When it was finally over, Kayvon Thibodeaux wasn’t 100 percent sure that it actually was over.
“Looking around, you didn’t realize it was over,” the Giants’ rookie edge-rusher said after the Giants 20-20 overtime tie with Washington on Sunday at MetLife Stadium was indeed over. “Finally, it was like, ‘OK it’s over; everybody can leave now.’ And we walked off.”
When Thibodeaux and his teammates got into the home locker room, it was there where the processing would begin about what had just taken place.
How did the Giants process 20-20?
Were they ticked off about not winning?
Angered by the litany of missed opportunities?
Were they relieved not to lose?
Were they curious about how much the tie might hurt or help them in the tight race for a wild-card playoff berth that’s unfolding?
What emotion should the Giants feel about the end result?
A trip around their postgame locker room, going from locker to locker to ask players what they were feeling, made this abundantly clear: The Giants feel like they lost to the Commanders, 20-20.
“I’ve never been involved in a tie, but I’m treating it like an ‘L,’ ” defensive end Jihad Ward said.
It’s how most of the Giants players treated 20-20.
“It kind of feels like a loss,” edge-rusher Oshane Ximines said. “The goal is to win. Nobody’s happy with a tie. It feels bad.”
Left tackle Andrew Thomas said, “It just wasn’t good enough.”
Left guard Nick Gates sounded genuinely disgusted by the result.
“I don’t think we played up to our standard,” he said. “We definitely left some stuff out there. We did some good things, but there were a lot of bad things out there, too.”
Gates had probably just finished looking at the Giants’ drive chart in the box score. This is what it looked like after they took a 20-13 lead in the third quarter after taking the ball over at the Washington 20-yard line thanks to an Azeez Ojulari sack and forced fumble: Punt, punt, punt, punt, end of fourth quarter, punt, punt, missed field goal to end the game.
“It sucks,” running back Saquon Barkley said. “You’ve got a sour taste in your mouth after a tie. That’s why it feels like a loss.”
Quarterback Daniel Jones reasoned that “it’s not a loss” and then added, “[but] it’s not a win, either. I think we’re all pretty disappointed with the result.”
The thing is, there were a lot of good things the Giants did on the day — particularly on defense.
The Giants sacked Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke five times. Isaiah Hodgins, a receiver the Giants essentially found off the street a month ago, caught a TD pass among his four receptions. Receiver Darius Slayton caught six passes for 90 yards. Barkley went over the 1,000-yard mark with his 63 rushing yards and scored a TD.
It wasn’t all bad for the Giants. But it wasn’t enough.
Kicker Graham Gano, whose 58-yard field goal attempt on the final play of overtime fell well short, referred to a 2014 game that he tied with the Bengals when he was playing with the Panthers as the difference in Carolina making the playoffs.
Gano’s Panthers tied the Bengals 37-37 in Week 6 and ended up finishing the regular season 7-8-1 and winning the NFC South by that half game over the 7-9 Saints.
“That tie actually put us in the playoffs at the end of the season,’’ Gano recalled. “It was early in season, that tie was the difference between us moving on and someone else [the Saints] not.
“It’s still not ideal tying a game. It’s frustrating. But you never know what’s going to happen down the line.’’
The 7-4-1 Giants, who have five remaining games (including a second meeting with the 7-5-1 Commanders in Washington in two weeks), will hope Sunday’s result ends up helping them reach the playoffs instead of preventing them from their first postseason berth since 2017.
The Giants weren’t alone in their conflicted emotions about how to feel about the game.
Washington coach Ron Rivera was asked after the game what “frustrated” him about the game.
“The tie,” he said. “I addressed [the team], and I wasn’t sure how to address them.”
Washington receiver Terry McLaurin sounded a bit like Thibodeaux when describing the scene at the end of the game as “a little weird.”
“After the game you don’t really know what to do next,” McLaurin said. “Even the fans are still standing in the stands. Do we go to PKs [soccer penalty kicks]? What do we do?”