There were two mea culpas Friday from the perpetrators of two of the more egregious miscues in the Giants’ Thursday night loss – well, one and a half – and a steadfast insistence against any wrongdoing from a third key decision in the collapse against Washington.
The most remorseful was wide receiver Darius Slayton, who dropped a wide-open pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter that would have gone a long way toward sealing a victory. Slayton said it was "a play that I 100% expect to make … I should have ran it down. I’ve ran down a lot of balls in my life." He also said he could have dived for the ball that went off his outstretched hands.
Next in the confessional is Dexter Lawrence, the defensive lineman whose offside penalty allowed Washington a second chance at its game-winning field goal after missing the first as time expired. He started out contrite, saying the play and the result of the game were "on me" and that he had to "be more disciplined" in that situation.
What he wouldn’t say, perhaps for fear of being fined by the NFL, was whether he thought he actually committed a penalty. Replays showed Lawrence moving just as the ball was being snapped, and it was hard to tell whether he was offside or simply had a perfect jump.
"My opinion, it really doesn’t matter," he said. "We lost the game and the refs called what they called."
Lawrence was asked if the play ate at him.
"I hold myself to a high standard," he said. "I don't play for myself, I play for my brothers on the field with me. I can't make that mistake. I don't want to let my brothers down. I don’t want to let my family down. It’s just an unfortunate turn of events. The frustration is there on myself, not because of the call or anything like that. It's just more that I’ve got to be better in that situation."
Did he lose any sleep over it?
"No, I like to sleep," he said, laughing, "so it wasn’t hard."
Our third and final defendant? Joe Judge.
There was no way he was going to plead guilty for the Giants being too conservative after James Bradberry’s interception gave them the ball at the Washington 20 with just over two minutes to go. A touchdown would have made it a 32-27. The Giants probably would have gone for two to make it either 34-27 or, if they failed, keep it at 32-27, either way forcing Washington to score a touchdown of their own to tie or win the game. Instead, the Giants ran the ball twice and threw a short incompletion that did force Washington to burn two of its three timeouts but also led to a 29-27 edge that was susceptible to a game-winning field goal. And we all know what happened then.
"In terms of playing the situation, I got it, a lot of people watch a lot of football," Judge said of his second-guessers. "I watch every two-minute drive in the league every week looking at the different decisions that are made and how they play out. We use all that in our decision-making with our own team in terms of playing to our strengths. A team with three timeouts right there in that situation, it’s a situation there that we trust our run game to get that thing going vertical, produce the yards to get a first down, [on] third down convert. If you don’t get that, you get the points, you turn around and you’ve got to play the other side of the situation on defense.
"There’s a lot of things you could do," Judge continued. "You can go out and throw three passes and you feel like you’re very aggressive, right? Then all of a sudden, they don’t have to use three timeouts. You give them the ball with plenty of time before the two-minute and they go ahead and have a two-minute drive with a lot of timeouts left as well, right? You could turn around and say that ‘aggressive’ is to go out there and just start being a gunslinger and make decisions that sometimes you want to make off of emotion, but I want to make calculated decisions in terms of playing to some of our strengths as a team. You’ve got to be able to run the ball when you have to run the ball and you’ve got to be able complete passes when you have to complete passes, and that’s what we had to do in that situation there. The decision we made was the decision we made and we’ve got to execute better to finish the game out."
Judge wouldn’t budge from his in-game call.
"I think we gave the ball to our running back for two good runs and tried to get it vertical," Judge said of the offensive strategy. "We took a chance on third down with a reception. Had we converted right there, it would’ve been a different story in a lot of things."