“It’s OK to be happy.”
That was part of Brian Daboll’s message on Sunday — according to Saquon Barkley — and the Giants happily took the coach up on it.
There was team president John Mara, smiling and putting his arm around people he encountered on his way to the winning locker room.
There were Wan’Dale Robinson and Julian Love and Kayvon Thibodeaux, all going home carrying souvenir balls from crucial plays made.
And there were the fans living it up at MetLife Stadium, a place that by mid-October in too many recent seasons was empty by the fourth quarter of increasingly meaningless games.
So it went on a day the Giants fashioned another improbable victory in an improbable season — this time a 24-20 upset of the Ravens that improved their record to 5-1.
Five-and-one! It’s the Giants’ first 5-1 start since 2009. In four of the previous five seasons, the Giants managed five or fewer victories in an entire season. In the other, they totaled six.
About the resilience thing . . .
“It’s something we’ve preached since day one, since we’ve been here, coaches, people in the building: This league is hard,” said Daboll, whose team has won three straight. “It’s not always going to be perfect. There will be a lot of people down on you. And you might be down on yourself, wish you could do better.
“But you keep on getting back up. You keep on swinging, keep on competing, regardless of the score or the situation of the game.”
The Giants continue to do it, against all odds.
Julian Love, whose fourth-quarter interception set up Saquon Barkley’s winning touchdown, said teammates told him they never had heard the stadium as loud as it was after that play.
“I couldn’t tell, because I partially blacked out from the moment of just the excitement of it all,” Love said.
The Ravens (3-3) had seemed to be in control with a 20-10 lead after Lamar Jackson’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Mark Andrews with 12:54 left.
The Giants answered with an efficient drive on which Daniel Jones was 5-for-5 passing, capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Bellinger that made it 20-17 with 6:01 left.
It appeared the Ravens would run out the clock, especially after Baltimore converted a third-and-1 run from its 44. But the Ravens were called for an illegal formation, forcing a third-and-5 on which the snap eluded Jackson, who then forced a pass that Love intercepted.
“We snapped it early, that’s all,” Jackson said later.
Love said such broken plays are “really dangerous, because you have the most dynamic quarterback back there.”
Love said he saw a receiver open, tried to bait Jackson into throwing it in that direction, then made the play. It was the Giants’ first pick this season.
He returned the ball to the Baltimore 13-yard line with 2:50 left. Three plays later, Marcus Peters intercepted Jones in the end zone, but Peters was called for interfering with Darius Slayton.
The Giants got the ball at the 1-yard line and Barkley leaped into the end zone, putting the Giants ahead with 1:43 left.
“I was jumping no matter what,” he said.
Jackson had time left to rally the Ravens, but on Baltimore’s second play, rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux stripped him for his first career sack, and Leonard Williams recovered.
Adding to the fun was that Giants defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale faced the team for which he used to work.
“He was on top of the world,” Love said.
For much of the day, the Giants did not look like the better team, trailing 10-7 at halftime and 13-10 after three quarters while the Ravens struggled to translate their yardage into scores.
They ended up outgaining the Giants 406-238 and rushing for 211 yards, including 119 for backup running back Kenyan Drake and 77 for Jackson.
But the Giants continue to find a way. To be clear, in addition to telling his players that it was OK to be happy, Daboll also noted many things that occurred Sunday were not OK, and that there is much work to be done.
True. But fans looking at an upcoming schedule featuring the Jaguars, Seahawks, Texans and Lions already are dreaming of a 9-1 start.
That certainly is not the sort of thing Daboll wants his players thinking. But after consecutive victories over the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and Jackson, players who have won the last three NFL MVP awards, why not dream big?
There was one last question for Daboll before he left the interview lectern: The Giants won four games last year. So: “What do you make of 5-1?”
“Go into work tomorrow and get better” was all Daboll said.
Understood. But for one day, at least, there was this, too: Be happy.