Daniel Jones was everything Joe Judge and the Giants have always believed he could be, and would be, in the franchise’s most desperate hour.
These are the do-or-die moments, these are the occasions, when the franchise quarterback is asked to show that he is the biggest fighter on your team, at a critical time when your reeling team needs to be lifted and carried to the finish line.
And so Daniel Jones’ blood turned cold when there was so much suffocating heat all around him, all this relentless ear-splitting noise trying to sabotage him.
Daniel Jones-Against-The-World, and Daniel Jones won.
On an afternoon that required mental toughness and poise in the noise from each and every Giant, Daniel Jones (28-for-40, career-high 402 yards, two touchdowns, one Hail Mary interception, 27 yards rushing) was the most mentally tough and poised of them all.
Down 11, 6 minutes 52 seconds remaining in regulation … and quite possibly the season.
It looked over.
Daniel Jones, a 27-21 OT winner, refused to let it be over.
Someone, anyone, needed to keep Joe Judge and the Giants from another 0-4 start.
Someone, anyone, needed to keep hope alive for a proud franchise that has been virtually hopeless since Super Bowl XLVI.
In another time at the Superdome, there was Lawrence Taylor willing his way through a torn shoulder and willing a depleted Giants team, missing Phil Simms, Harry Carson and Carl Banks, past the Saints one memorable December night in 1988.
This time it was Daniel Jones, without Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, throwing to Kadarius Toney, John Ross, Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram, and finally displaying a chemistry with Kenny Golladay that won’t have Golladay screaming at Jason Garrett anytime soon.
This time it was Daniel Jones, with help from Barkley, the twin faces of the franchise, who gave the Giants a belief that maybe, just maybe, you are not always what your record says you are.
The 1-3 New York Football Giants: Saint Dead Yet.
Giants fans: Feel free to pick up those trash cans you kicked over last week.
Daniel Jones came of age on Sunday, saved a season, and may have launched one as well with the Cowboys next on the road.
“Hopefully we can build off of it, and that’s the goal is to use the momentum as we prepare for next week,” Jones said.
He turned chaos into order, took what they gave him and distributed the ball like a point guard and even took what he wanted, too.
Judge, asked if this was a franchise-quarterback performance by Jones, said: “Look, I love Daniel, he had a heckuva game today. I’m not gonna go ahead and start making broad-picture statements and headline-type things … as I’ve said consistently, Daniel Jones is our quarterback. However you want to label that and go forward with that, you guys can put that in the paper, but, look, I’m very proud of how this guy came down here, prepared throughout the week, and the performance he had on the field today in that environment against that defense.”
It was overtime now, and Jabrill Peppers called heads, and it was heads, and Peppers screamed: “BOOM. We want that ball. F— ’em!”
And this is when Daniel Jones gave New York flashbacks of the young Eli Manning in crunch time … Easy D instead of Easy E in the Big Easy: 5-for-5 for 57 of the requisite 75 yards to win it. It included a second-and-14 screen to Barkley for 18 yards and a 23-yard strike to Golladay on third-and-5 at the New Orleans 29 against a busted coverage to position Barkley’s 6-yard game-winning score. The Giants could have played for the field goal. They played to win instead. Asked about the throw to Golladay, Jones said: “We wanted to take a shot.”
Judge: “He was consistently able to find open receivers, make good, accurate throws and the right decisions right there. You don’t have to go out there and go ahead and force the game, you just gotta go out there and make the plays that are in front of you.”
Jones had found Barkley, lined up wide left, with a 54-yard TD pass that brought the Giants within 21-16, and then ran in the two-point conversion himself.
“They gave us an opportunity there,” Jones said, “so it’s about taking it. I think in those situations, it’s about trusting what we do, staying true to that, and knowing that someone’s gonna step up and make a play. Saquon did a great job there.”
When Big Blue gave it back to him at the 11 with 3:01 and two timeouts left, Jones found Golladay on third-and-7 from the New Orleans 38 and Golladay shed Malcolm Jenkins for a 28-yard gain that set up the field goal when Judge played for the tie with Barkley up the middle on third-and-10.
Garrett, except for an early end-around to Engram from the New Orleans 2, stepped up. The offensive line held up. Toney’s twitchy suddenness was eye-opening. The defense made a stand when a stand was needed. Barkley looks more and more like pre-surgical Barkley.
Saint Dead Yet.
Asked if Jones had put the team on his shoulder, Judge preferred to put his entire team on the team’s shoulders. But acknowledged: “Obviously that guy touches the ball every play, right? So obviously, he’s the guy that’s gotta be most consistent with performance because every play he does it.”
Daniel Jones walked through what looked and sounded like the valley of the shadow of death, and never blinked.