When it finally ended, Kayvon Thibodeau wasn’t 100 percent sure it was over.
“Looking around, you didn’t realize it was over,” the Giants rookie said. Giants tie Washington 20-20 in overtime really ended at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. “In the end, it was like, ‘Okay, it’s over; everybody can go now. And we left.’
When Thibodeau and his teammates enter the home locker room, that’s where the processing begins.
How did the Giants rework 20-20?
Were they reprimanded for not winning?
Frustrated by the litany of missed opportunities?
Did they calm down to avoid defeat?
Were they interested in how much a tie would hurt or how much a wild card would help them in the race for a playoff spot?
How should the Giants feel about the final result?
A postgame tour of the locker room, going from locker to locker to ask players how they felt, made it clear: The Giants feel like they lost 20-20 to the Chiefs.
“I’ve never been involved in a tie, but I’m going to treat it like an L,” quarterback Jihad Ward said.
That’s how most Giants players reacted to 20-20.
“It’s kind of like a loss,” running back Oshane Jiminez said. “The goal is to win. Nobody is happy with a tie. It’s a bad feeling.”
“It wasn’t good enough,” left wing Andrew Thomas said.
Left guard Nick Gates seemed genuinely disgusted by the result.
“I don’t think we played up to our standards,” he said. “We definitely left some things out there. We did some good things, but there were also a lot of bad things.”
Gates probably just finished looking at the Giants’ batting chart. After taking possession of the ball at Washington’s 20-yard line, Azeez Ojulari took a 20-13 lead in the third quarter thanks to a sack and forced fumble: Punt, punt, punt, punt, end of fourth quarter, punt, punt, missed field goal to end the game.
“That’s too bad,” running back Saquon Barkley said. “You got a sour taste in your mouth after tying the tie. So it feels like a loss.”
Quarterback Daniel Jones thought, “It’s not a loss,” then added, “[but] this is not a victory either. I think we’re all very disappointed with the result.”
The thing is, the Giants did a lot of good things that day — especially defensively.
The Giants sacked Washington quarterback Taylor Heinik five times. A month ago, wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins, who the Giants found on the street, caught a TD pass among his four receptions. Receiver Darius Slayton caught six passes for 90 yards. Barkley surpassed 1,000 yards with 63 rushing yards and a TD score.
It wasn’t all bad for the Giants. But it was not enough.
Kicker Graham Gano, whose 58-yard field goal attempt on the final play of overtime fell just short, cited his tying game against the Bengals in 2014 against the Panthers as the difference in Carolina’s playoff run.
Gano’s Panthers tied the Bengals 37-37 in Week 6 and finished the regular season 7-8-1, winning the NFC South by a half game over the 7-9 Saints.
“That tie put us in the playoffs at the end of the season,” Gano recalled. “At the beginning of the season, that tie was different for us [the Saints] it’s not.
“The tying game is still not ideal. It’s frustrating. But you never know what’s going to happen.”
For the 7-4-1 Giants with five games remaining (which includes their second meeting in two weeks with the 7-5-1 Chiefs in Washington), Sunday’s result will not prevent them from hopes that it will help to reach the playoffs. First postseason berth since 2017.
The Giants weren’t alone in their conflicted feelings about how to handle the game.
Washington coach Ron Rivera was asked after the game what “frustrated” him about the game.
“Tie,” he said. “I applied [the team]and I didn’t know how to address them.
Washington receiver Terry McLaurin sounded a bit like Thibodeau when he described the late-game scene as “a little weird.”
“After the game, you don’t know what to do,” McLaurin said. “Even the fans are still standing in the stands. Are we going to PKs? [soccer penalty kicks]? What are we going to do?’