The New York Giants are in the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Back in May, in the weeks after the NFL draft, not many people saw that coming. Not the local and national press, who saw the 2022 Giants as a team mostly devoid of talent, possibly the worst team in the NFL, that would be lucky to win one or two more games than they did last season. I pegged them at 7-10, as did BBV’s Nick Falato. I asked the Big Blue View fan community what you thought, and to remind you, here were the results:
Props to the 337 of you who voted for “9-8 and playoffs, baby!” I didn’t even include an option for 10-7, but here we sit today, with the Giants having clinched a playoff spot already with a week to spare, and 10 wins still a possibility. Amazing.
We can talk about the amazing coaching job by Brian Daboll and his staff. The innovative play designs by Mike Kafka on offense and pressure packages by Wink Martindale on defense. The emergence of Daniel Jones as a quarterback worthy of getting a second contract. The re-emergence of Saquon Barkley as an elite back. The rock-solid blocking of now-elite tackle Andrew Thomas. The dominating performance of Dexter Lawrence at nose tackle and the development of rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux. And the many, many back of the roster players who have made key contributions throughout the season to limit the impact of the Giants’ many injuries. All of those are true.
But a playoff berth is composed of a series of individual victories, each one different from the next. They aren’t all created equal. You don’t start a season coming off 4-13 and become a winner overnight. It happens week by week, as you learn to execute better. As you prove to yourselves and your teammates that something big is starting to happen. And then you make it happen when you need to.
Here are five games that meant more than the others to this Giants team.
Week 1: Giants 21, Tennessee 20
On the road against the 2021 AFC No. 1 playoff seed to start the season, not much was expected of the new-look Giants, and predictably they were down 13-0 at the half. The Giants were sloppy on offense and porous on defense - rebuilds don’t happen overnight, after all. Then suddenly a 68-yard Barkley run and a 65-yard Jones TD pass to Sterling Shepard early in the third quarter and the game was tied. The Titans went up 20-13 on a 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter. Then “same old” Daniel Jones threw an awful end zone interception, and Daboll lit into Jones on the sideline. But the Giants got the ball back, and with a minute to go, a 1-yard pass to Chris Myarick tied the score. Or not. Brian Daboll rolled the dice on a 2-point conversion and a beautiful move by Barkley converted it to give the Giants the lead. The Titans predictably drove right downfield for the winning field goal as time expired. Last two minutes of the half, after all, the Giants’ defense always collapses. But this time the kick was missed and the Giants walked away victorious.
This was a lucky win. But it showed several things that would be repeated throughout the season: Barkley was back to something like his rookie self. The Giants’ coaching staff seemed to be able to make halftime adjustments. Daboll would not tolerate stupid plays from his quarterback. And Daboll would play to win rather than playing not to lose.
Week 5: Giants 27, Green Bay 22
The Giants gutted out close wins at home against Carolina and Chicago, sandwiched around a loss to Dallas, to reach a surprising 3-1. Then they had to fly to London to face the Green Bay Packers. It was not known whether Jones would even play after injuring his ankle against Chicago, and Tyrod Taylor had a concussion as well. The Giants had seven other inactives, including much of their receiving corps (Kenny Golladay, Wan’Dale Robinson, Kadarius Toney), and players like David Sills, almost-forgotten Darius Slayton, and practice squad elevation Marcus Johnson would be catching passes from...someone.
Virtually everyone had this chalked up as a loss. Sure enough, Green Bay ran out to a 17-3 lead midway through the second quarter, and the rout was on. Then a funny thing happened. The Giants went on an 11-play, 86-yard, 6:10 minute drive, capped by a 2-yard Daniel Bellinger TD run on a double reverse in which Jones was a potential receiver. This was a perfect example of the creative play designs of offensive coordinator Mike Kafka that have made the Giants the seventh-ranked red zone offense in the NFL this season. Down 10 at the half, the Giants opened the second half with an 11-play field goal drive that used 7:03, got the ball back and ran a 15-play, 91-yard TD drive that occupied 8:07, got the ball back again, and ran a 6-play, 60-yard TD drive that used 3:34. Suddenly they led 27-20. Xavier McKinney blocked Aaron Rodgers’ fourth down pass near the goal line, Oshane Ximines strip-sacked Rodgers’ desperation pass as time expired, and the Giants walked away victorious.
In retrospect, this victory is less impressive than it seemed at the time. The Packers were in a funk for half the season as Rodgers, without Davante Adams and with rookie receivers he hadn’t established a rapport with yet, dropped to 4-8 before recovering and challenging for a playoff berth. But for the Giants, it was evidence that the victory in Tennessee was not a mirage, that they could regularly compete with good teams, that the creative offensive minds on the staff could produce touchdowns instead of field goals, and that the pressure defense approach could rattle even a great quarterback.
Week 6: Giants 24, Baltimore 20
Out of the frying pan, into the fire. For the second consecutive week the Giants faced a top 10 NFL quarterback. Lamar Jackson gave the Giants’ defense fits when they played in 2020, and he was his usual disruptive self this time. The Ravens had the better of the play, taking a 20-10 lead with 12:54 to go on a Jackson pass to tight end Mark Andrews (because tight ends always kill the Giants). The Giants responded with a 12 play, 75 yard drive capped by a Jones 8 yard TD pass to Bellinger to close the deficit to three. Baltimore got the ball back and Jackson ran and passed the Ravens to keep the chains moving and run the clock down to almost 3:00.
Then a higher power intervened. The Ravens were called for illegal formation on a third down run that would have gained the first down. Then rookie center Tyler Linderbaum snapped the ball on the wrong count, Jackson retreated to recover the ball, and under pressure from McKinney, made an ill-advised pass downfield that was intercepted by Julian Love. Three plays later Barkley was in the end zone and the Giants led. On the next series Jackson was strip-sacked by Kayvon Thibodeaux, Leonard Williams recovered, and the Giants had beaten their second consecutive Super Bowl contender and third overall.
Week 15: Giants 20, Washington 12
In mid-season, the Giants appeared to hit the wall. The tougher part of the schedule had arrived, injuries had piled up, and teams were beginning to figure out the Giants’ tendencies. Losses to Seattle and Detroit, and a thrashing by Philadelphia, plus a dispiriting tie at home vs. Washington, put the once-promising season on the brink.
The malaise continued in Washington as the Commanders led 3-0 after the first quarter. Then Kayvon Thibodeaux took over the game. backed up almost to their goal line, Washington QB Taylor Heinecke was strip-sacked by Thibodeaux. He recovered the fumble for a TD in the end zone and the Giants led 7-3. Later in the second quarter, Jones led an amazing 18-play, 97-yard TD drive ending in a Barkley 3-yard TD. Daboll was pleased. The Giants held onto the lead despite some nervous moments (and an uncalled defensive pass interference on Darnay Holmes) and the Giants survived to tighten their grip on a possible Wild Card berth.
Week 17: Giants 38, Indianapolis 10
This was a game the Giants were supposed to win against a team having a bad season. But (1) it clinched the Giants’ first playoff berth in six years, (2) it marked the first time the Giants decisively defeated any opponent this season and the first time they exceed 30 points in more than two years, and (3) cemented Daniel Jones as the Giants’ leader and probably (pending contract negotiations) their QB of the future.
Jones almost surely will never be Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen or Justin Herbert or Joe Burrow or Aaron Rodgers. The Giants’ offense flies in the face of modern NFL thinking that says that explosive plays rather than long methodical drives are the way to score points and win games. If you think that’s the only way to win a Super Bowl, then the Giants should look elsewhere in the offseason. But with zone defenses limiting explosive passing plays and rushing re-emerging as an important component of offenses, it’s possible that we’re entering a new era that allows for a different type of quarterback to succeed. Jones made his case for that on Sunday. He carved up the Colts’ defense (admittedly single-high Cover 3 rather than two-high, although Jones did pretty well last week against the Vikings’ two-high looks as well) with short passes and ran for 91 yards and two TDs. For the season, his EPA/play and PFF grade rank him roughly 10th-12th in the NFL:
2022 PFF offensive grades and efficiency for quarterbacks (min 300 dropbacks) pic.twitter.com/g4pD0sexIh— Kevin Cole (@KevinCole___) January 2, 2023
The defense also did its part on Sunday and stifled the Colts’ offense most of the game. Basically, the Giants took care of business when they had to and showed that they are worthy of being in the playoffs.
What’s your opinion?
What was the Giants’ most important victory of the season?
This poll is closed
Week 1 @ Tennessee, 21-20
Week 5 @ Green Bay (London), 27-22
Week 6 vs. Baltimore, 24-20
Week 15 @ Washington, 20-12
Week 17 vs. Indianapolis, 38-10