There is a new vibe in the Giants locker room. It may be the ingredient that has been missing all season.
"We’re definitely disappointed," tight end Evan Engram said on Monday, a day after the Giants fell to 0-5 with a heart-breaking 37-34 loss to the Cowboys in Dallas. "We fought our butts off [Sunday] and didn’t come up with a win again. So yeah, we’re [mad] and we’re hungry."
That was certainly the sentiment expressed immediately following the game, too, as two of the team’s leaders, Logan Ryan and Blake Martinez, noted that the statute of limitations on playing hard but losing has run out. There is no more satisfaction to be squeezed from these stones of defeat. No more leeway.
They’re ticked off.
As they certainly should be. Sunday was the third time this season the Giants had the ball late in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie or win and couldn’t. Three of their last four losses have come by a combined 15 points. Each of those losses can be traced to a handful of plays in which the Giants failed.
"It’s been a tough start," Daniel Jones said on Sunday. "To say we aren’t disappointed would be a lie. We certainly are. I think everyone on this team feels like we’ve been in the position to win games, we’ve improved as a team, and we're capable of winning each of these games."
Sunday was the gut punch of the bunch. With a chance to jump right back into contention in the lowly NFC East, the Giants had two touchdowns erased by penalties and allowed two field goals in the final two minutes, the game-winner coming as time expired.
There is a core of players on the roster who have known nothing but such heartbreak and frustration their entire Giants careers. Jones, Engram, Dalvin Tomlinson and others have never tasted success. Unlike Ryan and Martinez, who have been part of winning teams elsewhere in their careers before arriving with the Giants, they have been on this sinking ship of a franchise for many seasons now. Engram and Tomlinson are on their third head coach in four years. The voice and direction and philosophy has changed. The results have not.
"Losing is losing," Engram said when asked to compare his past experiences. "There is no way to explain all of that and decipher all of that. At the end of the day we have the talent to win on this team. It comes down to beating ourselves and execution."
Put Joe Judge in the category with those who have been successful elsewhere. Now his job is to try to teach this team how to do it.
"You hear a lot about the expression ‘learn to win,’" Judge said on Monday. "To me, you can make a lot about the 60th minute of a game, but winning really starts in the first 59 minutes of the game. You learn to win by doing your assignment on a consistent basis, by executing correctly, and by calling the right calls as a coach and putting the team in the best position. That’s how we learn to win."
Judge says he sees progress toward that goal. And it has nothing to do with the close scores.
"For me, it’s video evidence," he said. "You can show someone a clip of what they did several weeks ago and a clip of what they were doing yesterday, same play, same technique, same type of matchup, and they can see the visual success of what they are having . . . Stats are a large part of the game for different reasons, but for me you get lost too much in the numbers you can lose sight of what the real football is."
Finding the right tone to get there when the team is as chaffed by the losing as it seems to be is Judge’s primary job these days.
"I’m not a rainbows and sunshine type of guy," Judge said. "I’m also not a brow-beat-you and rub-your-nose-in-it type of guy either. This is what it is. Understand what we do good that we can build on, understand what we have to correct and clean up, and to me that’s the best way to get guys to respond."
And if they are angry enough to do something about it in the games, well, that may not be a bad thing at all.