Progress isn't pretty. Progress is incremental and marginal. It's a play that doesn't appear in a box score – a shoestring tackle, a battered pass, or a well-placed punt. Progress is boring.
So no one particularly cared when the Giants got the ball for the first time in the second half on Sunday. Washington had just cut their lead to 20-10 and clearly snatched momentum. But Big Blue muscled their way downfield, moving the ball 51 yards over 12 plays, over a crucial seven minutes and 12 seconds. It ended with a field goal and a 23-10 lead, and negated whatever mojo Washington was gaining. It wasn't pretty. But it was progress.
Unlike other bad teams, most noticeably their roommates at MetLife Stadium, the Giants (2-7) play hard from whistle to gun. They don't look lost on the field, and don't make business decisions in the second half. They aren't tanking because they don't do that. Maybe they don't yet win games they should lose, but they are learning to close the games they should win.
Cynics will assert that the Giants are 2-0 against Washington, the team with no name and no future, led by QB Alex Smith, the brave soul who shouldn't have two legs today – and they are 0-7 against everyone else. Indeed, Daniel Jones is 4-0 against the artists formerly known as Native Americans, and 1-16 against the rest of the NFL. As a team, the Giants have a plus-9 turnover margin against Washington since 2017, but are minus-27 against the other 30 teams. They are 6-2 against their foes from DC, and 8-41 against - you guessed it - everyone else.
But the Giants played a clean game, the rare one with zero turnovers. Daniel Jones, who has lapped the league with 36 turnovers since his first start last year, posted a tidy 94.2 passer rating, including a Danny Dime to Evan Engram for a 16-yard touchdown with 2:05 left in the second quarter. They forced five total turnovers from Washington.
It's really impossible to overstate the need for ball security in pro football.
Teams that win the turnover battle have won about 75 percent of the time over the last quarter century. This year, the teams with the top three turnover margins - Titans, Chiefs, and Steelers - are a combined 22-3. The top nine teams in turnover margin would make the playoffs if the season ended right now.
The Giants just doused their first quasi-controversy of the season by winning a game after the Golden Tate drama. The veteran wideout from Notre Dame has reportedly been unhappy with his role on the club, and even his wife doubled-down on social media. When asked about it after the game, Tate said the team handled it internally. No doubt head coach Joe Judge, who already has the sheen of the man in charge, handled it.
As residents of the tattered NFC East, the G-Men are actually in playoff contention. Dallas blew a nail-biter to the Steelers, and the Eagles, lords of the division, had a bye week, so now, there are four teams with two wins and Philadelphia has three (plus a tie). The Eagles are next on the schedule, so Nov. 15 is the Giants’ best chance, and last chance, to make noise in their depleted division, in this strangest season. And make some progress along the way.
Follow Jason Keidel on Twitter: @JasonKeidel