You know the law. You know the rule. Close only counts in horseshoes, not the NFL. Moral wins are for teams taking off in January. There are no lessons learned by losing that cannot be better learned by winning.
Very well. All true. Barely.
But we have seen the exception to this rule. We have known the outlier. We saw what happened late in the 2007 season when a bitter Giants loss planted the seeds for the most glorious moment in franchise history.
Now look: The Vikings are not the 2007 Patriots, who finished their regular season 16-0 with a 38-35 win over the Giants on a Sunday night at Old Giants Stadium in Week 16. And no, the 2022 Giants are not the 2007 Giants, who we always suspected had championship pedigree in their fibers and who finally paid that promise in Super Bowl XLII.
But the truth is, those 2007 Giants learned just how good they could be that night in Week 16.
That’s what these 2022 Giants should take away from their 27-24 loss to the Vikings at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Saturday, a game that wasn’t decided until Minnesota’s Greg Joseph cut the uprights to 61 yards at the end of the allotted time. We can laugh at the Vikings as the luckiest 12-3 team ever, note they are now 11-0 in one-possession games with an astonishing five-point differential on the season .
Still, they’ll almost certainly be the No. 2 seed in the NFC, and they’ve learned to win when winning is absolutely essential. And the Giants were there with them stride for stride. The Giants were there despite two devastating turnovers, a blocked punt and a reverse interception that turned the game around in no time.
The Vikings are a legitimate playoff team. And what we should know is this: so did the Giants, even though they didn’t earn a spot on Saturday despite everything in the league, the Seahawks losing to the Chiefs and the Lions losing to the Panthers.
“You never feel good after a loss,” head coach Brian Daboll said, and of course that’s what he’s going to say. Its players are professionals. He’s not going to take them all out for pizza and hot chocolate sundaes for playing a close game.
But everyone who watched this match had to come away with the same conclusion.
The Giants might not be level with that handful of teams — Buffalo, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Dallas — who can reasonably expect to play until Feb. 12, when the Super Bowl is played in Glendale, Ariz.
But they definitely belong in that next group: teams that could win a game and then maybe scare off a top seed down the road. And given the slums the giants have crumbled and squatted in in recent years, it’s a damn good neighborhood.
And they are right the.
Christmas Eve proved that to a lot of people. It certainly should have reinforced that in the Giants locker room.
“We have to go back to the drawing board,” said catcher Isaiah Hodgins, whose emergence as a reliable target for Daniel Jones was one of many pleasant surprises for the Giants this year. “We are a good team, we made a good team effort and we failed. We could have played better, that’s how it is. Now move on to the next.
The next one is next Sunday, at home to Indianapolis on New Years Day, and that should be one hell of a way for the Giants to ring in 2023. Nothing is guaranteed in this game, but it definitely feels like there should be a celebration simmering.
“Let’s get ready for the Colts,” Daboll said. “We need to fix what we need to fix and get ready for the Colts.”
They will be ready. Nothing about how Daboll and his crew go about their business tells you nothing else. They were certainly ready on Saturday, spotting the Vikings with a 10-0 lead and then grabbing a 13-10 advantage themselves, which reduced the 66,468 inside US Bank to a whisper. The Giants aren’t afraid of the road. They are not intimidated by loud buildings or sturdy opponents.
“We’re going to regroup, see what we can do best,” quarterback Daniel Jones said, “and look forward to next week.”
They will be a bear in the playoffs once they officially punch their tickets. We thought that might be the case. We know it is now.