If you closed your eyes, held your nose and ignored the NFL standings, it actually was an interesting, entertaining, back-and-forth game full of big plays and lead changes.
But there was no ignoring the context: The quadrennial meeting between the Jets and Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sunday was a battle for short-term survival. Losing was not an option for either team, but someone had to.
In the end, it was the Jets who earned bragging rights, such as they are this year, with a 34-27 victory that gave them their second victory in nine games and the Giants their eighth loss in 10, including six in a row.
Given the situation, the losing team was the bigger story.
Embarrassed, Jabrill Peppers? “Most definitely,” the safety said. “Hell, yeah. We lost six straight . . . It’s definitely embarrassing.”
Receiver Golden Tate apologized to “Giants Pride,” then said, “This one hurts. It definitely hurts.”
Down the hall, it was a different story.
“It’s a good feeling for them right now,” Jets coach Adam Gase said of his players after a week in which a loss to the previously winless Dolphins had many journalists and fans openly wondering if Gase would make it to January — or Thanksgiving.
“We needed that one,” quarterback Sam Darnold said. “We definitely needed that one.”
Later, he added: “If we get on a roll here and we win out, we’ve got a chance at the playoffs. Guys in the locker room know this, and we’re really excited to continue to get back to work.”
Whoa, one week at a time here. And for this week, it was good to be a Jet.
Darnold recovered from his recent struggles to go 19-for-30 for 230 yards and a touchdown and rush three times for 25 yards and a touchdown. He had a key third-down scramble for 24 yards.
Most importantly: no turnovers.
Daniel Jones, his rookie Giants counterpart, was 26-for-40 for 308 yards and four touchdowns. But Jones was sacked six times and allowed safety Jamal Adams, who had a huge day, to strip the ball from him and return it 25 yards for a score.
The most troubling statistical line for the Giants was Saquon Barkley’s: 13 rushes, 1 yard.
So the Giants’ lead in the all-time series now is 8-6, and who knows which coaches and players will be around for the next meeting in 2023?
That question starts with Pat Shurmur, the coach now on the hotter seat than Gase.
“We all understand the importance of every game, especially this game,” Shurmur said. “I get it. For our fans, I get that.”
More than the fans are upset. Team president John Mara walked past reporters and looked . . . grim.
The Jets scored a touchdown on their opening drive for the third game in a row, marching effortlessly behind Darnold’s 7-for-7 passing. The quarterback wound up scoring on a 2-yard run.
Later in the first quarter, his 23-yard touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder made it 14-0.
The Giants got within a touchdown with 12:26 left in the second when Jones found Darius Slayton from 5 yards out. Then Jones’ 39-yard pass to Slayton made it 14-13. (A botched snap scuttled the extra point.)
The Giants’ touchdown drew loud cheers from the crowd, which seemed to be at least half Giants supporters despite the fact that it was a Jets home game.
The Jets took a 21-13 lead 47 seconds into the third quarter when Adams got past a block attempt by Barkley, stripped the ball from Jones and ran it in.
“I said, ‘Man, why ain’t nobody blocking this dude?’ ” Jets linebacker Jordan Jenkins said of Adams’ outstanding day.
With 11:51 left in the third, the Giants bounced right back when Jones hit Golden Tate on a quick screen and Tate did the rest, completing a 61-yard scoring play. Another missed extra point left the score 21-19.
Soon the Giants were ahead, with Jones hitting Tate on a third-and-3 from the 15. A two-point conversion pass to Bennie Fowler made it 27-21.
Sam Ficken’s 53-yard field goal cut the Giants’ lead to three, and the fourth quarter began with DeAndre Baker being called for interfering with Robby Anderson in the end zone, placing the ball at the 1. Le’Veon Bell ran it in from there to give the Jets a 31-27 lead with 14:52 left.
Ficken’s 35-yard field goal made it 34-27 with 7:36 to play.
The Giants tried to mount one last drive to catch up after getting the ball at their 12-yard line with 4:17 left and no timeouts, but on
third-and-12 from the 10, Jenkins and Henry Anderson sacked Jones, and the Giants had to punt.
Jones got one more try from his 16-yard line with 18 seconds left. Far too late.
“It’s frustration, disappointment, anger,” Barkley said. “No one wants to be 2-8. No one wants to have a losing record. Yes, everyone’s upset. Everyone’s frustrated.”
For once, not the Jets.