No matter how the Giants arrived at Sunday's 32-31 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York desperately needed its first victory of the 2019 regular season.
The Giants got the elusive triumph, receiving help from the football gods -- as wide receiver Sterling Shepard said after the game -- in the final seconds when kicker Matt Gay's straightaway attempt on the 34-yard field goal went wide right as time expired.
But before the Giants poured onto the grass and started the postgame celebration at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, the defense nearly dropped the team to 0-3.
"Our guys challenged, and there's certainly stuff we can learn from that scenario," head coach Pat Shurmur said on Monday's conference call. "We don't want to give up big plays like that. But the thing that we're going to build on is that when they did get close, we were able to stop them. We'll work on that. We'll try to improve it. We're always looking for ways that we can help the players on a rep or two, and we'll continue to do that."
The Giants (1-2) got gashed by the Buccaneers, led by big games from up-and-down quarterback Jameis Winston and go-to wide receiver Mike Evans.
Injuries to linebackers Alec Ogletree (left hamstring) and Tae Davis (concussion) did not help matters in the back seven, but Winston and Evans picked apart the defensive backfield.
Winston completed 23 of 37 passes (62.1 percent) for 380 yards and three touchdowns to one interception while Evans did the most damage, catching eight balls -- all three touchdowns -- and recording 190 yards as the Buccaneers totaled 499 yards.
"If you play in this league, you are going to have a tough day," safety Antoine Bethea said of Jenkins. "It's all about how you bounce back. If you have ever played in the NFL, you've had a bad day, that's what it is. Nobody has ever played in this league for how long Jackrabbit has played and hasn't had a bad day. Jackrabbit knows what he needs to do, he is a veteran, he is one of our leaders. You can expect next game that he will play better. We expect that from him and he expects that from himself."
Jenkins called out the front seven after the Giants failed to generate any sort of pass rush throughout the team's first two weeks in losses to the Dallas Cowboys (36-17, Sept. 8) and Buffalo Bills (28-14, Sept. 15), but the unit up front delivered with its four sacks and 10 quarterback hurries against Winston.
Through three games, the Giants are the NFL's second-worst defense -- only the winless Miami Dolpins (0-3), who have been outscored 106-17, at averages of 499.3 total yards are behind -- with 460.3 total yards allowed on average.
With the offense back on track under rookie quarterback Daniel Jones and the Giants getting their first win since Dec. 9, 2018, the defense understands it needs to hold up the end of the bargain when the team returns home Sunday for Week 4's 1 p.m. kickoff against the Washington Redskins, who entered Monday's Week 3 game against the Chicago Bears after an 0-2 start plagued by inconsistent offense.
"In the defensive room, we have to come out and start the game better than what we have been doing," Bethea said. "We have to put a whole game together. The past two weeks, our second halves have been good, but the first half hasn't been as such. We have to start putting a full game together."