You like that!? The New York Giants showed they aren’t in the postseason just to make up the numbers with an exhilarating 31-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis. Here are five things that stood out:
Daniel Jones was predicted to fail by analysts from the moment he was drafted in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. To be fair, his first few years would be difficult as a revolving door of head coaches and offensive coordinators struggled to utilize Jones and the inevitable questions arose. Would Jones ever be good enough to be a franchise quarterback? Can he stay healthy? When will he learn to protect the football?
Not only did he answer those questions emphatically this season by playing accurate, turnover-free football, but he’s also shown his leadership and reliability as he’s become more comfortable with the coaching staff. This was clear on Sunday as Jones put the Giants’ offence on his back, displaying a methodical passing and rushing attack as he orchestrated five scoring drives, all of which were over 75 yards.
Oh, and who is the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 70 yards in the playoffs? You guessed it, Daniel Jones.
The Secondary vs Jefferson
After decimating the Adoree Jackson and Xavier McKinney-less Giants secondary in Week 16, many expected Justin Jefferson to be the potential deciding factor once again. However, the Wink Martindale-led defence had constructed a game plan to stifle the superstar receiver, and outside of the first drive, they executed it to almost perfection.
With the Giants adapting their usual blitz-heavy attack for a more conservative one featuring more zone coverage, Jefferson was able to gain 30 yards on four catches on the opening possession, but he would only catch three more passes for a further 17 yards, with his longest catch of the night being only 10 yards. Obviously, focusing so intently on one player runs the risk of opening up opportunities for other players, and as is par for the course with this Giants team, this meant tight end TJ Hockenson was able to bring in 10 catches for 129 yards, but in the end, the defence stood strong and was able to close the game out.
As alluded to in the previous section, the Giants’ offence possessed the ball seven times (nine if you count the kneel-downs at the end of each half) and was able to score five times. Though Jones was the main driving force, he still needed his supporting cast to match his hunger, which they did.
Outside of the seven pressures that rookie Evan Neal allowed, the offensive line mostly stood strong, allowing Jones ample time to pick his passes while also opening running lanes for both the quarterback and running backs.
Barkley scored two touchdowns and rushed for 53 yards despite only carrying the ball a season-low tying nine times while adding 56 receiving yards on five receptions. Isaiah Hodgins had a team season-high 105 receiving yards and a touchdown on 8 targets, Daniel Bellinger caught both of the passes thrown his way, finishing with 17 yards and a touchdown, and Darius Slayton, despite his almost costly drop on the Giants’ last meaningful offensive possession, still had four catches for 88 yards.
Vikings Final Drive
Slayton’s ill-timed drop forced the Giants to punt back to the Vikings, and it almost felt inevitable that Kirk Cousins would drive up the field to tie the game 31-31 and force the game into overtime, but this isn’t the same Giants team of the past few seasons.
After an awful roughing the passer call on the outstanding Dexter Lawrence saved the Vikings from a likely intentional grounding call. The clearly frustrated Giants’ defence was caught out for a 13-yard Hockenson catch that saw the Vikings near midfield, but after an incomplete pass and a minimal gain run, the Vikings had two key downs to save their season, but ultimately it was the Giants’ defence that stepped up.
Firstly, the third down saw an outstanding bit of pass defence from rookie Cordale Flott, who prevented K.J. Osbourne from completing a catch. Then, on fourth down, the coverage from the Giants and pressure from Dexter Lawrence forced Cousins to throw to Hockenson, who was wrapped up by McKinney way short of the first down to extend the Giants’ postseason.
Next up for the Giants is a trip back to Philadelphia for their third meeting of the season with their hated divisional rivals, the Eagles.
After being blown away in the first matchup between the two sides in Week 14, the second meeting just over a week ago was a much tighter affair despite the Giants resting all their key starters. With the Eagles coming off a bye week courtesy of their number one seeding in the playoffs, they will have had the added benefit of a week’s rest, but if quarterback Jalen Hurts is still not 100%, the game could swing either way.