At some point, the moral victories become morale killers.
At some point, there has to be a breakthrough, a reckoning that ends with the right numbers on the scoreboard. It isn’t enough to accept a parade of postgame backslaps, of midweek attaboys. A few of those are OK. A few of those, in the course of building something real, something lasting, something permanent, can be useful.
The Giants played a nice game Monday night — again. They took a deeper, more talented, more accomplished team into the fourth quarter — again. They showed flashes, so many tantalizing flashes, enough to pique your interest — again — including a heroic, honest-to-goodness two-minute drill by Daniel Jones.
And they lost.
This time it was 25-23, and this time it was old friend Tom Brady wearing the new vestments of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This time the Giants led 14-3, and they led 17-15, and they might have led at the final gun except the franchise quarterback wasn’t able to do enough franchise-quarterback things — and did, in fact, throw two of the worst, costliest interceptions you will ever see, offsetting his last-second valor.
This time, they walked off the field 1-7.
And nobody was much in the mood to talk about the couple of bounces here, couple of bounces there that could make those numbers on either side of the hyphen look so much different. Nobody was much in the mood to talk about Chicago or LA, Dallas or Philly. That has become a tiresome conversation (especially because, using the same logic, they could also be 0-8 right now).
Those near-misses probably feel and seem worse because the Giants play in a division, the NFC East, in which it has been proven to be all but mathematically impossible to play yourself out of the picture. Eight weeks into the 17-week season first place still has a losing record.
So the Giants have now lost three straight games in which they had 11-point leads. They have lost three straight games by three points, by one point, and by two points. They have somehow managed to put together an even more excruciating season than their co-tenants at MetLife Stadium.
At least the Jets don’t tantalize, don’t tempt, don’t taunt. They’re lousy and they prove it every week, opening kickoff to final gun. If people were allowed to go to the games, they might come with their paper bags affixed to their heads. But at least they don’t have to close their eyes in the fourth quarter. The game is over by then.
It is just beginning for the Giants every week.
Every week the fourth quarter is a new adventure, a new series of malaprops and misdeeds, a new set of fresh heartbreak and heartache. It is hard to fathom how they can keep inventing ways to break their own hearts, let alone the folks watching from afar on TV sets. But they do. Every week, they find a way. Every game, the figure out a pathway to doom.
At some point, there has to be a payoff for all this discouragement. They work too hard across these games. They don’t have nearly as much talent as just about every team they play, and that includes Washington, their only victim, and their next game, next Sunday, in D.C.
The defense always manages to keep things close. Jones and the offense always manage to throw in a few plays that make you shake your head and wonder what might be. And something always goes wrong. A receiver short-arms a pass. The QB has a brain lock. A two-point conversion to tie the game fails when an official picks up his flag. Every week it’s something new. Every week, it’s something else.
At some point, that has to change. The law of average says so. So does the law of fairness. Of course, nobody ever said the NFL was a fair game.