But the Giants put all the talk that they had quit and all the speculation about the futures of quarterback Eli Manning, Coach Ben McAdoo and General Manager Jerry Reese on hold, at least for a few days. They played very hard and they played very well on defense. They persevered through a few mistakes. McAdoo made bold moves and coached to win. And the Giants doubled their victory total for the season with a shake-your-head, try-to-figure-this-one-out, unsightly-but-oh-so-welcome 12-9 overtime triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs.
“We all came to play today,” Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. “Offense, defense and special teams did a great job. That was basically it. That’s what made us win the game. And great coaching.”
The victory came courtesy of a 23-yard field goal by place kicker Aldrick Rosas with 1:54 remaining in overtime.
It certainly wasn’t a masterpiece. When referee Brad Allen greeted the captains for the two teams for the overtime coin toss at midfield by saying, “Congratulations,” you were left to wonder if he had been paying attention to what had transpired in regulation.
But the Giants certainly weren’t complaining. The bar has been set decidedly low for them these days.
It has seemed like almost a foregone conclusion that McAdoo will be fired at season’s end, despite the patience demonstrated over the years by Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch. There had been calls for McAdoo to be ousted immediately after they lost at San Francisco a week earlier to the previous winless 49ers. Mara and Tisch responded by announcing that McAdoo would be evaluated after the season.
McAdoo had suspended players this season for violating team rules. He had briefly left open the possibility of sitting down Manning before reversing course. He had been accused of losing the locker room. Players had been said by observers in the media to be giving less than maximum effort.
“Rally around anybody? Nah,” safety Landon Collins said after Sunday’s game. “We stayed together. We knew what we had to come in here and do. And we did it. … We had a sense of urgency. All the guys were on the same page. We were consistent. We trusted in every call that Coach Spags [defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo] called. And we played fast. That was the best thing.”
This looked more like the defense that carried the Giants to the playoffs last season, with McAdoo as a rookie NFL head coach. The Giants limited the Chiefs to three field goals and intercepted Kansas City’s usually mistake-free quarterback, Alex Smith, twice. A third interception came on a trick-play heave down the field by Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce after he caught the ball on a lateral from Smith.
That amounted to offsetting offensive ineptitude by the two teams after the Giants earlier had thrown an interception on a trick-play pass by running back Shane Vereen.
“I asked if he’d thrown any passes in the NFL before,” Manning said. “He said that was his first. I said, ‘That’s probably your last, also.”
The Giants actually could chuckle about their gaffes after this one. That’s what winning does.
“It was great to get a win at home, get the crowd going, get some excitement,” said Manning, who made his 209th straight regular season start. “That’s what we need. We need to feel good and get the crowd going and help us out. So it was a big win. … This was nice.”
Even so, McAdoo was not playing the “How does it feel?” game afterward.
“Feelings don’t have anything to do with it,” he said. “We played like the type of team that we’re capable of playing.”
McAdoo coached aggressively. On the Giants’ opening possession of the game, they called a fake punt, a formation with the offensive tackles split out wide on each side, and the pass by Vereen.
The Giants maintained their intensity and bounced back when things didn’t go as planned. Rosas missed an extra point. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins, one of the players suspended by McAdoo this season, had one interception but had another that could have sealed the victory in regulation negated by a pass interference penalty.
“I thought we played well as a football team,” McAdoo said. “I thought we played hard. … We played inspired football today.”
Manning played reasonably well. He threw for a modest 205 yards and didn’t have a touchdown pass but also didn’t throw an interception. He is playing without injured top wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall. Sterling Shepard was on the inactive list Sunday because of migraines. When Manning made a big play at the end of overtime Sunday, with a 34-yard completion to set up the winning field goal, Roger Lewis Jr. was the receiver making the remarkable fourth-down catch while on the turf.
It remains a lost season. The Giants’ record is a still-ugly 2-8. Their game Thanksgiving night at FedEx Field against the Washington Redskins still will be a matchup of teams well on the outside of the playoff race, looking in. McAdoo still could be fired after the season.
But at least the Giants regained a sliver of their dignity on this blustery Sunday, with trash blowing around the field like it used to do at the old Giants Stadium during memorable late-season games with so much more at stake.
Pierre-Paul was asked if the Giants had played with pride.
“Most definitely,” he said. “Everybody did.”