Don’t look now, but the 3-7 New York Giants are actually in the discussion in the NFC East.
The Washington Redskins lead the division at 6-4, but lost a game and a quarterback on Sunday as Alex Smith suffered a broken leg in a loss to the Houston Texans. The Dallas Cowboys are 5-5, and the 4-6 Philadelphia Eagles got destroyed 48-7 on Sunday by the New Orleans Saints.
It’s improbable. A little insane, even. But, why shouldn’t the Giants dream a little?
“Crazy, isn’t it?” asked coach Pat Shurmur after Sunday’s 38-35 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “That’s what I said through the first eight weeks. You just gotta keep playing. You never know.”
Odell Beckham’s dream of the Giants winning eight straight games remains alive. Still incredibly unrealistic. But, alive.
“It’s the same mentality every week. If the o-line is playing like that every single game, it’s going to be hard. The goal is to win every game. So six games left, it’s really only crazy until you do it,” Beckham said after the game. “I just love to see these guys in here after the game with smiles on their faces. We just put it all together, so it’s always a lot more fun when you win.”
Quarterback Eli Manning, off a 17-of-18 performance that was the most efficient of his career,
“I think there is some excitement going around,” Manning said. “It is good. It is a good feeling to have in the locker room and you see some growth. You see the improvement. You see guys getting familiar with their spots and what they are doing.”
Safety Michael Thomas had one of the Giants’ four interceptions and recovered an onside kick with 2:22 remaining to help seal the victory. He said the Giants just want to “keep working, keep believing.”
“We’re playing one game seasons at this point. Two in a row, that’s a little run, but next week we’re going to try to go 1-0 again,” Thomas said. “All we thought about and all we talk about, we weren’t where we wanted to be with that 1-7 start. But DG (Dave Gettleman) and this team, this organization brought in great character guys with leadership and talent from other organizations. All we talked about was staying the course, keep working, keep believing and when we come back from this bye week, one game at a time. Let’s just try to have one game seasons and win and we’re just going to keep doing that. That’s the type of guys we have in this locker room. That’s the reason why we’re trying to go on this run.”
Winning these games is a good thing
Because of the 1-7 start and the reality that a playoff run, while mathematically still possible is still highly unlikely, don’t want to believe that winning these game — or any games down the stretch — is a good thing.
But, it is.
I know, I know. A couple of weeks ago the Giants had the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Now, if the draft were held today, they would pick fifth. So, they have lost a handful of spots.
In my view, though, they have gained much more.
The biggest thing they have gained?
Call it confidence. A little belief in themselves. A little knowledge of what it takes to win games.
The Giants have won back-to-back close games that were in doubt in the final moments.
Against the San Francisco 49ers, they got a last-minute drive to put them ahead and a defensive stand to seal the victory.
Against Tampa Bay, they got off to their best start of the season getting out to 14-0 and 24-7 leads, then made enough plays on offense, defense and special teams to hold on for the victory.
With a largely young, new team that is still getting to know each other they learned a little bit about each other and about how to win.
If that cost them a few spots in the draft order, so be it.
“We played lights out today. We started out fast. We got our playmakers the ball and we did an amazing job blocking up front. The O-Line had control of the game and had control of the line of scrimmage the entire game. Tight ends, we had our blocking packages in. Everybody was just doing their job and so when we start fast and do that, we play complementary football, we score a lot of points and that happened today.”
That’s tight end Evan Engram, talking excitedly after the game about what the Giants accomplished on Sunday.
Here’s more Engram on what it means to win:
“It’s important and it’s fun. We put so much work in and we’ve been through so much, especially this year. To come out and start fast and to play a full game – in the league, those rare games where you just win outright and just chill the whole game. We had to work all game and that means a lot to us. Means a lot to the things we’ve been through and the work we’re putting in is finally starting to roll. We just got to keep going and keep building off of it.”
Now the Giants go to Philly
In Week 6, the Eagles came in to MetLife and Stadium and destroyed the Giants 34-13. That came four days after the Giants had been shocked by a 63-yard game-ending Graham Gano field goal that stole a game against the Carolina Panthers from them that they should have won.
At that time you never would have believed that the Giants would have a legitimate chance to go into Philadelphia in Week 12 and win a game. With the 4-6 Eagles coming off a game in which they were destroyed by the New Orleans Saints and looking like anything but the defending Super Bowl champions, anything is possible.
This certainly is a lot more fun than just playing out the string with a bunch of meaningless games.
“The difference in these wins are that we’re executing. We’re finishing games, we’re finishing drives, and that’s what we wanted to do in the first half of the season,” Saquon Barkley said after his 27-carry, 142-yard, 3 touchdown performance. “In almost every single game that we were playing, we weren’t executing, and Coach (Pat Shurmur) put up a highlight reel of plays that we just missed. That’s how close we were, and that’s how close we know we are. These last few games, I feel the complete opposite of that.’
The Giants are making progress. They are learning. They are winning. They feel better about themselves, and their future.
This is better. This has to give them some optimism that they could be on a path to better future.
There’s nothing wrong with that.