It took six games for the Giants’ Joe Judge to experience his first win as an NFL head coach. The 38-year-old former New England Patriots assistant knew it would eventually come, but the 35-day wait felt like an eternity.
The satisfaction of personal achievement was equaled by the improbable scenario of the Giants still being firmly in contention for the NFC East division lead with a piddling record of 1-5 after defeating the Washington Football Team by 20-19 at MetLife Stadium this past Sunday.
“You know what, the locker room obviously had a lot of energy afterwards. The guys were very happy,” said Judge following the Giants’ first victory since Dec. 22 of last year. “There’s been a lot of pressure that they’ve put on themselves and that we put on them.
“They’ve been fighting hard for six weeks and working through training camp for us. You hit this point right here and you just want to get the results. And I’m happy the fans were able to have it and I’m happy the players were able today.”
The Giants’ defense sealed the win by stopping Washington’s two-point conversion attempt with 36 seconds remaining. Ron Rivera, Washington’s head coach, took a nothing-to-lose but the game approach in going for a win instead of a conservative decision to kick the extra point and send the game into overtime.
Rivera’s viewpoint was plausible considering Washington had just engineered a 10-play, 75-yard drive to score a touchdown and his team, now 1-5, needed an infusion of confidence as desperately as they needed a win.
“I’m trying to get our players to understand that this is how we’re going to do things,” said Rivera, who is in his first season as Washington’s head coach after having the same role with the Carolina Panthers the previous nine seasons. “We’re going to do things to the max. We’re going to play to win football games.”
The Giants sit in third place in the NFC East, only one game behind the 2-4 Dallas Cowboys and a half-game behind the 1-4-1 Philadelphia Eagles, who they face tonight (8:20 p.m.) in Philadelphia.
“I don’t think anyone in the division needs any motivation to play anyone else in the division,” said Judge on Tuesday. “This is a big Thursday night game. We’re going down to Philly. It’s going to be a great atmosphere, we’re going to have fans at the game.
“To me,” Judge elaborated, “we’re just trying to go 1-0 this week. That’s our goal each and every week. I’ve told the players from the very beginning of the season, it’s a long year. If you get too focused on looking down at the end stretch at this point right here, you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.”