As the Giants prepared for Sunday's game against Washington, they were treated to a time-machine trip back to happier times. All week long they watched video cut-ups of their 45-14 win over Washington in Week 4, a victory that improved their record to 2-2, sparked hope and remains one of the most complete games the Giants have played all season.
"We put it all together, offensively, defensively and special teams," said tight end Larry Donnell, who caught three touchdown passes in that game. "When we do those types of things like that, we're a tough unit to beat. On that night, we had it all flowing. We felt like we were unstoppable."
They soon proved otherwise. After beating the Falcons the following week, the Giants went into a seven-loss tailspin that sunk their season and left them playing out the schedule.
So while re-watching their best performance of the year has brought back a rush of good memories, it's also left the Giants feeling like middle-aged schlubs flipping through the high school yearbook, thinking about how skinny they used to be, looking into the now-evaporated dreams that lived in their eyes, wondering where it all went wrong.
"It's really frustrating," defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins said. "We started off 0-2 and we hit a little stride there and fought our way to 3-2. That was one of the games that helped us to get there. Then after that, the bottom fell out and we couldn't get it turned around."
The lesson, Jenkins said, is that one or two or three games is not enough of a sample size to define a season. At the same time the Giants were flying high, teams such as the Packers and Patriots were struggling.
"There were times when people were doubting them and they put performances out there that made people think," Jenkins said. "It's just a matter of being consistent and you have to put the good display on more."
It's too late to salvage the season, but the Giants think this game at MetLife Stadium can allow them to recapture a little bit of that feeling they had in late September as they left the field with their prime-time blowout victory.
"Losing however many games in a row leaves a bad taste in your mouth," Donnell said. "All we can do right now is win the rest of the games we have."
Of course, there is no guarantee that what happened in Week 4 will happen in Week 15. Plenty has changed on both teams. Kirk Cousins won't be throwing interceptions for Washington -- he'll (most likely) be replaced by Colt McCoy -- and the Giants didn't have Odell Beckham Jr. available in the first meeting between the teams.
"Things always change," Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. "It was a long time ago when we played them . . . We executed at a high level. To say we would go out and just roll the ball out there and do that again is ignorant. We know we're going to have to work for everything we get."
That doesn't mean they can't hope for a repeat performance. Especially Donnell, who had a breakout game in that dominant win and enjoyed reliving it in videotape study.
"That was cool," he said of watching that game, one in which he scored all three of his touchdowns before halftime. "It's a great feeling, man. I know what I did that last game, so it feels good to go back and see those things."
Had he and the Giants been able to sustain it, they'd undoubtedly feel a whole lot better.