Giants quarterback Daniel Jones came into this season with no assurances he would be the team’s long-term starter. The new regime of general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll wasn’t sold on 2019’s No. 6 overall pick in the NFL draft being capable of elevating the franchise by playing the sport’s most important position and therefore did not pick up his fifth-year option, so Jones has been playing this season on the last year of his rookie deal.
Now, the cash register will soon ring loudly for the 25-year-old signal caller from Charlotte, North Carolina. After evolving into a prudent decision-maker and ample playmaker this season, under the meticulous teaching of Daboll, offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney, Jones had the best game of his four-year career last Sunday versus the Minnesota Vikings in his first-ever playoff appearance and the first for the Giants in six years.
Facing the NFC North champions and the conference’s No. 3 seed on the road, he used both his arm and legs to dismantle the Minnesota Vikings’ porous defense. Jones passed for 301 yards and two touchdowns, and led the No. 6 seed Giants with 78 yards rushing in a 31-24 wild-card game victory that moved them into the divisional round on Saturday (8:15 p.m.) against the NFC’s top-seeded Eagles in Philadelphia.
“I think it’s a big win for us,” said Jones from Minnesota after the win. “Obviously a big playoff game. I thought we played well in all three phases and did enough to win the game. We’ll enjoy it tonight, but we have a lot of work to do moving forward.
“I think we’re a tough, competitive group. We’ve played a lot of close games and found a way to win them. I think that resiliency and mental toughness is a big part of our team.”
The Giants lost 27-24 to the Vikings in Minnesota on Christmas Eve on a game-ending field as time expired, so they were familiar with their opponent and the U.S. Bank Stadium environment, making them self-assured entering the rematch.
“We have confidence because we know the type of man and woman we have in our facility, our locker room—we believe in each other,” said Giants running back Saquon Barkley, who had 53 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, and caught five passes for 56.
“We are a confident group and we showed that throughout the whole season,” Barkley added. “If you look at this whole week of playoffs, that’s a type of team you’ve got to beat because every game is going to be close. You’ve got to lean on each other and trust each other and make plays in critical situations.”
They’ll need that mindset, as well as a high level of execution in all phases of the game, to defeat the Eagles. The Giants are 0-2 against the NFC East rival this season, losing 48-22 at home at MetLife Stadium on December 11 and 22-16 in Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field on January 8 in the final regular season game.
“You work really hard to get to this point. But I think you have to focus on keeping the main thing the main thing,” said Daboll on Tuesday of the Giants’ first playoff win since their 2011 Super Bowl season.
“It was good to move on, but you’ve got to put that in the past really quick and get to the preparation on this week’s opponent. Number one seed. They won the (NFC) East. They beat us twice. They got eight Pro Bowlers, six All-Pros. I think they can get your attention real quick, so we got a lot of work to do.”
Giants All-Pro defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence echoed Daboll’s perspective and said the team has scaled since getting dominated by the Eagles in December.
“I think we’ve grown a lot. We grew together (rather) than apart during that time,” said Lawrence. “I think that kind of shows in the play. We just keep that confidence and that want to be there for each other and play for each other, and we’ll be good.
“I think it’s just ahead right now. This is a new season. We’re 1-0 right now and the Eagles are in our way right now.”
Two keys to the game will be the Giants containing the Eagles All-Pro quarterback Jalen Hurts and the offensive line slowing giving Jones time to throw, combating the Eagles’ dangerous pass rush. Hurts passed for 217 yards and two TDs, and ran for 77 and another score in their first meeting. He sat out the last game with an injured shoulder.