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Giants-Cardinals ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ review: Which Giants helped create a miracle?

Unlikely victory for Giants is filled with heroes

New York Giants v Arizona Cardinals
Saquon Barkley dives for a touchdown.
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The New York Giants earned a miraculous, unprecedented in the Super Bowl era victory over the Arizona Cardinals. They erased a 20-0 halftime deficit and a 21-point third quarter deficit to pull it. Let’s review in our traditional ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ style.

Kudos to ...

Daniel Jones — I posted the graphic below in my ‘things I think’ column, but it is worth putting here, as well:

Jones missed a couple of throws in the first half, but he was extaordinary after halftime. Jones was 17 of 21 for 259 yards and two scores in the second half. He ran eight times for 58 yards and a score.

He made clutch throw after clutch throw, and made some big plays with his feet, as well.

The Giants had no margin for error in the second half and Jones didn’t make any, leading them to scores on all five second-half possessions. I don’t know how a quarterback could have done more than Jones did over the final two quarters.

Jalin Hyatt — We saw the third-round pick’s speed and explosive play-making ability all summer. With their season on the brink of imploding before it ever really got started, the Giants turned to Hyatt for a desperately-needed spark and he delivered. His 58-yard catch on the first play of the second half announced that the Giants, down 20-0, weren’t packing it in. He finished with two catches for a team-high 89 yards while playing just 14 snaps. Sunday could be the first of many big games for Hyatt.

Darius Slayton (three catches, 62 yards and Isaiah Hodgins (four catches, 40 yards, a TD) were also productive.

Fourth-quarter defense — The Giants’ defense was atrocious for most of the game, but forced back-to-back three-and-outs by Arizona in the fourth quarter. Those defensive stands gave the Giants’ offense enough time to come all the way back from 21 points down midway through the third quarter.

Jason Pinnock — I always hate to judge a player on tackle numbers, but Pinnock did have 13 tackles. The Giants used him on the line of scrimmage in run support a fair amount, and he had three tackles for loss. Pinnock also had an interception nullified by a Bobby Okereke penalty.

Dexter Lawrence — The Giants want to limit Lawrence’s snaps this season, and he played 46 of 65 (71%). As the game wore on and the Giants’ comeback became a thing, Lawrence was controlling the interior. He finished with four tackles (one for loss) and a pair of quarterback hits.

Graham Gano — The ageless Gano drilled the game-winning field goal. Did you ever have any doubt he would make that kick? I know I did not.

Offensive line — Make no mistake, there were warts. Joshua Ezeudu had a false start on the first play of his first start at left tackle. He also gave up a sack. Evan Neal had what could have been a crushing holding penalty on the Giants’ game-tying drive. Daniel Jones was sacked three times. It took until well into the second half for the Giants to establish anything running the ball.

The Giants’ makeshift group — Ezeudu at left tackle, Mark Glowinski playing left guard for the concussed Ben Bredeson, John Michael Schmitz at center, Marcus McKethan at right guard in his first NFL start, and Neal at right tackle — fought. When the Giants needed points desperately each time they touched the ball in the second half, that mostly young, makeshift line did enough.

Giants fans — Giants faithful were out in droves in Arizona. The team noticed.

Here is wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins on traveling Giants fans:

“That played into it greatly. Giants fans travel like crazy. That was one of my better experiences just witnessing how deep they travel and I was just surprised that even pre-game to see how many Giants fans were out there. Salute to them and all the loyal fans out there, they definitely helped us.”

Saquon Barkley — I considered a ‘Kwillie’ for Barkley. The Week 1 pick-six on a pass knocked out of his hands was not his fault. The second-quarter interception that went through his hands clearly was.

Still, it’s not Barkley’s fault that the Giants chose to ignore giving him the ball early in the game. His final numbers, 17 carries for 63 yards and six catches for 29 yards, don’t overwhelm. On the game-winning drive, though, Barkley had an 8-yard catch and runs of 10 and 16 yards. He also had a tremendous effort on a 9-yard touchdown pass, diving to get the ball to the pylon.

Darren Waller — Sunday showed what Waller can do for the Giants. He caught six passes for 76 yards, five of those in the second half. Four of Waller’s receptions earned first downs. The 6-foot-6, 238-pound tight end controlled the middle of the field over the final two quarters.

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Wet Willies to ...

Defense for the first three quarters — What defense? They couldn’t stop the run, whether it was James Conner or a scrambling Josh Dobbs. There were holes all over the secondary, with the Giants making Dobbs look like a real NFL starting quarterback instead of the journeyman backup he actually is. There was no pass rush to speak of. The run defense wasn’t good for most of the game. There were too many penalties, including two big ones on Bobby Okereke and an unnecessary roughness on Xavier McKinney. The Cardinals are supposed to be the worst team in the NFL, yet they scored on five straight possessions. Only a missed Matt Prater field goal prevented that from being six.

Kayvon Thibodeaux — I keep wanting to defend the young man, but in a game the Giants had to win and where they were desperately looking for someone to step up on defense, the 2022 No. 5 overall pick was invisible. His only contribution to the stat sheet was a single quarterback hit on Josh Dobbs. Oshane Ximines, with two quarterback hits in 20 snaps, was more impactful than Thibodeaux in 61 snaps. That’s not good enough. Not close.

First-half offense — I really didn’t understand what the Giants were doing, or trying to do, early in the game. Rather than lean on Saquon Barkley and the running game to protect a revamped offensive line, they came out throwing. And not throwing well. They were embarrassingly inept, and the only decent drive they had ended when Saquon Barkley had a pass get through his hands for an interception, the second week in a row a ball thrown to Barkley turned into an interception. The Giants managed just five first downs and 81 yards of offense in the first two quarters.

Brian Daboll said he did not take over play-calling duties in the second half. Something changed, though.

“Made some plays. I thought we pressed the ball a little bit down the field, which Danny did a great job of and the line did a great job of protecting,” Daboll said. “There’s Waller, Slayton, Hyatt made some plays down the field. Good reads. We just stayed ahead of the chains. Anytime you can do that, that helps an offense.”

Kwillies to ...

Bobby Okereke — Okereke had two costly penalties, a roughing the passer in the first half and a holding penalty on Zach Ertz in the second half that negated, and honestly may have also caused, a Jason Pinnock interception.

Okereke was a big part of the late-game defensive effort, though. Checking the play-by-play, Okereke had four big tackles against the run for gains of 3 yards or less in the final 16 minutes, helping the Giants hold Arizona scoreless over their final four possessions.