The way the Giants see it, they’re still undefeated. They beat the Cowboys, they beat the Saints, and then they beat themselves.
“We knew that we were our own worst enemy,” Ben McAdoo said of Sunday’s 29-27 loss to Washington.
The bummer of it is that the team was just about ready to escape that personality, to leave behind several years that saw more ifs and couldas than actual victories. They looked like a squad that finally had learned how to win close games, finish tight games, and fight through adversity.
Now they have to find a way to prove Sunday’s loss was an aberration and not a sign of more almosts to come.
“You just go back to what got us here in the first place, go back to the basics,” guard Justin Pugh said Tuesday on a conference call. “Make sure we’re not hurting ourselves. I think this is definitely a wake-up call for us and you see how easily a game can go the other way. So just going back to those basics and making sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Defensive tackle Damon Harrison, who suffered his first loss as a Giant, said the chance for almost immediate redemption is what makes football so great.
“You are going to have weeks like that, but it’s just all about how the guys respond and take it to next week’s game, which is what is pretty cool about the NFL,” Harrison said. “You always have the following week to prove yourself, especially early on in the year. We have some pretty good football players and some pretty good coaches, and I think that everyone is doing a good job of refocusing on the task at hand.”
The loss to Washington was difficult to digest because of the mistakes, and because it was a division game, but also because of the timing. The Giants had a chance to be 3-0 heading into a daunting stretch of four games before their bye. That gantlet starts Monday night in Minnesota, with a prime-time game the following Sunday in Green Bay. Then the Ravens come to MetLife Stadium before a trip to London to face the Rams. Four opponents with a combined record of 10-2.
“We’re locked in, we’re ready to go,” Pugh said. “These next four games, you have two away games against some good teams, some really good teams. So everyone’s got to be all in. We’ve got to focus in and get ready to go. Leading up until the bye week, this four-game stretch is huge for us.”
After the loss, Orleans Darkwa stood in the nearly empty locker room to survey the aftermath. He didn’t know at the time that he might wind up being the starting running back for the foreseeable future, with Shane Vereen needing triceps surgery and Rashad Jennings nursing a thumb injury. What Darkwa did know — and liked — was the attitude he and his teammates had in the face of the defeat.
Unlike other years, when such a loss might have been met with resignation and regret, the emotion this time was anger.
“That’s what it should be because we beat ourselves,” Darkwa said. “But at the end of the day we still have a lot of optimism as a team.”
They still have a chance to prove that is well founded.