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Upbeat Giants think brutal loss could be a turning point

Odell Beckham Jr. celebrates with teammate Eli Manning

Odell Beckham Jr. celebrates with teammate Eli Manning of the Giants after a touchdown against the Panthers in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium on Oct. 7 in Charlotte, N.C. Credit: Getty Images/Grant Halverson

The Giants lost on Sunday.

Just a reminder, because it might seem hard to reconcile that fact with the way the team has been acting lately. Bouncing with energy. Brimming with optimism. Even dancing in practice to songs from the rapper Lil Wayne, who has somehow threaded himself deeply into the team’s fabric.

It’s enough to make one double-check the standings. They’re still 1-4, right? Still in last place?

Yes. In actuality. But not, apparently, in spirit.

While Sunday’s last-second loss to the Panthers was awful and gut-wrenching, the Giants believe they found something in that effort and their production to change the direction of this season.

“I think that was a building point,” Odell Beckham Jr. said Tuesday. “I remember being in the huddle multiple times being like, ‘This is the game that’s going to be determining for our season of how we’re going to be, what’s our character, what’s this team’s identity.’ That fight, that grit, determination, all that, that’s who this team is and that’s what we plan to bring every single Thursday, Monday night, Sunday game from here on out.”

It’s not just Beckham. And not just guys who were on the field in Carolina.

Tight end Evan Engram, who was limited in practice on Tuesday after missing the last two games with an MCL sprain, said he’s itching to get back on the field Thursday night against the Eagles. Not just because it’s an important game for the Giants, but so that he can soak up the mojo he saw only from a distance.

“There was a point in that game where maybe last year or the old DNA of this team would’ve given up or would’ve tapped out,” Engram said. “It [stunk] watching on TV just because I know those guys were fighting and we showed a lot of fight and a lot of heart. We’re definitely on the verge. Our confidence is up, our energy is up. I just want to get back and be a part of that.”

The way the Giants lost was painful on Sunday, but by Tuesday it seemed to be working as a crutch for their optimism. Consider that the last time a team lost on a 63-yard field goal in the final minute of regulation or in overtime was the year before Manning came into the NFL.

Archie Manning, that is.

The Saints’ Tom Dempsey beat the Lions with his record-setting 63-yarder in 1970. The Giants feel like they played winning football on Sunday… they just didn’t win. If they had put that performance forth in any other game in the past 47 seasons, they probably would have.

“I think we played better last week,” Pat Shurmur said. “We need to find 63 more yards somewhere to get the win, but we played better and we’ve got to continue on that path. Then eventually it will crack.”

It also helps buoy confidence that no other team in the NFC East has more than two wins. And that this past weekend, with all four teams losing, the Giants looked and played like the best team in the division and the only one that seems to be on an ascending trajectory.

“To be down two scores twice in the game and still come back and give ourselves a chance to win at the end, it’s a great sign,” linebacker Connor Barwin said.

But can a loss really serve as a pivot toward success? A marker that, when the Giants eventually look back at the entire season, they point to as the moment it started to come together?

Only if they beat the Eagles.

“I hope,” Barwin said, “we say a win on Thursday is our turning point.”

New York Sports