The Giants are back in the game thanks to Daniel Jones.
The Giants’ first playoff berth since 2016 was secured with a 38-10 thrashing of the Indianapolis Colts at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, led by four touchdowns from Jones.
“Pretty special,” said owner John Mara outside the victorious home locker room.
When coach Brian Daboll substituted backup Tyrod Taylor for a Jones curtain call with 7:30 remaining, the crowd chanted “Daniel Jones!” and gave him a standing ovation.
“It certainly beats the alternative,” Jones deadpanned.
“I thought he deserved it,” Daboll explained.
The Giants (9-6) are the NFC’s sixth seed, the second of three Wild Card spots.
Following next weekend’s regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, Daboll’s Giants will open the postseason on the road against the Minnesota Vikings, assuming the San Francisco 49ers defeat the Arizona Cardinals in Week 18.
Jones finished the game with 19 of 24 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns, as well as 11 carries for 91 yards and two more scores. Then, after breaking down the team postgame, he became his teammates’ true hero by giving them both Monday and Tuesday off.
“Where is the booze?” Jihad Ward, an edge rusher, yelled out on Instagram Live, looking for the nearest party.
Jones has become so valuable to his teammates that they have told him to stop taking on defenders, such as when the Giants quarterback barreled through Colts linebacker Bobby Okereke on his final score.
“I told him to get down,” left tackle Andrew Thomas stated emphatically.
Jones’ prime-time performance comes as the Giants consider bringing back both Jones and Saquon Barkley next season.
The team could use a franchise or transition tag on one while signing the other to a long-term contract, or General Manager Joe Schoen could give both multi-year contracts. That will depend on whether they can reach an agreement on terms and pricing.
But that is a discussion for February and March. The Giants earned the right to celebrate on Sunday.
Ward and safety Julian Love on the sideline gave Daboll a “sticky and wet” Gatorade bath as the clock wound down. The first-year coach then raised his fist to the crowd.
“Does this mean we’re in the playoffs?” Daboll burst out laughing at the podium. “That was thrilling. You work hard in this business to earn the opportunity to play extra innings and games. That is exactly what we did. Sure, there’s excitement.”
The victory was highlighted by a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown by Landon Collins in the second quarter, which put the Colts down 24-3 at halftime.
Collins was playing in his first home game since re-signing with the Giants in October. And he scored to help the Giants reach the playoffs for the first time since his All-Pro season in 2016.
“When I walked in here, I thought, ‘This is where I should be,'” Collins said. “It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I’m back home,'” she says. ‘This is where I should be,’ I thought. ‘This is where I should be.'”
Rookie No. 5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux also made his presence felt, taking out Colts starting quarterback Nick Foles with a rib injury on a second-quarter sack.
Thibodeaux made snow angels on the turf next to an ailing Foles and made a ‘go to sleep’ sign on the sidelines as Foles limped off and the Colts withered.
Thibodeaux insisted after the game that he had no idea Foles was injured while flailing his arms in celebration on the turf.
Regardless, few expected the Giants to make the playoffs in Daboll’s first season as manager. He did, however, get them here by going 6-1 in the team’s first seven games.
During that time, they defeated the Titans, Packers (in London), and Jaguars on the road, as well as the Panthers, Bears, and Ravens at home.
No result was more significant than their Week 1 win at Tennessee, when Daboll set the tone by scoring two points and sealing the victory with 1:06 remaining in the fourth quarter on a Jones shovel pass to Barkley.
The Giants have struggled to win in the second half of the season, going 3-5-1 in their last nine games. In addition, they are only 1-3-1 in the NFC East.
However, given the organization’s 22-59 record (.272 win percentage) over the previous five seasons, a postseason berth is welcome for owners Mara and Steve Tisch. Mara also informed Daboll after the game.
“He said congratulations,” Daboll said of his conversation in the coaches’ room with Mara. “He was ecstatic. He’s cheerful and smiling.”
Daboll is the Giants’ fourth head coach in the last six years, following in the footsteps of Ben McAdoo, who led the team to its last playoff appearance in 2016, Pat Shurmur, and Joe Judge.
Jones has been coached by Shurmur, Judge, and Daboll. And, while the young quarterback has taken a lot of heat and had his abilities called into question, he left no doubt about what he’s capable of on Sunday.
“Whether he’s running, throwing, or being a leader for us, I felt like he had the tools to do this all along,” left tackle Thomas said. “He’s a fantastic player, and people are catching on. I think it’s important for the fans to recognise it because he’s been through a lot. “I’m delighted for him.”
Richie James and Isaiah Hodgins both caught touchdown passes from Jones on Sunday, and Barkley set a new career high for rushing yards in a single season with 1,312 yards on 12 carries for 58 yards.
“I mean, let’s be honest, no one gave us a chance to accomplish this besides the men and women in that facility,” Barkley said of the playoff berth. “And we just stuck to the script, kept believing in each other, and gave ourselves the chance. And we succeeded.”
Most importantly, the Giants are back in the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. And, for the time being, while this is still supposed to be year one of a long-term rebuild, they deserve to celebrate.
That’s why, while Daboll is expected to rest several starters in next week’s regular-season finale in Philadelphia, the rookie coach said he hadn’t considered it yet.
“I haven’t,” he admitted, sighing. “I’m just going to sit here and enjoy this one. I’m going home to smoke a cigar and spend time with my family.”