This is what the New York Giants envisioned when they put this team together.
Daniel Jones throwing darts — or ‘Dimes,’ if you prefer — and leading comebacks. Saquon Barkley being a game-changer. Kadarius Toney, Kenny Golladay and John Ross making plays. Graham Gano being clutch. The defense getting stops when it had to.
It’s just a shame it took four games and three brutal losses for this version of the Giants to show up.
Let’s go through the ‘Kudos & Wet Willies.’
Kudos to ...
Daniel Jones — If you go throw by throw, you can find a couple of Jones’ 40 tosses on Sunday that were off target. I can think of one to Saquon Barkley and one to Evan Engram. But, c’mon, you can’t really play a whole lot better than Jones did on Sunday afternoon. Pro Football Focus had Jones’ adjusted completion percentage at 86.8, and his 9.9 yards per attempt is more than three yards above his career average.
Throughout the second half, Jones made big throw after big throw. If you ask me, what we saw Sunday from Jones is what big-time quarterback play is supposed to look like.
Saquon Barkley — There were a few hesitant runs early in the game that had yours truly complaining about Barkley’s lack of willingness to go north and south. For the first time in a long time, though, Barkley finally reminded everyone that he is Saquon Barkley. He had 126 yards of total offense in his best performance of the season, was outstanding as a receiver with five catches for 74 yards and a touchdown, and ran hard when it mattered at the end. This was the best we have seen Barkley since the 2019 Week 15 game against Washington when he had 279 yards of total offense. It was a welcome sight.
Kadarius Toney — Like I wrote on Sunday evening, Toney’s performance against the Saints showed why the Giants drafted him. Toney had six catches for 78 yards, and he left Saints’ defenders all over the field flailing as he juked his way past them. His third-and-18 conversion was everything. Elusiveness, competitiveness, speed, ball security. Toney showed it all. Maybe the Giants have been too slow to fully incorporate Toney’s skills into the offense.
Kenny Golladay — The Giants’ $72 million free-agent wide receiver showed on Sunday why the Giants handed him that big pile of cash. Golladay had six catches on seven targets for 116 yards. Golladay had a 28-yard catch-and-run with :58 left in regulation, catching a short pass, bouncing off a tackle attempt, and making a big play. He had a 23-yard catch in overtime to set up Barkley’s game-winning score.
Pass protection — No sacks allowed in 40 pass attempts. Andrew Thomas was a rock at left tackle. The rest of the makeshift line was good enough.
Kyle Rudolph’s fumble recovery skills — Saquon Barkley NEVER fumbles. Entering Sunday, he had one fumble in 694 career touches. Yet, in overtime, with the Giants on the doorstep of victory, there was the ball skittering across the Caesar’s Superdome turf, having escaped Barkley’s grasp as he tried desperately to make a play. Could the Giants be about to snatch yet another defeat from the jaws of victory? Not this time, as Rudolph corralled the ball at the New Orleans’ 35-yard line. Three plays later, the Giants were winners.
Dexter Lawrence — Sexy Dexy pretty much blew up New Orleans’ first possession by himself, with a pass defensed and a tackle for loss on an attempted screen pass that ended up forcing a New Orleans punt. Lawrence finished with six tackles
John Ross — Ross’s 52-yard fumble recovery touchdown is exactly the kind of play the Giants hoped Ross would make for them. Ross used his speed to get open, fought his way to the end zone, then had the awareness and hustle to go fall on the ball when he fumbled it. The Giants don’t win without that play.
Wet Willies to ...
Pass rush — The fact that it earned a ‘Wet Willie’ at least means it earned a mention. The ‘pass rush’ was really non-existent. The Giants didn’t have so much as a hit on Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill in 26 pass attempts. That isn’t going to be a winning recipe very often.
Run defense — I’m not even sure I want to know how many tackles the Giants missed. They gave up 170 yards rushing on 39 New Orleans attempts, 4.4 yards per rush. Several times, they looked like they didn’t want to tackle Taysom Hill. As with the pass rush, that kind of overall run defense is not a recipe for success.
Fourth-down decisions — All’s well that ends well, but I once again find myself at odds with Joe Judge’s fourth-down decisions. As I detailed Sunday night, I thought there were at least two occasions vs. the Saints where the correct — and obvious — play was to try for the first down. Judge punted. The Giants won the game, but I thought Judge made the players’ jobs harder.
Kwillies to ...
James Bradberry — Gave up a 52-yard completion on the first play of the second half, but rebounded with a big interception of Taysom Hill.
Graham Gano — Yanked a 35-yard field goal wide left for his first miss in 38 tries. Drilled a game-tying 48-yard kick with :31 left in regulation to make up for it.
The defense — For all of the things the Giants did poorly on defense — tackling, pass rush, overall run defense — they got three huge stops. The Giants halted New Orleans twice in the fourth quarter to give the offense a chance to mount a comeback. They also made a fourth-and-3 stop with New Orleans at the Giants’ 29-yard line in the first quarter.