LANDOVER, Md. - As mind-boggling, catastrophic football results go, this one ended as it should have:
With one last mistake by the Giants, in the form of an offside penalty that turned a missed field goal that would have won the game into a made field goal that lost it.
But we will get to poor Dexter Lawrence later. Because as his coach, Joe Judge, correctly asserted, the Giants’ 30-29 loss to the Washington Football Team at FedEx Field on Thursday night hardly was Lawrence’s doing alone.
It was a group effort, one that hurt even more than most awful losses because of the way it happened, and the way it flew in the face of pretty much everything Judge has said he is trying to build with the Giants.
The young coach, who as you might have heard has working with both Nick Saban and Bill Belichick on his resume, has preached for two years the opposite of what the Giants were in Week 2.
They were not smart, not disciplined, not aggressive and as a result not good enough.
The even greater shame was that quarterback Daniel Jones bounced back from an uneven outing in Week 1 to play well.
He was 22-for-32 for 249 yards and a touchdown – despite Darius Slayton dropping what should have been a 43-yard scoring pass in the end zone – and he rushed nine times for 95 yards and another touchdown.
Most importantly, Jones did not commit a single turnover. And yet he still is 0-2, having lost for the first time in his career in five games against Washington.
The Giants committed 11 penalties for 81 yards, many ill-timed, including one that erased what would have been a 58-yard touchdown run by Jones. (He settled for a 46-yard gain, and the Giants settled for a field goal.)
Lawrence’s inexplicable offside was the worst mistake of all. As time expired, Washington’s Dustin Hopkins was wide right on a 48-yard field goal attempt that would have ended the game in the Giants’ favor.
Given another chance from 43, he made it cleanly.
"Obviously, it’s something that you don’t want to have, something that’s not acceptable," Judge said.
"But look, we’re not going to turn around and put this game on any one player . . . We’re not going to isolate that incident and say that’s the difference in the game."
Reporters made a determined effort to get Judge to admit to his frustration, but the coach stuck to his talking points about the team using the experience to continue improving.
Judge defended what seemed to be an overly passive approach after a James Bradberry interception gave the Giants the ball at the Washington 20-yard line with the Giants trailing, 27-26, and 2:16 left.
First down: Saquon Barkley up the middle for one yard. Second down: Barkley up the middle for two yards. Third down: Jones incomplete pass up the middle to Sterling Shepard.
Judge said he wanted to force Washington to burn timeouts, and the home team did use two of them on the Giants’ "drive."
But a touchdown might have put Washington away, and instead the Giants settled for a 35-yard field goal by Graham Gano and a two-point lead.
"We have to execute better, obviously, in that situation," Judge said.
For neutral observers of the nationally televised game, it all was hugely entertaining. For the Giants and their fans, it was a shock.
Judge said the Giants were a better team on Thursday than they were in Game 1. And he said they will focus on continuing to improve when they return to work on Monday. He said there would be no letdown.
Asked about the "gut punch" of a loss, he said, "We have a resilient team. We have a mentally tough team, a team that sticks together."
He said he appreciates that Giants fans are hurting, and that is what he loves about them. But he insisted that Lawrence and everyone else in the locker room can deal with the scrutiny.
"There’s pressure for all of us," he said. "We can handle it. We prepare to handle it."
That’s fine, but Judge supposedly prepares his team not to do many of the things it did on Thursday night, a lesson plan that seemed to be forgotten in a 60-minute blur of dysfunction.