a new era by avenging not just one but the two most baffling losses of last year.
Sure, there were other disappointing efforts last season. Late-game collapses, poor decision-making, abysmal execution. And oh, the injuries. But in the sea of sorrow that was the 2015 season, the last-second losses to the Cowboys and Saints stood above all others for endings that would have been comical if they weren’t so confounding.
Now they are free.
That’s not to say this was an entirely feel-good moment for the Giants, who won without an offensive touchdown. Consider that they were booed by the frustrated home crowd as they scored the go-ahead points midway through the fourth quarter, settling for a field goal after failing to reach the end zone on first-and-goal at the 1.
There was, however, a sigh of relief when Victor Cruz caught a 34-yard pass to get to the 2 with 1:43 remaining and Josh Brown kicked a 23-yard field goal as time expired to win it.
“These last two games are very similar to the start of last year, and obviously, the finishes are what the difference is,” Eli Manning said. “[The defense] is not worried about not losing a game. Now they’re thinking: ‘Hey, let’s go win this game.’ ”
They did just that.
“They’re a championship defense,” Odell Beckham Jr. said of his teammates. “We just have to come out and score more points for them.”
That’s quite a contrast to 2015.
Imagine telling Giants defenders a year ago that they’d be able to win a game like this? Without an offensive touchdown?
“I probably wouldn’t believe you,” cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said.
“No, no, that’s tough,” linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. “Especially when last year, Eli threw for six touchdowns [in a 52-49 loss].”
Ben McAdoo became only the second coach in Giants history to begin his tenure with two wins, and the Giants started 2-0 for the first time since 2009. The Saints are 0-2.
It appeared the Saints were about to take a second-quarter lead on a 38-yard field-goal attempt, but Johnathan Hankins blocked it with a rush up the middle and Janoris Jenkins scooped it for a 65-yard touchdown return for a 7-0 lead.
In a game pockmarked with missed opportunities — including fumbles by Shane Vereen, Victor Cruz and Manning — the Giants drove to first-and-goal at the 1 midway through the fourth quarter with the score tied at 10 but had to settle for a 19-yard field goal by Brown that produced a 13-10 lead. The Saints tied it at 13 on a 45-yard field goal with 2:54 left.
“It’s a game that I think maybe a couple years ago or normally you would be frustrated with, frustration would set in, but we just kept playing and playing,” McAdoo said. “Special teams made a big play, the defense stepped up all day, and the offense got it done at the end. All three phases came up huge for us.”
“The offense did a great job at the end to finish the game,” Casillas said. “No matter what they did during the game, they finished strong. That’s what you want to see out of a group. No matter how the game goes, you want to finish strong.”
It’s the polar opposite of what they did last year.
“Exactly,” Casillas said. “And we did it two weeks in a row.”