When the Giants needed a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the Minnesota Vikings last week, Daniel Jones went 75 yards in seven plays and 59 seconds to even the score.
“I don’t think there was any doubt in anyone’s mind when we needed that touchdown and two-point conversion that we were going to get it,” wide receiver David Sills said. “You could see from his face and demeanor he was gonna do it. And he’s done it time and again this year.”
The last time Jones played an NFL game with a playoff berth on the line, he completed 68% of his passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns, and the Giants won.
That 23-19 Week 17 home win over the Dallas Cowboys ultimately didn’t get Joe Judge’s team in the 2020 NFL playoffs. They were eliminated that night when the Philadelphia Eagles lost to Washington. But Jones’ focus in the biggest moments largely has been razor sharp, his blood pressure low, his performance up to task.
“He’s calm,” wide receiver Darius Slayton said of Jones’ poise in big moments. “He keeps everyone’s emotions in check while at the same time telling us, ‘This is the moment and we need to go. There is emotion and intensity. But the overwhelming feeling is calm.”
Internally, Jones’ past performances under pressure breed confidence that the Giants (8-6-1) can beat the Indianapolis Colts (4-10-1) at home on Sunday to clinch their first playoff berth since 2016.
And it also creates excitement about what Jones is capable of if he gets an opportunity to play in a playoff game.
Consider that this season’s primary purpose was to get a fair evaluation of Jones. Recall that part of drafting him No. 6 overall in 2019 was seeing similarities in Jones’ abilities and steady demeanor to Eli Manning, the two-time Super Bowl winning QB.
A young Manning was doubted and frequently-criticized, and then he got into the playoffs and the rest is history.
No one knows if Jones will achieve the same. But for John Mara, Steve Tisch and the Giants, there is no greater and fairer barometer for their young quarterback than to evaluate him under the brightest lights.
The exciting part is that so far, during the most pressure-packed moments, Jones has risen to them. He explained to the Daily News at his locker on Wednesday how he’s done it.
“I think I’ve always played well in those situations,” Jones said. “The best thing I’ve found is just focusing on what I have to do, executing my job, understanding the situation, understanding what I need to do to execute the call, what the defense is gonna be, and doing it. Not making it bigger than that or focusing on the consequences of it one way or another.”
Jones’ statistics this season don’t jump off the page. He has thrown only 13 touchdown passes, which ties him for 23rd among NFL quarterbacks with the Colts’ Matt Ryan. Brian Daboll frequently operates the offense conservatively, even if that’s often because of the offensive line’s pass protection struggles.
Still, Jones has five rushing TDs. He’s only turned the ball over eight times (five interceptions, three lost fumbles). And he’s stepped up big-time in wins over the Packers and Jaguars earlier this season, and even in losses like last Saturday’s to the Vikings.
Jones went 30-of-42 for 334 yards and a TD, interception and two-point conversion, and ran for 34 in Minnesota. In the process, he made Richie James, Isaiah Hodgins and Saquon Barkley the first trio in Giants history to all make eight receptions in the same game.
“I’m always confident in our team and the ability to execute those situations,” Jones said.
Jones was on message and not interested in discussing a possible playoff game as any major referendum on his ability.
“I think we all are looking forward to that chance as a group, as a team,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an individual thing at all. But at the same time we’re focused on this week. We’ve got to take care of business this week in order to have that opportunity. So that’s what we’re focused on and that’s where our mind is.”
He does feel great about his team’s chances against the Colts and beyond, however.
“I think the way this team is, the way we’ve been all year, it’s a competitive and tough group, tough-minded, and we’ve brought it every week,” he said. “I think that’s encouraging. And our approach is to focus on just this game, not the implications or what’s gonna happen down the road. It’s to focus on this game and take the same approach we’ve taken all year. I think that’s served us well.”
Sills smiled as he reflected on Jones’ road to this point, though, and what he’s capable of as the moments get bigger.
“The last couple years have been tough, going through different systems, and he’s stayed the same person and worked his tail off,” Sills said. “This year he’s reaping the benefits, and I think he’s bringing everyone else’s play up around him.
“We want to go 1-0 every week and we’re focused on this week. But getting in a playoff game, I would be super-excited to see what he’d do when the pressure is on,” Sills added. “Because we’ve seen him excel in those moments.”
DAVIS SIGNED AT BACKER
The Giants signed sixth-year inside linebacker Jarrad Davis off the Detroit Lions’ practice squad to their active roster. Davis, a 2017 Lions first-round pick, had played sparingly in three games this season in his second stint with Detroit. He is guaranteed at least two weeks salary by the Giants with this signing, though, and he promises to factor soon at a position that has been in constant flux for Wink Martindale’s defense. The move comes after the Pittsburgh Steelers had signed ILB Tae Crowder off the Giants’ practice squad on Tuesday.
BELLINGER GLUED TO THE BALL
Rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger carried a football around with him everywhere on Wednesday after his costly turnover in Minnesota last weekend. Bellinger had the ball in his hands while he was stretching at practice and again when he walked into the locker room afterwards. He placed it in his locker as he got changed to shower but planned to pick it back up again. “Just trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said. Bellinger said tight ends coach Andy Bischoff made the suggestion, and they were like-minded in the week’s plan.
GIANTS INJURY REPORT: Did not practice: DL Dexter Lawrence (rest). Limited: CB Adoree Jackson (knee), DL Leonard Williams (neck), OLB Azeez Ojulari (ankle).
Notes: Williams, who has exited multiple games in severe pain recently, told the News that he is dealing with something in his trap/neck area. Even shooting it with a painkiller wouldn’t completely prevent it from cropping up in games. The ironman D-lineman said it’s something that isn’t going to be able to heal until the offseason. “Just trying to play through it,” he said … Ojulari said he’s hopeful he can play Sunday … Free safety Xavier McKinney’s right hand looked improved during hand-eye coordination rehab work at Wednesday’s practice. He was even dribbling a workout ball in the locker room. Daboll said he’s not optimistic about McKinney playing this week but he’s “getting there.” It’s unclear if McKinney would be able to play in the regular season, but maybe playoffs is a possibility if he wears a club over the fractured and healing hand.
COLTS INJURY REPORT: Did not practice: CB Kenny Moore II (ankle), WR Ashton Dulin (concussion), TE Kylen Granson (ankle), S Rodney McLeod Jr. (rest, not injury related).