This will be a rarity in ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ history. Following the New York Giants’ still-hard-to-digest 27-22 comeback victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, this will be the highly unusual K&WW without any ‘Wet Willies.’
It is all ‘Kudos’ on this Victory Monday for the 4-1 Giants.
Kudos to ...
Daniel Jones — I am just going to say it. If Jones continues to play this way — to show this type of toughness, this type of leadership, this type of ability to make critical plays at key times, this kind of ability to be a major factor in winning games — the Giants are going to have little choice but to find a way to give him a contract extension.
I have been asked again and again what Jones has to show the Giants in order to be their quarterback beyond this season. My answer has generally boiled down to this — he needs to show that he can be a quarterback you win because of, not one you win with or who you have to work around in an effort to win.
In my view, that is what Jones did on Sunday — and not for the first time this season.
With Saquon Barkley having his shoulder checked, Jones put the Giants on his back and carried them to a 15-play, 91-yard, 8:07 game-tying drive. Jones was 7 of 8 for 55 yards, completing a pair of third-down passes to extend the drive. Wounded ankle and all, he ran for 25 yards on that drive, twice for first downs. He finished with 37 rushing yards.
From the time the Giants fell behind 17-3 in the second quarter, Jones played winning football. He played with courage. He made big throws and big plays. He ignored his less-than-perfect left ankle and used his legs when he needed to, and more than he might have been expected to. He was 13 of 14 for 136 yards in the second half, with the incompletion being a necessary throwaway.
Maybe 217 passing yards makes you yawn. But five straight scores after being down 17-3, 21 of 27 and the number of critical plays Jones made should make you notice.
His head coach noticed.
“I thought the quarterback (Daniel Jones) had an excellent game and he’s had a few of those,” Daboll said. “Maybe his stats don’t reflect it, but he’s led his team down to wins. He played good at crunch time coming back from a little bit of an ankle.
“He comes in ready to go each week. He’s very humble. I think it’s very, very important to him. He has very good leadership amongst the team. Players got a lot of respect for him and I know the coaches do too. We have confidence in him. He’s done a really good job for our football team and the things that we have asked him to do, he’s done them well. I’m glad he’s our quarterback.”
There are 12 games left in the season. The Giants are 4-1 and despite meager stats in terms of passing yards Jones has been a big catalyst for that. The story of the season has yet to be fully written. The evidence on whether or not Jones earns the right to return as Giants’ quarterback in 2023 has yet to be fully gathered.
Right now, though, it is impossible to deny that the arrow on both of those is pointing up.
Saquon Barkley — Barkley had 96 total yards from scrimmage, including a 40-yard run in the first half and a 40-yard pass reception on the game-winning drive. He also scored the game-winning touchdown.
Oh, and Barkley was an example of the kind of grit and toughness this team is becoming known for, making huge plays down the stretch after returning to the game following an injury scare.
Darius Slayton — OK, OK. For all of you out there who have been screaming for Slayton to play more, this is your moment.
Entering the game, the Giants seemed to think so little of the fourth-year wide receiver that Marcus Johnson, elevated from the practice squad, started over him. After Sunday, there is no doubt we will be seeing a lot more of Slayton.
Six catches for 79 yards, including a 26-yarder and a 10-yard catch on third-and-9 at the Green Bay 15 that gave the Giants first-and-goal and led to a touchdown late in the first half, will do that.
This was Slayton’s most productive game since he caught eight passes for 129 yards against the Dallas Cowboys Week 5 of the 2020 season.
Coach Brian Daboll credited Slayton with showing “mental toughness.”
“It’s not perfect. It’s easy when everything is going great for people, everyone is saying good things about them. This kid had a good mindset — I shouldn’t say kid - young man and made the most of his opportunities when he had an opportunity to,” Daboll said. “When you make plays, you get more opportunities and he did that.”
Coaching staff — It is impossible not to see the impact that Daboll — and his entire veteran NFL coaching staff — has had on the Giants.
In his post-game ‘4 Downs’ review, our Chris Pflum I believe correctly wrote that “the Giants’ coaching is the single biggest reason for their turnaround in 2022.” He added that Daboll “pretty much has to be the frontrunner for Coach of The Year at this point.”
I am not going to argue on either point right now.
Daboll has changed the way the Giants see themselves, and the work of offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and the rest of the coaching staff simply has to be praised.
No matter who has been available and who has not, the Giants always seem to have a plan that gives them a chance to succeed. Significantly, that plan is not the same every week. There is no panic when things go awry or players go down with injuries. The Giants just find another way.
Coaching staffs always talk about having a plan. They always talk about “next man up” and having everyone on the roster prepared to play. They always talk about figuring out what players do well and putting them in positions to succeed. Coaches say a lot of things that generally amount to little more than what we call “coach speak.”
Over the years we have learned that those things are all usually just words in the coaches ‘How to speak to the media’ handbook.
The Giants’ rookie head coach and his staff, though, are putting meat into them.
“Everybody talks like it but we do things during the week where we put guys in. We did seven-on-seven with some of our practice squad players along with our regular squad players. I think our coaches do a great job of getting them ready to go,” Daboll said. “(General manager) Joe (Schoen) and I talk about it all the time - your number can be called at any time; can be brought up any time. Maybe it’s two weeks. Let’s make sure that you’re in the playbook, that you understand your responsibilities as a professional. Be a pro, and when you’re ready to go, again, every player on this roster is here for a reason. We expect whoever it is to get ready.
“There’s no excuses in the National Football League. Everybody goes through it. Everybody goes through injuries. Everybody goes down times. Everybody goes through a couple losses. If you can’t handle that, you’re probably not made to be in the National Football League.”
Here is Barkley talking about the difference Daboll and his staff have made in the Giants’ 2022 fortunes:
“He made a big difference. Not just only Dabs – everyone. All the guys that came in - all the coaches, all the staff and the guys who were here prior and who are here now. You know, they are doing a great job. We have unbelievable coaches and the big thing, we got players that trust in our coaches and trust in the system. We know that, hey, this is the NFL, they are going to make plays. At the end of the day if we just keep believing it, keep trusting the process, we can get the job done.”
So far, the Daboll Difference is a real thing.
Second-half defense — That was Aaron Rodgers playing quarterback for the Packers in the second half, right? It was one thing — and, yes, an impressive one — for the Giants to hold Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears out of the end zone a week ago. It was quite another to hold Rodgers and the Packers scoreless over the game’s final 30 minutes on Sunday.
Green Bay had just 101 yards of offense in the second half. They went punt, punt, turnover on downs, sack/fumble to end the game.
“We’re a resilient group and we felt like on defense, we kind of let them have a few. You had that long penalty on that pass interference. The broken play, where in the first series (wide receiver Randall Cobb) 18 catches up the middle, runs a little bit, and then gets some points. Stuff like that is big plays. You want to eliminate them but that happens,” said safety Julian Love. “So, we realized we’re playing pretty good ball. We’re stopping the run and we are limiting him as much as we can, (Quarterback) Aaron Rodgers. So we made some adjustments at the half that we all felt great about. We wanted to apply more pressure and we wanted to be stickier in coverage and we executed defensively.”
With the Packers threatening to tie the game in the closing moments, the Giants got back-to-back huge plays on third- and fourth-and-1 at their 6-yard line.
“That’s a situation where they needed obviously a touchdown. We were up seven and they were driving; Aaron Rodgers does just what he does. That’s why he’s one of the greatest quarterbacks that’s playing right now,” Love said. “During one of those time outs, we just talked as a defense and just realized we’ve got to settle down a little bit. Just play a normal series here and just do what we do. We got them to third down and we got them to fourth down. When we get to third and fourth is when we get our really good looks in, and we made a play. That was a good stop.”
Green Bay got the ball back with time for a final play Hail Mary pass, and we have seen Rodgers work magic in that situation before. Oshane Ximines, though, did not let Rodgers get the pass off, ending the shocking afternoon with a sack/forced fumble.
A few more things to mention
Those are the biggest “Kudos,” but there is still more praise to dole out.
- Backup to the backup cornerbacks Nick McCloud and Justin Layne deserve credit. McCloud got picked on a bit when he first replaced Adoree’ Jackson, but both he and Layne made good plays in the fourth quarter to help the Giants win.
- How is is that Jaylon Smith did not have a job until the Giants added him to their practice squad a few weeks ago? The guy has played excellent football for two weeks now.
- Dexter Lawrence is having a Pro Bowl season. Right?
- This was another sack-less game for Kayvon Thibodeaux, but that doesn’t mean he did not play well. He was impactful in the pass rush and had a pair of passes defenses, including on third-and-1 from the Giants’ 6-yard line on the Packers’ final drive.
- Practice squad wide receiver Marcus Johnson helped the Giants with three catches for 36 yards.
- Had to love the double reverse touchdown run by tight end Daniel Bellinger. Great, creative play call by offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. Also, great decision-making by Bellinger who, Daboll admitted, had the option to try and throw to Jones.
“I just told him, ‘If you can run it in, I trust your legs a little bit more than your arm. I still think you can do it, but if you can do it, go ahead and do it. But if you think there’s – whatsoever – anything that it might get knocked on or a might bad play happen, we have got another down, let’s just line up and go again,’” Daboll said.