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4 downs: Takeaways from the Giants’ 23-17 win over the Jaguars

The Giants do it again

Syndication: The Record
The Giants get a stop on the game’s final play.
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Unio / USA TODAY NETWORK

The New York Giants are now 6-1 after defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road Sunday.

The Giants somehow, some way, managed to survive a nerve-wracking game that seemed to careen wildly from one extreme to the other. The Jaguars seemed on the verge of blowing the game wide open about a half-dozen times.

But each time either the Giants had an answer or the Jaguars hurt themselves, allowing the Giants to take back the momentum. This game literally came down to the final second and inch.

What can we take away from the Giants’ latest win?

First down: Razor thin margins

It’s clear watching the Giants that they have to play for a full 60 minutes to win games. They constantly feel as though they’re teetering on the edge of disaster and every drive — offensive and defensive — is a nail-biter. They have to play efficient, penalty-free football in order to come away with these close wins.

The Giants most definitely did not play a clean game down in Jacksonville. They gave up multiple big plays throughout the game, had to grind out every yard, and hurt themselves with inopportune penalties.

The Jaguars, however, played just sloppy enough for the Giants to take advantage.

Jacksonville had a pair of takeaways nullified by penalty, as well as a pass interference in the end zone to set the Giants up with an easy touchdown from the one-inch line. An off-sides penalty by Josh Allen negated a sack-fumble that the Jaguars recovered. A roughing the passer penalty negated an interception by Jaguars’ linebacker Devin Lloyd. Those two plays represented a massive change on the field and potentially on the scoreboard as well.

Doug Pederson burned his timeouts early in the second half, allowing the Giants to escape with a win by the skin of their teeth.

It is honestly remarkable just how often this has happened to the Giants this year, and “Any Given Sunday” seems to be an “Every Sunday” occurrence for the Giants.

Second down: Staying patient on offense

The Giants still didn’t have a great offensive performance. They left yards on the field through the air and on the ground.

However, the Giants once again managed to do just enough on offense to out-last their opponents.

They were able to move the ball pretty efficiently through the air early in the game, using a variety of route combinations to create quick passes with easily-defined reads. And it was a good thing they were able to do so, because the Jaguars did a good job of containing Saquon Barkley. But if there’s been one lesson from the first six games of the Giants’ season, it’s that the game will eventually come to them if they stay patient.

The Jaguars concentrating so much on Barkley allowed Daniel Jones to use his legs to extend drives. And even when the Giants didn’t accomplish much on their offensive drives, they still managed to make them last. Over the course of the game, the Jaguars’ mistakes and the Giants’ refusal to leave the field quickly wore down the Jags’ defense.

By the fourth quarter, the Giants were able to get Saquon Barkley loose and he turned a forgettable day into another 100-yard rushing performance. The Giants began to attack the edges of the Jaguars’ defense, forcing them to run further. The fatigue was palpable as defenders missed sure tackles around the line of scrimmage that they made earlier in the game.

The Giants’ patience was wildly rewarded with — as they’ve gotten all year — one good, long scoring drive when they absolutely needed it.

Third down: More praise for the Giants’ coaches

Every week it seems like I’m praising the Giants’ coaches, but they just keep earning it.

By rights, this team probably should be around .500. The Giants have been at a talent deficit in all but one of their games this year, and yet the keep managing to come up on top.

This time I want to credit Mike Kafka for having the guts to flip the script and come out throwing. The Jaguars came into this game with one of the best run defenses in the NFL, while the Giants have the second-lowest yards per game through the air. And while Daniel Jones’ 202 yards passing won’t move the needle much on the stats sheet, it seemingly took the Jaguars by surprise in the first half.

Kafka obviously came in with a plan to attack a secondary that was missing their veteran corner in Shaquill Griffin. He did a great job of designing plays to get the ball to receivers in space and with separation. That was enough to get the Giants and early score they might not have gotten if they kept the ball on the ground. And, as mentioned before, it allowed them to stay patient for the full 60 minutes. Kafka has done an exceptional job of identifying tendencies and weaknesses in the opposing defense and doing just enough to exploit them.

Brian Daboll, Kafka, Wink Martindale are coaching their butts off this year. They are the difference between a 2022 team that is 6-1 and a 2021 team that would probably been 1-6 or 2-5 in the same circumstances.

These Giants are well prepared and (for the most part) more composed than their opponents, and that’s been the difference.

To be fair, the Jaguars moved the ball a little too easily on the Giants’ defense, and they were gashed on the ground by Travis Etienne Jr. The Giants have struggled with speed, and that’s something they will need to work on. That said, Martindale has done a tremendous job of having the defense in position to step up when the game is on the line.

Fourth down: Next man up

I am beyond tired of writing this phrase, but injuries have continued to mount for the Giants. Of course, I had a sneaking suspicion that the cart would be busy today, as Ed asked me to handle any injury news during the game while he manned the live blog.

The Giants suffered a pair of body blows in quick succession early in the game as LG Ben Bredeson and RT Evan Neal were lost to leg injuries. We know that Neal suffered an MCL injury and we’ll know more after more tests. The Giants have to hope that these aren’t long-term injuries, though their impending Week 9 bye.

Rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger was also carted off the field and was quickly ruled out with an injury to his left eye. Bellinger was also taken to a local hospital for tests and observation. Football considerations aside, hopefully Bellinger will be okay and this doesn’t turn into a life-changing injury.