Head coach Brian Daboll said in the week leading up to the game with the Baltimore Ravens, that rookie edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux was making a positive impact despite not having a sack.
On Sunday, Thibodeaux made the biggest play of the day when he caused Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to fumble leading to a recovery by defensive lineman Leonard Williams that sealed a 24-20 victory for the New York Giants, pushing their record to 5-1 on the year.
For Thibodeaux, it was a moment that lead to tears of joy on the field.
“Cool guys cry,” said the rookie in the locker room afterwards. “t was the greatest moment. I really sat out there and cried just because the emotion I felt that now I’m in the NFL. Now that you can really contribute and this is what they pay me to be here for, so the fact that I was able to get it done is a great feeling.
The fifth overall draft choice in this year’s draft, Thibodeaux’s start as a professional was slowed by a knee injury he suffered during a preseason game that caused him to miss the first two games of the year.
“I knew it was eventually going to come, I couldn’t pout about it, I couldn’t worry…I had to lock in and get what I had to get done,” he said.
But the strip of Jackson felt like a coming out moment for Thibodeaux.
“I think when you walk off with a win that is just the difference between being a football player and a closer,” he said. “The fact that I was able to close is a great moment and knowing how much that it means to my team, it couldn’t feel better.
“When the time is needed to make the big play, I am going to step up and execute.”
The former Oregon Duck explained that his game deciding play was less technique and more a desire.
“You know with Lamar, he is holding the ball a little bit, we kinda had that idea that he was going to tap the ball a little bit with the coverage,” he said. “So just being able to get off, use my second move and keep rushing, it was more of an effort sack and less than a first move sack.”
Thibodeaux credited the coaches with focusing on the little things so that “when it is time, I execute. We knew that they were down and had to go a long distance to score. We really had to get after it,” he said.
While the lead up to the game was about the Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale facing his old team, Thibodeaux said that was never an issue brought up by Martindale.
“Wink didn’t really care. Wink just cared about winning,” he said. “We wanted to win but it never went deeper than us, us as a team, Wink just prepared us as much as he could and we went out there and executed.”
Part of that preparation was knowing that Jackson is “shifty” and the defense had to concentrate on getting “that rip in at the end and making sure you finish. That time I had an emphasis on my finish.”
“One for the good guys,” Thibodeaux chuckled.