EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants grasped at whatever straw they could find on Sunday. They spoke of their fight, their heart and their professionalism. Landon Collins even pointed out how the Super Bowl isn't mathematically out of the question yet.
But after losing their best player, Odell Beckham Jr., to what might be a season-ending injury, after losing 27-22 to the previously-winless Los Angeles Chargers and falling to 0-5, there was really only one thing the Giants could cling to on Sunday: the hope that this was rock bottom, that things couldn't possibly get worse.
"We got to figure it out, right?" defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "We can't keep losing, you know what I mean?"
Actually, they can keep losing. And it's a good bet that they will.
Whatever hope remained in what has to be one of the most disappointing Giants season ever rode off on the cart with Beckham in the fourth quarter on Sunday. When he fractured his ankle, an injury that almost certainly will require season-ending surgery, the Giants lost the one trump card they thought they still held. Beckham was the one game-breaking, game-changing player they had, a guy who has proven he's capable of winning games almost all by himself.
Without him, they have no shot at reviving their struggling offense. Without him, their underachieving defense is going to start showing even more cracks. Without Beckham, the Giants simply have no hope of digging out of this miserable spiral.
Sure, they put on a brave face. They said all the right things. But their zombie-like stares told a different story. One month ago, this Giants team opened the season absolutely believing they were legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Now, they all know they are much more likely to end up with a top pick in next year's draft.
"There's not a secret formula to fix it," quarterback Eli Manning said. "You've just got to play better. Keep grinding, keep swinging, keep finding ways to move the ball and finding ways to win."
"We just have to go get one win," guard Justin Pugh added. "Right now we have to just look at one game. We can't look big picture."
That's because the big picture is pretty ugly. Back in 2013, the Giants started 0-6 but somehow managed to win seven of their last 10 games. Not that it mattered much. They still missed the playoffs, although they at least showed enough fight to give hope for the future and end the season with their heads held high.
But they didn't lose their best player that season, and that's the game-changer here. It hurt when they lost receiver Sterling Shepard early in the game with a sprained ankle, and it became doubly painful when Brandon Marshall went down with an ankle injury later in that drive. Any time a player -- particularly a starter -- is lost, it hurts.
Except that Beckham isn't just any player, and his teammates know it. With all due respect to Manning, Beckham is probably the player the Giants can least afford to lose.
"Well, when they all go down, when you lose players, it's tough," Manning said. "You like when they can get off on their own and hope it's not serious. But at the end of the game if you see your best player in pain, it can be a tough situation."
That's a really mild way of putting what is more like a devastating situation. Who could possibly replace Beckham? Not Shepard, who has been battling ankle injuries since early in training camp. Not Marshall, who has yet to find his groove with the Giants anyway. Dwayne Harris has a broken foot, and he's really just a returner. Certainly not Roger Lewis, who has 15 catches in 18 career games.
So what can the Giants do now? Pretty much nothing, even if they're not yet willing to admit their season is over and their championship dreams are dead.
"You just keep working," head coach Ben McAdoo said. "You look in the mirror. You learn a lot about yourself in times like these. So you've got to work for yourself, work for your teammates. We're all pros. This is what we get paid to do. We get paid to win, not just compete. So, we've got to find a way to win."
Chances are they will, at some point. They likely won't go 0-16. But the odds of that seem better than those of the Giants making a run at the playoffs. Beckham's injury sealed their fate. Maybe their season was already over anyway. But now it seems pointless for them to even dream.