Joe Judge insists his demeanor the day after a game is not predicated on whether the Giants won or lost because his focus is solely on what they must do to improve.
If any game might change that thinking, it will be the Giants' 30-29 loss to the Washington Football Team Thursday night in FedExField.
Judge and Co. had numerous positives to take away from their first NFC East contest of the season. The Giants did not commit a turnover and gained 391 yards. Daniel Jones was terrific, completing 22 of 32 passes for 249 yards, hanging tough while absorbing seven hits and four sacks, and rushing for a game-high 95 yards, a Giants quarterback record in the Super Bowl era. Graham Gano continued his run of perfection, kicking five field goals and increasing his streak of consecutive successful attempts to 35.
The Giants could have scored touchdowns on at least three of those possessions on which Gano converted, which perhaps best exemplified that all their good work was mitigated by an inexplicable litany of errors, mistakes and uncapitalized upon opportunities, the last of which changed the outcome of the game. The Giants celebrated when Dustin Hopkins pushed a 48-yard field goal attempt wide right on what would have been the game's final play. But Dexter Lawrence leaned forward just prior to the snap and drew an offside penalty. With his second chance, Hopkins kicked a 43-yarder that turned the Giants' two-point victory into a gut-punch one-point defeat.
"There are a lot of things to build on going forward," Judge said. "But obviously in a game like this, you can see the margin of error with the score. It was a tight game and there are a lot of little things that add up over time. We've got to clean some stuff up as a team, keep moving forward, keep learning from the negatives, building on the positives to put us on course to improve as a team."
Check out the best photos from the New York Giants' primetime game against the Washington Football Team.
The players indicated the hurt from this game might not recede for a few days.
"I think it's certainly disappointing and it hurts," Jones said of the loss. "We've got to get past that and get to work and put our heads back down and focus on what we need to do to improve as a team and make sure that we're in a better position to win games. It is going to hurt and that is part of it, but eventually we'll need to move on and get going moving forward as a team."
"It's a pretty tough one," wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. "You give it your all, you fight and it comes down to the tail end. See that first one miss and you see those flags, not a fun feeling at all. But we gotta get back in there, we gotta go to work and that's the bottom line."
Judge was asked what he said to Lawrence.
"Same thing I'd say to any player on any penalty - pre-snap focus, post-snap technique, and discipline in how we handle things," Judge said. "The biggest thing for him is it's gonna be a tough lesson. It's a lesson you got to learn, a lesson we all have to learn as a team that we don't repeat the mistakes one by one. You've got to see that and make sure you clean it up. These are obviously things we talked about and coached. But obviously we've got to do a better job in the future going forward.
"I'm not going to put this on Dex. I don't put this on Dex. Dex is a good player, is a strong piece of our locker room. He's a good teammate, he's fun to coach, he's a productive force as a player, I'm not gonna put this on Dexter Lawrence. There's things we all have to do better as professionals. I'm not gonna put this on any one player or one situation."
The wild game included five lead changes, three in the final 4½ minutes.
In addition to Gano's field goal fest, the Giants scored on Jones' six-yard run and his 33-yard pass to Darius Slayton. Washington countered with touchdown passes by backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke – who threw for 336 yards -- of 11 yards to Terry McLaurin and 19 yards to Ricky Seals-Jones, J.D. McKissic's two-yard run and three Hopkins field goals.
Despite all that, the Giants would have won had they not hurt their own cause. Some of the plays the Giants would like to have back include the following:
*In the second quarter, Jones scored a touchdown on a 58-yard run that broke a 7-7 tie. But no sooner did the points go up on the board than they got taken down. C.J. Board's holding penalty nullified the score and the Giants, despite getting a first down at the Washington 13-yard line, settled for Gano's 23-yard field goal.
*The Giants led in the fourth quarter, 23-20, when the Washington defense lost track of Slayton, who was at least 12 yards from the nearest defender when he dropped Jones' pass in the end zone. Instead of a 10-point lead, their advantage was six points after Gano's 55-yard field goal.
*They didn't keep the lead for long, because Washington traveled 75 yards in 17 seconds and two plays, Heinicke passes of 56 yards to McKissic and the touchdown to Seals-Jones, which gave the lead back to the home team at 27-26.
*Washington owned a one-point lead when Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry intercepted a Heinicke pass for the game's only takeaway. Bradberry's five-yard return gave the Giants possession at the WFT 20 with 2:16 left. But two Saquon Barkley runs gained three yards and Washington used a timeout after each. When Jones' third-down pass to Shepard fell incomplete, Gano kicked his fifth field goal to give the Giants a two-point lead. But the Giants had burned just 16 seconds off the clock and Washington had a timeout remaining.
"There were a lot of plays out there that we didn't capitalize on and that's why we lost the game," Barkley said. "I kind of personally take that one on my shoulders right there. I know the type of player that I am and two runs only getting three yards, I've gotta be able to make people miss and find a way to get into the end zone there."
Were the Giants too conservative on that possession?
"There was a point right there we want to make them use their timeouts in a two-minute drive situation," Judge said. "Third down, we had an opportunity for a completion to extend it over the middle right there, thought it was a good shot. Look, you got to stand up to make the two-minute drive on either side of the ball. So, coming out of two mi,nutes, that's what you prepare for and practice for. You've got to execute better, obviously in that situation; they're a good team. You've got to give credit to those guys on the other side, they executed when they had to."
*On the subsequent game-deciding drive, Lorenzo Carter gave Washington a first down with a neutral zone infraction. The Giants twice burned timeouts after late substitutions. And then Lawrence leaned a bit too far.
It all added up to a painful defeat that left the Giants 0-2 for the fifth consecutive season. Judge said he is not worried about his team's response.
"We've got a resilient team," he said. "We've got a mentally tough team. We've got a team that sticks together. We've got a group of men that look each other in the eye and tell the truth. We're very big on telling our players the truth and we're very big on having our players be honest with each other and with us as coaches. That's what separates a lot of teams out there in terms of if you can overcome some adversity. We talk a lot about that as a team. The honesty is really what's on tape. We're gonna see a lot of things we did good and things that we'll have to see on there that are not good that we've got to correct and got to clean up.
"The important thing this time of year and all times of the year is that we keep improving going forward. We are a better team today than we were four days ago. Now was it good enough? No, it wasn't. So do we have to improve a lot? Absolutely. We have to coach better and execute better on situations in the game. But in terms of our locker room, I've got faith in the men in our locker room. I've got faith in the coaching staff keeping these guys moving in the right direction. Our focus as a team never changes."
Not even after a loss that is sure to sting for a while.